Dialogue 2010: I’ll take my anger with me

Dialogue2010A few weeks ago I stayed up until 1 AM (this is a big deal) to talk on the phone with a group of women scattered around the world. We were all part of Dialogue 2010.

Dialogue 2010 is the brainchild of Rose Deniz, an artist, writer and designer from Wisconsin, now living in Turkey.  In collaboration with Expat+Harem author (and goddess) Anastasia Ashman, they produced Dialogue 2010 to be a platform for people living a “hybrid life,” to convene and collaborate.

What’s a hybrid life? It’s a life in between and across cultures: an American married in Turkey, a Dutchess living in Seattle and the daughter of Turkish immigrants who grew up in Brooklyn.

I’ve spent my entire life switching between conservative Turkish Muslim traditions and free-thinking American independence.  It was not something I enjoyed.  But it wasn’t until I was chatting with nine other ladies who were located in Seattle, Idaho (via Beijing), Istanbul, Prague, and Rome did I realize that I was so angry about it.

“What have you had to leave behind in order to live more fully?” was one of the questions Rose posed to us.  We had already discussed how each of us defines a hybrid life and how had our worldview shifted as a result of location.

“Anger,” I immediately jumped in.  “I had to let go of how angry I was about living amid a conservative and traditional culture within an open and encouraging society.”  Ironically, as I said it I wondered, “am I still angry?”

As I listened to the others talk about letting go of expectations of themselves as well of others and letting go of fear I realized that I am angry – and I couldn’t be happier.

We often think of anger as a destructive, negative emotion.  For the most part it is.  What occurred to me during Dialogue 2010 was that my anger is defensive, and what has allowed me to keep a hybrid identity.

Too often we’re forced or force ourselves into a single social group or order.  I have refused to choose between my Turkish and American self.  And my anger is precisely about that.  It’s about defending the ability to live between two cultures, against a world that tells me to choose just one.  I want and need to be a Turkish-American.

So Dialogue 2010 ladies, I change my mind, I’ll take my anger with me.

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  1. kari m.
    Posted March 21, 2010 at 04:11 | Permalink

    Thank you for this essay Elmira. I am so glad to see you are allowing yourself to experience this refreshing and highly constructive emotion that anger also might be. Thank you for letting us in on your interesting thoughts and for sharing your life experiences. I would just say keep that defensive anger and keep being what you need to be. :-)

  2. Posted March 21, 2010 at 13:53 | Permalink

    Thanks for this, Elmira. I can identify with a righteousness-to-be-hybrid rather than assimilate to either culture…I feel it as an expat, and it’s been a cornerstone of my survival. A defensive version of expatriatism, I’ve called it. Not necessarily bending to the expectations of my surroundings. You’re right, that defense mechanism not only kicks in but is kept in place by a low level anger about pressure to live and be a certain way.

  3. Posted March 21, 2010 at 14:20 | Permalink

    Wow. This is powerful.

    When I lived in Germany I had a very good Turkish girlfriend. She was the epitome of everything a person could love about Turkey — beautiful beyond measure, educated, sharp as the sharpest tack, deep, a moderate Muslim with a very ethereal and loving take on her religion. She was married to a non-religious, educated man, who, despite all of the outward appearance of being modern, controlled her like a hawk. Abuse was present, at first emotional and psychological, and later, when that no longer worked, physical. In our friendship, I went through the gamut of emotions, especially anger, at her inability to extract herself quickly enough from the marriage. I ended up, during one trip to Istanbul , stewing in my own anger and sadness as I watched her from my very American perspective trying to take a measured approach to the abuse. She had so much more to consider than I could have ever realized – including her own family’s reaction to what was happening.

    During the same trip, I met several other women in her social group, and this was when I started (just started) to realize the importance of feminine friendships in her world – the solace other women offered, the solidarity, the warmth, the love, the physical closeness (of a strictly pure nature — arm holding, hugging, the like) and how that part of her world saved her.

    And I realized how little I actually knew about what she had to go through to survive, let alone thrive, in her beautiful, complex culture.

    I understand your anger. I feel it to a lesser degree here in Italy, because I was naive enough to think that being Italian American actually had something in common with being Italian, which it does not. And Italian and American culture are not as diametrically opposed as Turkish and American culture. I think your anger is healthy and something to work through in this complicated (yet fascinating) lifestyle.

    Warmest regards.

  4. Posted March 22, 2010 at 02:15 | Permalink

    Thanks for writing what so many of us experience. As an American who has lived in Saudi Arabia for most of the last decade, I go through peaks and valleys when it comes to anger and righteousness, and even righteous anger! (as well as all the other – emotions, of course!) As Anastashia said, it is the defense mechanism we keep with us as expats. Thanks again for helping me frame the issue in my own head better! SGIME

  5. Posted March 23, 2010 at 00:40 | Permalink

    Elmira, LOVE your energy here! Yes, I know this feeling well – I call it ‘righteous indignation’, and I wear it like a shield when I need to. It’s not to be confused (like some around me do) with the anger that masks fear. It’s all about being true to myself, recognizing that people can live in and between multiple cultures, yet keeping that smile on my face when I’m respectfully not submitting to what’s ‘expected’ of me, if it’s not what I want. And honestly, I now experience this feeling more in the US, when I’m eager to proclaim my expatriatism, than when I’m in Turkey, where I’m obviously foreign.

  6. Posted March 23, 2010 at 17:58 | Permalink

    Elmira, As I tweeted to you before, your post made me smile. Yes, girl, I thought, hang on to that anger, it’s good, self-claiming energy.

  7. Elmira Bayrasli
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 21:53 | Permalink

    Wow ladies! I’m sorry that I didn’t get angry sooner. Sand Gets In My Eyes and Diana, welcome to this forum and thanks for your energy. I’m heartened to see that my post resonated with so many – in a positive way. It’s always tricky to go out there and talk about things that aren’t necessarily socially acceptable. Anger is one of them. Excited to continue this dialogue and invite you to bring others as well.

  8. Posted March 30, 2010 at 12:31 | Permalink

    Very powerful post, Elmira! I think we’re conditioned to think of negative and positive for certain behavior and feelings, but I think they have the potential for either until activated, used in a certain manner. Anger has propelled me through some important phases and helped me to separate out motivating impulses from distractions when I really wanted something, needed to claim something as my own. It’s the side of me that flares up when I hear of injustices… it inspires me to do something.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] week Dialogue2010 participant Elmira Bayrasli shared the anger that keeps her hybrid. Rather than assimilate or choose one social group to belong to, the daughter of Turkish immigrants […]

  2. […] week Dialogue2010 participant Elmira Bayrasl? shared the anger that keeps her hybrid. Rather than assimilate or choose one social group to belong to, the daughter of Turkish immigrants […]

  3. […] Many of us know the bittersweet liminality of living between multiple worlds, and the soul-sprung righteousness of refusing to settle on just […]

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