Posts Tagged ‘Anger’

Assume the Best

18 June 2011

Dear J-

As part of my continuous fight against anger I’m initating a new creative initiative based partly on the Harry Potter incantation Riddikulus and somewhat on the whole assume ass-u-me thing. If someone cuts you off in traffic, what’s the first thing you tend to assume? Yep, what a selfish bastard, thinking only of their own time and not the inconvenience to you. So you end up retaliating or driving more aggressvely than you might otherwise, trying to keep the gap in front filled before someone jumps in or otherwise makes your life miserable. So you think. Yet with this technique I hope to add entertainment to combat the frustration. We’ll see how it goes.

This is how I envision it: instead of assuming nefarious motives, think of something so utterly ridiculous you can’t help but laugh. They passed me by driving on the shoulder? Well, you know, it is the last day for that big sale on accordions and concertinas and, after all, the store closes in ten minutes. If I was in the market that’s one sale I wouldn’t want to miss. Much like the spider in rollerskates, being able to laugh means that you’re already halfway over it. You will be hassled as you drive: I guarantee it at some point or another. If you take it as personally as you shouldn’t then you’re going to have a huge headache coming home.

It’s more fun this way and you get to exercise your creative muscles too, which as far as I’m concerned is a win all around. We’re not doing this to be mean to the other people who likely are never going to hear the stories we make up. I remember seeing a neighbor screech to a stop at their house and hopping out, pizza in hand, dashing inside. I turned to theVet and said, “AH! Pizza Emergency,” and nodded knowingly. To this day we can’t see folks driving fast and wondering if they too have a cooling ppizza to bring home.

Mike

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Anger Management

20 May 2011

Dear J-

You find yourself making excuses — and worse yet, having them sound increasingly plausible in your ears — when it comes down to effort and rigor, whether exercise or work. It’s time to go. Something needs to change before I drive myself nuts over these minor things that I should just be a good soldier about and nod yes’m, yes’m. This morning I can’t say whether it was with secret relief that I discovered the flat tire or not — I would have loved to ride my bike and will use that for an anger sink some days — but I had the chance to slow down instead of rushing all preparations this morning. The dog ate my homework. The tire was flat. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

If you let them things can spiral out of hand in an instant: you agree to a few little things and if you fail to see the intentional (self-inflicted) humor in your situation then the joke really was on you. Fail to laugh and everyone else will be more than happy to laugh at you. If the only solution is to run away from that then I hope your shoes are laced up tight. Most days I’m running so late that I don’t have a chance to get my shoes tied before stepping out the door. I’ve become a lumbering slow target in ecent months, happy to let things slide and delighted to just be present.  What was that about letting it get the better of me? Where’s my goat? If you got my goat then I’m a gnu, but this isn’t news to anyone.

Sometimes it helps to get it out theere in some form or another. If I don’t want to be on the hook for everything then I didn’t need to volunteer for it. My pathetic need to be liked has made me happy to be on the receiving end of everything and frankly I’m just tired of it; it’s easier to say no now than have to try to explain all the things that didn’t get done later. If I spent enough time worrying about myself and less time wondering what other people think — after all I’m not psychic and I surely can’t plant thoughts in other people’s heads — I’m sure the change I need is within me and my means. Say it out loud enough and I might even convinve myself of it.

What I do need to remember is this: how do I want figgy and Calcifer to remember their childhoods? Is it even a possibility that I should be the remote, hard-to-please figure? Should it come down — shojuld it ever come down to having a young voice plead with me to just be happy? I’ll know that I’ve gone too far at that point, but what saves me from driving off the cliff? I need to learn to trust my conscience and help me ignore the swirling anger.

Mike

Echo Yell

15 April 2011

Dear J-

Friday lately means all sorts of different things, most importantly the start of the need for patience. This makes a lot more sense on a lot more sleep, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to deal with those situations with far more grace than yesterday. There are only so many things you can do with the willfully disobedient and the threat of taking away future priveleges doesn’t seem to carry much weight. If this was animal training (which we amply demonstrated how deficient our skills are) you’d do simple tasks and reward good behvior with gentle corrections for undesired ones, not punishment. Me personally, I’m too quick to jump straight to yelling and drama, which is no doubt entertaining theater but not helpful.

