anger management…

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Gautama Buddha

I’m not an ‘angry’ person. Ask just about anyone that knows me or has known me for any extended period of time and they’ll probably say I’m pretty easy going. I usually care more about how I am making others feel and that trumps how they are making me feel. Sure I get hurt, annoyed or pist like the next person but then time goes by and it’s supposed to go away. Well, while it doesn’t consume my days and nights (usually), it never goes away. I’m still pist about stuff from elementary school – yes, elementary school. From about the 4th grade through 8th grade I was a very angry, depressed, rather morbid child and it manifested in creative ways at home and in school it did not lend itself to making friends. I was made fun of, I was bullied, I was ostracized…the kids pretty much hated me and at  the time I had no idea why.  I didn’t think  I was such a terrible person, but y’know schoolyard politics dictate who the misfits are. Which is why I am forever grateful my best friend (of 30+ years now!) stuck it out with me.

Because I was such a little shit as a child, when we moved to Hawaii and I got the chance to ‘start over’ in  high school, I made a concerted effort to remake myself and suck less as a human being. To a large degree it worked and my inner anger dissipated. Being in a stable location for all of high school helped. Going to church helped and aside from nearly getting my ass kicked freshman year of high school – I was able to make an amazing group of friends, hopefully, many of whom I’ll see this summer at our 20 year high school reunion.

When I got to college I saw kids from elementary school…they were going to the same college…they were in MY dorm – karma!? We were civil, had our own circles, wasn’t a big deal – but on seeing them, the anger came back. You think you have something resolved, you’ve moved on with your life and low and behold…

“Mother! f**@ss chomping monkey vomit son of a heartless goat sh***bag gahhhhhh…i hate you…” – No not a stream of consciousness, I think at some point this sentence actually came out of my mouth.

Over the years various versions of this turrets-inspired outburst would surface. Never in public – in the recessed safety of my room or office if no one was there. College had it’s own challenges. It can get stressful putting yourself through school, working and trying to live up to some probably pretty ridiculous ideal you’ve set up for yourself. My relationships were tense, my friendships sometimes strained, the academics a shock, I worked too many jobs… I sought refuge in speech and debate and study abroad. I was angry about my grades. I was angry that I was working so much and that’s why my grades were slipping but I had to work to pay for school. I was angry I was in debt. I was angry I wasn’t making friends or catching onto things as readily as I did in high school. The laundry list goes on.

I caught a reprieve, after an internship I did following college, I just went home. Anger is exhausting.

Grad school was incredibly awesome and beyond frustrating…yet again, rage inducing at times. That feeling of being totally out of control in an area you feel you ‘should’ have some control. Or being told I have control only to have it whipped away. Assumptions were made on my abilities and, as it were, limitations as a scientist and it bled over into assumptions about ‘who I was’ as a human being. You want to flip the rage switch? Assume you know someone, base decisions on that…then ‘notify’ that someone later.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen a lot of beauty, I haven’t spent my entire life in a blind rage – of course not and perhaps to balance out this blog, my next one will expound on one of my heart-shaping experiences.

I’m not perfect, but I am honest. I’m typically the first person, especially if it’s brought to my attention, to say I’m sorry. But I am also an over-thinker and I will turn situations around in my head til they are devoid of all color and rather than cooling off and letting go, I just get angrier – it’s a slippery slope. You ever done this?

Louis CK has a sketch you can probably find on youtube about ’email fights’. The build up of writing everything down, the hours you spend writing perhaps having others read it too; then the more hours you spend fantasizing about said person’s reaction when in reality that person may not give you a second thought, oh gee.

Louis CK is pretty crude in his humor but really he says a lot of things we all think and tells us about our most terrible habits. I don’t do the fantasy part…but I do the email part. Often times I’ll write out my anger, and never send it, or send a version that’s been proofread by my mom or now my husband. I’m not looking to ‘end’ relationships I care about – but you need an outlet right? Of all the things I have raging in my head, 20% I write down and about 3% actually get sent.

And then there is my upbringing (if you’ve read my previous posts under ‘devotion’ or ‘life or something like it’). “Give it to  God.”

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires”  ~James 1:19-20

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”  ~Proverbs 29:11

Well…I am a damn fool.

At least in my head. It used to infuriate me growing up how ‘easily’ my peers seemed to be able to give things to God. Why couldn’t I let go of stuff too. They all seemed ‘released’ and ‘free’ and happy go lucky and I just was like well…fuck me. I’d pray, I felt, as earnestly as they did. I’d sing, I’d read my Bible, talk to my youth pastors, be involved in youth and church events. Sure I was learning about my faith…but I wasn’t learning how to truly take care of my anger.

