Somehow, the night was not so stifling hot that it prevented sleep; I slept well and deeply. I’m sure the steps taken during the unexpectedly busy work day to drink enough water, manage calories, take medication on time and stretch in place regularly were building blocks for feeling well-rested this morning. Some practices seem pretty obvious, and the outcome predictably successful.

Toward the end of the day, I found myself feeling cross, discontent, and moving in the direction of simmering anger, for no obvious reason. Practices regarding strong emotions, like anger, are sometimes harder for me to master. If there’s nothing to be angry about, why would I poke at that sleeping bear? Shouldn’t I squelch that and move on? Certainly that’s one heavily reinforced approach, culturally, especially if you happen to be female. Anger seems to be pretty potent – and off-putting. People do not want to exist alongside anger, most particularly if directed their way. What if I am legitimately angry about something that could easily provoke any rational person to anger – what then? Feed it, it grows, but hide it and it festers… I don’t understand anger.

Sweet relief and contentment often seem just beyond some complicated moment.

Sweet relief and contentment often seem just beyond some complicated emotional puzzle.

As the evening played out, it was quickly apparent that I was not angry ‘about’ anything obvious. I was hot. I had a headache. I have a couple lingering itchy spider bites. I wasn’t in pain so didn’t take pain meds that have been pretty routine for some time now (probably the source of the headache). It was a busy work day with a coworker out sick. The anger I was feeling was not the sort of focused if-then-because anger that I feel when someone treats me badly, or takes an action with predictably poor consequences. Was it even actually ‘anger’? Well, it sure could have been; I walked home through that emotional fog of irritation and fed it with my thoughts. Anger was almost inevitable, but there was nothing in my actual experience of the moment causing it – I was creating it from my thoughts, using my physical experience as a sort of spring-form pan in which to contain and justify it. 😦 Unpleasant.

Practicing new practices let's me try things until I find what works for me.

Practicing new practices let’s me try things until I find what works for me.

Practices for managing and defusing anger are numerous. I don’t generally understand them well, either. I mean…if my anger is real, why should I have to squash it and not be heard? If my anger is illusory, why is it so difficult to just let it go? Venting works for some people, and it feels very gratifying…but having a disinhibiting brain injury can easily put me on the path of obsessing over anger, becoming mired in it, or making something small a much bigger deal. Last night felt like a win. I got home, and decided I would most certainly deal with my anger gently and courteously – don’t I deserve to be treated well by myself, above all? First, though, I committed to taking care of practical matters that I know support longer term wellness on multiple levels, and benefit from not being delayed. I had a cool shower, drank plenty of water, had a bite of dinner that met my nutritional needs, did the dishes, did what I could to cool the apartment down after the 93 degree day, meditated, did some yoga… and found that I was simply no longer feeling anything I could call ‘anger’. I had ‘let it go’ without actively seeking to do so and realized that something that often makes ‘letting it go’ hard for me is the sense that I am being dismissed and not heard. Well…I didn’t do that, last night. I heard me. I considered my needs, and simply determined that the anger would be dealt with appropriately, along with other needs, in order of priority – and I didn’t make it the highest priority. When I finally got to it, it was more a matter of ‘I don’t really care for this experience. I could do some things differently.’

It's a journey without a map, some of it paved, all of it built on choices.

It’s a journey without a map, some of it paved, all of it built on choices.

One very nice thing about living alone right now is that there is no confusion whatsoever about ‘angry at…’. I think I am figuring out that ‘remote anger’ – for example, being angry in a visceral way over a story I read in the news – is entirely useless stress that may hold the power to motivate me to action, but the toll it takes on my experience, and my physical wellness is not at all worth it.  Anger at what is farther from my immediate experience feels safer than being angry at someone dear to me, or at some circumstance close to home. I guess that’s obvious. Handling anger in way that allows me to express myself comfortably without launching emotional weapons of mass distraction is something I would like to be very skilled at. I think before I will become skilled at handling anger, and making appropriate limited use of its power, I will need to learn to mute the pointless fruitless anger of my mind in motion – the anger that is pretty much just entirely imagined, built off the chaos and damage, fed with thoughts and assumptions and petty hurts or changing moods. I don’t think doing so by denying myself my own support and understanding is effective; it hasn’t worked for me so far. Last night worked out well, though. When I sat down and gave what I thought was bugging me a moment of thought, it turned out I wasn’t actually ‘angry’ at all. Frustrated, sure. Uncomfortable in the heat, yep. Fighting off a headache was also a factor. Anger? Not really a thing. If I had been living in a more social domestic setting, though, I may not have been able to get through to the part where I worked that out without causing a lot of stress or drama reacting to my internal experience (other people work through their emotions more quickly than I sometimes seem able to, particularly strong negative emotions). Clearly – still practicing. Still a student. There is still work to be done, and a journey ahead of me. It’s a fine time to live alone, untroubled by the casual hurts caused to others by my lack of emotional skill. lol

I ended the evening quite pleasantly, in conversation with my traveling partner. I may become a fan of using the phone, again – that’s how awesome it is just  hearing the sound of his voice in the evening, talking over things that matter in a gentle and pleasant way. My birthday is coming. It matters (perhaps too much) that he is thinking of me. The conversation was delightful and productive.  At one point something about our discussion brushed ever so lightly past something that held the potential to rouse anger – and I observed the experience, and the reaction, and didn’t act on it. Instead I stayed on course with the conversation, and made a note for myself to take care of me and take another look at that later. I am learning that my anger is truly my own, independent of whatever might seem to cause it. Directing my reaction at the assumed cause doesn’t actually seem to result in resolution… Strangely, taking that moment to breath and set it aside for later – rather than trying to force myself to ‘let it go’ over my own resentment at being dismissed, or acting on it in the moment – seems to work nicely for me. When our conversation ended, I reflected on that moment when my anger began to rise up, and easily saw that I wasn’t angry at all, I was struggling with unaddressed hurt feelings over something so subjective and internal that it would have been entirely inappropriate to demand satisfaction from some other being. It was an interesting moment of perspective.

I am tending the garden of my heart with greater care.

I am tending the garden of my heart with greater care.

I matter more [to me] than my anger. Taking care of me well often eases what feels like anger ‘about’ something entirely unrelated. I don’t think I have any real ‘answers’ about the anger puzzle…I’m not even sure I have all the pieces. What I do have, though, is the memory of a busy productive day, a lovely quiet evening, and a sweet loving conversation with a human being as dear to me as I am to myself – all entirely unspoiled by anger. 🙂 Win and good.