As the week wears on the sleep debt accumulates until you’re left holding a bag of snakes at work and home. The smart thing would be to restrict your activities and boost your efficiencies (for me that would include typing on a real keyboard instead of thumbing it) where possible, freeing up more time for naps, not TV or games or other such junk. You don’t realize what the toll of sleep deprivation is until you’re yelling at someone near you when what they’ve done isn’t particularly egregious. And if you’re yelling because of some long-simmering frustration, by all means, let that crap out and drain the resentment on your own time.

You have a right to boil over but remember what lessons you impart. When you see the people closest to you adopt your habits are you proud of the echoes in your life? The Star Wars films are not classical art, and they give wisdom out ham-handedly, but I’m sure everyone who watched The Empire Strikes Back remembers the scene on Dagobah: midway through his training and with a newfound confidence under his belt Luke ventures deep into a swamp cave where he’s confronted by no other than Darth Vader. In the ensuing fight Luke gains the upper hand and decapitates Vader, whose helmet then splits open to reveal … Luke’s own face*. Be wary of the battles yu fight, and do not trust where your body leads you.

Mike

* You could also take this as clumsy foreshadowing of the big Luke-I-am-your-father revelation.

Follow Through

24 November 2010

Dear J-

This is the time of year that, in Cheney, we’d be getting our first snow (and according to what I’ve heard, they’ve already gotten their first shot — Seattle got dusted and then panicked this past week as well (this only adds to the East side versus West side lore; and yes, the West has much more, but the East gets to pick their own set of macho standards to measure those Westies)) but of course here in San Diego there’s little to no chance of snow unless you’re talking about unusual conditions (e.g. the end of of the world) or elevation, both of which we’re unqualified for, at least where the house is. So every year instead I see if I can resist the need to wear pants and stay in shorts on the weekends until December, and every year I come up at least a little short. I gave in with the first real winter storms last weekend, which were swiftly compounded with not having a working furnace*.

And sure, there’s ambition and then there’s ambitions; the shorts quest is a minor way of sustaining the personal mythology: it’s not winter until you decide it’s winter, and shorts are the way to declare that even at the cost of personal comfort and perceptions of insanity. It’s San Diego, after all, and our coldest is no doubt still balmy to those flocking here — places like Cheney, where I still remember them shutting down school not for the snow but the wind chill, which hit 70 Fahrenheit below zero that day (and I wanted to try walking the mile home**). You have to start somewhere with goals; my next one is not being so easily overwhelmed with responsibilities at home and work, trading sleep for activities and naps for productivity. If even my daughter is berating me for screaming and not staying happy, I’ve got problems.

Point is that it tends to build up and then explode in a messy manner, whether it’s anger or shorts — when it’s time to break out the long pants I might as well have thrown the shorts away, that’s how much I’ll be looking at them before January. And instead of venting small amounts of anger quietly and appropriately I save it up like some sort of burning grudge against myself until I cry out with the pain, dig in my heels in the most passive-aggressive manner possible, teaching lessons that impress kids in the most negative ways. Yes, part of getting better is recognizing the issue, but the greater part is the follow-through: how do you change yourself once you’ve identified the problem and decide you’re willing to change? Practice. And practice. Then practice some more. Start with small goals: I’ll make it to the next ten seconds, the next minute without venting my spleen.

Mike

* We called the service technicians on Monday, and finally welcomed him to our house at 6:30 that night. After crawling upstairs into the attic, I heard some banging and then a request to turn down the thermostat — this after hearing the woosh of natural gas igniting — so when we asked what he’d done to fix it, he shrugged and said he didn’t know why it hadn’t been working before. Either way there is now luxuriant hot air pouring out of the ceiling, and that pleases me greatly.

** If not for the kind intervention of a neighbor, who gave me a ride home, I might not be here tonight: sobering. Ditto that guy in the powerboat who took pity on the stupid kids trying to cross Lake Roosevelt on a single inflatable air mattress.

Fix Yourself

16 September 2010

Dear J-

Enough already with the rage, okay? I’m tired of anger, of being angry, of being vented on, of tiptoeing around trying not to set off landmines in my life. Yesterday we got home late because one of our vanpool members didn’t show up; we tried calling, we tried paging, we waited until it was clear that they’d just disappeared without a trace and without telling anyone, so we went home with a troubled conscience — at least I did — worrying about what might have happened. This morning the picture is both clearer and muddier: it turns out that rider got arrested for scratching a car that had parked too close. Frankly I’m shocked.