I also grew up in a culture where kids were not ‘diagnosed’ with everything. Maybe a psychiatrist would have had a hey day diagnosing whatever disorders I had and prescribing all manner of potion to control my pre-adolescent-continuing-into-adulthood issues. Nope, when I was growing up the medicine was ‘get over it’ ‘suck it up’ ‘well, sucks to be you’ ‘find a way to fix it’ ‘stop belly aching’ ‘go outside and play’ ‘go take a nap’… Would I have preferred popping a pill? No, because I also have this insane control issue where I want to be the one to ‘fix’ my issues and not depend on anyone or anything to do it for me. This is the part where my church upbringing says ‘ah ha! there’s your problem, you need to give your control issues to God’. Duly noted Christian upbringing.

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually blown up or given ‘vent’ to my rage. But that’s just the problem, when you don’t let it out what’s the result?

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
Ambrose Bierce

So what is my recourse? Nothing, I do nothing, I stew, I don’t go after the ‘closure’ I probably need to let go of whatever anger I have.

Why? Well, what purpose would it serve? I’ve already lost. Don’t really have the desire to lose more. What would be gained by hammering on the issue? Some self-righteous perverse sense of needing to be ‘justified!’ Well, just because you are justified doesn’t mean you are innocent.

So now my anger and I are at an impasse and my husband is having none of it. He knows my anger isn’t with him so this emboldens him to speak forth and we have the following conversation.

Husband: “Go get a gym membership, my friend goes to this great one, only $10/mo and has a pool! You like swimming remember?”

Me: “Meh, it’s going to cut into my depressed, self loathing, lazi-anger time”

Husband: “Didn’t you used to compete? Don’t you want to do that again? It’ll be good to release some of that tension!” (He’s saying this with way too much hopeful support in his voice. I alternately love him more and slightly hate him now).

Me: “Yes, I had a goal when I am 40 to compete again…but it’s so much effort, I am so far gone…” (He cuts me off…)

Husband: “You’re going.”

Me: “Well damnit.”

I get my membership and as a ‘freebie’ they give you a trainer consult – because y’know the best medicine for depression and anger is being told you are 37% body fat. Oh holy God. I danced ballroom, jazz and hip hop for 15 years, I used to compete in triathlon and cycling…I USED to be in decent shape. Now I feel like a female Michelin man. For some people body condition reality checks are supposed to be motivating – never been the case for me, rather it’s just demoralizing. Kind of goes along with those ridiculous expectations I have of myself? Ya ya I know, more stuff I just need to ‘let go of’ right?

So what is my motivation? I’d love to sit here and write that I am motivated, not angry anymore and life is just gloriously spurting cotton candy now that I am going to the gym. All of that would be a lie and I gave up lying a long time ago – I’m pretty terrible at it so made sense to give it up. I hate the gym…but I hate the state of my health even more (mentally, spiritually and physically).

All I can say is I’m taking steps …perhaps it helps that I have a husband behind me holding a wine bottle on a stick just out of reach so that I’ll keep walking. Ok – that’s a lie, but you get the metaphor. I never thought I was a prideful person – but perhaps I am, or else why would I hold on in ‘self righteous anger’ to anything? If you can’t master pride you don’t really have self-control. Being humble isn’t weakness – it’s the balance of mind and heart – each compromising with the other so the resolution can become clearer. I want to be a good role model, a good teacher, a good leader and I know pride gets in the way of that. If you can’t swallow your pride, you can’t lead…John Weatherford wrote that when he was talking about Ghengis Khan. Just because my rage is inner – doesn’t mean I’m practicing ‘self-control’.

I have a beautiful daughter – I want to be strong, inspiring and most importantly happy for her. Life is a gift, I basically need to stop pissing all over it and start taking care of my gift.

I have faith that the other issues will just fade. Life has a way of bringing the important people and events into your life that help keep you going – help make it all worth it. When push comes to shove, I have realized that if something is fucking with my family or close friendships…it becomes incredibly easy to let go, throw my hands up and walk away so that those closest to me are not hurt or don’t continue to get hurt. Some things are too precious, life and loved ones. Everything else is filler.

“You can’t selectively numb your anger, any more than you can turn off all lights in a room, and still expect to see the light.”
Shannon L. Alder

Heading toward the light…slowly but surely.