There are a lot of parallels between us, you know? Married. Steady job. Prosperous. Parent. Anger issues. And while I grumble a bit and yell I’m sure that’s how it starts, you know? Soon you get a reputation as the grouchy one: make sure everything’s just the way you want it. And without correction, you get the feeling that you’re untouchable: c’mon, what are YOU going to do about it? I have to remind myself every so often that my actions have consequences: it may be entertaining to yell at cars passing by from my bike, but what happens if they pull over and climb out? One Friday I drove home with a single rider in the vanpool and was regaled with story after story of Los Angeles road rage: cruising the neighborhood looking for an offender, having to lock yourself into a car, all prompted by the relatively minor offenses of cutting someone off. Real life. Real scary.

So that’s why I’m calling a moratorium on the big R. God only knows how long I’ll be able to sustain it, but I’m going to do my best, I promise. Let your mouth guide your actions and you’ll be heading down the same path; people will be talking about what happened to Mike on the vanpool tomorrow. Actions are not inconsequential. I am reminded that every day I have an opportunity to teach, and that behavior and habit are learned, not inherited. Though I am generally self-effacing (and isn’t it horribly conceited to say that?) it’s not wrong to note that every time I act there’s two little eyes drinking it all in, thinking that’s the way adults do it.

Mike

Day 10: Rage Machine

2 April 2010

Dear J-

I’ll come right out and say it: why this Conflict Management isn’t either a longer class nor mandatory doesn’t make a ton of sense to me; today felt rushed to accomodate a schedule, but there was still so much more to be learned — this is life, after all. Now all I need is lessons in how to convince your three year old that bedtime isn’t punishment. The class was eye-opening in terms of philosophy and how they should inform your actions. It all stems from a fundamental belief that we need to know ourselves — and therefore what we can control; from there we work to control our reactions into measured response and quiet resolve.

I can help others better by understanding what they want and trying to figure out a mutually beneficial solution. To paraphrase a story, two girls who want the same orange split it in half. One, disgusted with the other, eats the fruit and discards the peel but stays hungry — the full orange would have been sufficient; the other, disgusted with the one, zests the peel and discards the fruit angrily, without enough for her recipe, the dish won’t turn out right. They both wanted the orange, but wouldn’t there have been a happier scene if they had talked out why?

It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? For the most part, too, it is; you need to realize that there’s nothing magical about conflict management. And that’s the beauty of it; there are no secrets, only real tools anyone can use. I look at my life with new eyes tonight, how easily I’ve allowed myself to slip into rage without realizing what or how I react. If it’s as simple as knowing who I turn into when I’m angry, and being disgusted by that face in the mirror, then everyone should take the course. We’ve ended each week so far on high notes; future weeks have high standards to uphold.

Mike

Anger Management

4 January 2010

Dear J-

When I was going through driver’s education they called it DWI — driving while intoxicated; by the time I moved down here it was known as DUI, driving under the influence. It’s more appropriate; in the past few weeks I’ve noticed the specific influence being mentioned as generally alcohol, but occasionally drugs and prescription medication as well. As a nation we seem to be prone to operating under the influence of rage lately, though. From talk radio to newspaper columnists (I’ve never seen someone throw such a hissy fit over letters to a opinion columnist; Ruben Navarrette fails to answer the arguments and instead dismisses criticism as being the product of overprotective parents and therefore invalid) to road rage (remember when freeway shootings first became news?) we keep finding and justifying ways to fly off the handle at the slightest misstep.

Is it part of the general rude trend of society? Are we so inured to watching people behave badly on television that we’ve come to accept it as part of our lives? As the little brother part of the job was to torment and be tormented until erupting and being counseled patience by our parents. Now of course we have pundits and lobbying groups whipping us up into indignant fury to carry us to the polls with a vengeance: how many times have you heard phrases ending in “… and I vote!”? We like to think that we’re beyond the days of being five (“He started it/Did nol/Did so/&tc.”) but unfortunately it feels like we’re too easily manipulated into believing the worst in our fellow humans.

Anger is a powerful emotion, but it burns through like a fire and leaves me feeling hollow inside once it’s past. Actions taken out of rage are hastily, sloppily performed and show it. I know that I’m often left with remorse afterwards but I’ve already burned the bridges in my haste to react; if patience is the watchword of maturity, we owe it to ourselves to act our age, at least when treating our fellow people as, well, respectable folks.

Mike