Archives for category: anger

The frown finally lifted. My jaw finally unclenched. My sheer-force-of-will pleasantness in meetings eventually resolved to simply being pleasant. I let go of being angry, in favor of feeling angry, which eventually let me look beyond my angry feelings to my hurt feelings, and then eventually to just letting shit go. Now? I guess I’m “quietly over it”, and it’s enough. Ideally, small things stay small. It’s not always easy to see that through from intention to outcome. It takes practice.

Neither societies nor relationships are (ever) “perfect”, not really; both are made up of human beings who are themselves entirely “human” in all the error-prone meanings of that word, and compounded by the very (very) subjective nature of our individual experiences. Hell, it’s not even a given that we’re all “doing our best” – or that any one of us is capable of a personal best of sufficient real-world value in any objective way. It’s an inefficient system, at best.

Work keeps me occupied. I pause for a break and reconnect with my Traveling Partner. The gray skies beyond my window seem to reflect back our own individual moodiness, today. Suitable backdrop. I think we’re past it, though, with “clearer skies”, though not exactly “sunny”. Metaphorically, I’m hoping for sunny skies (and sunny days) ahead. Funny thing though; the metaphor of climate and weather with regard to emotions and relationships breaks down a bit if pushed too far – we don’t control the actual weather, but do have substantial control over our emotional “weather”. Oh, for sure, not 100% of the control we might like to have, sometimes, and sometimes what we most want to control of the emotional weather isn’t ours to decide at all. Communication takes effort. Listening is work. Kindness requires practice – even for people in love with each other. “Being angry” is easier than taking the time and care to really process feelings of anger with real consideration, self-compassion, and without adding drama to someone else’s experience. It’s hard. It’s worth practicing, and improving over time. It’s worth failing at it and learning from that, and continuing to practice. Incremental change over time is slow – and it’s hard as hell to make the same room for someone else to fail and grow, as it is to do that for myself.

It’s a pleasant afternoon. My partner brings me a small serving of gelato. I take a break to enjoy that, and review what I’ve gotten done today, and what I’ve got coming up tomorrow. There’s so much to get done before the year ends – and it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

I’m annoyed over my morning coffee. It’s not something major, and a “more reasonable” person might not have reacted to this small detail the way I have. I’m working on letting it go. Anger “goes bad” – becomes toxic, generates problematic outcomes, that sort of thing – super easily, compared to so many other emotions. (I take a sip of my rather ordinary cup of coffee, and wonder briefly why that is.)

This morning I’m irritated – well, I guess that’s a step down from being angry, so… progress? It’s at least a start. A beginning. Another one. (Another sip of coffee, too.)

My Traveling Partner opens the door to the studio – and to reconnecting – and apologizes crossly for being cross with me. He makes a point to describe his experience to me. He makes a point to affirm his love, too. I make a point to listen. I make a point to demonstrate that I hear him and understand. Clear communication doesn’t feel particularly “easy” or “natural” this morning. I still feel fussy and irritable, rocked off my contented center by a moment of unexpected irritation first thing in the morning. We both do the things it takes to check in with each other, hear each other, and support each other. The verbs matter.

…I continue to reflect and sip my coffee…

I sat down to write, aware of my anger, aware of my frustration and irritability, and also aware of my affection for my partner. I sat down grateful, too; gratitude is my “go to” emotion-of-choice for a quick reset when my temper flares up. It’s super hard to be both angry and also grateful, in the same emotional moment. 🙂 With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, the timing is good for gratitude.

Wait…wait… what? What about… pilgrims? What about the heinous land grab that is our nation’s “original sin”? “Thanksgiving”??? Yes. Thanksgiving, which is to say a holiday on which I sit down to give thanks with those dear to me (I mean, yeah, when there’s no pandemic). I don’t place a positive personal (or historical) value on the celebration of Thanksgiving as some kind of glorification of genocide, at all. I do like the idea of a harvest-season feast day with gratitude as the theme, though. On its own, that’s a beautiful notion. It’s a lovely start to the winter holiday season. I celebrate that. I also acknowledge (and respect) the National Day of Mourning that also occurs on this date. There are for sure no pilgrims sitting down at my table. Genocide is a terrible violation of culture, and waste of human potential.

Anyway. Yeah, I do find that gratitude beats anger – every time. I’m grateful for so much this year. I feel fortunate. Good quality clean drinking water flows from indoor taps. The house is cozy and warm – and ours. The pantry is stocked and there’ll be no need to leave the house for shopping, tomorrow. I’m wearing comfortable clothing, appropriate for the conditions – and I had choices for what to wear this morning. The heat kicks on, and the soft sound of the fan blowing reminds me yet again, how fortunate I am. Comfortable bed…clean linens…a safe, secure place to live. Stable employment. I’m fortunate indeed.

I sip my coffee and think contented grateful thoughts – no anger to be found anywhere. Season’s greetings, y’all. Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping you have much to be grateful for, and very little to be angry about. I take a calm breathe, and prepare to begin again.

I’ve got a headache. The usual. “Nothing to see here.” I’m also feeling aggravated, frustrated, and annoyed with commonplace (fairly ordinary) communication challenges with my partner. Right now, I don’t really know what to do with that, besides my very best to maintain a cool head, a calm demeanor, and a better than average attempt at “holding my tongue”. Allowing things to escalate, over something so incredibly petty, would not be a good demonstration of adult communication. So… okay. Working on that.

It’s not the communication itself, in these circumstances, that is petty – it’s very much the small shit that so easily gets out of hand, becoming a source of conflict. Manufactured conflict. Unnecessary conflict. Pointless conflict. It’s the sort of thing human primates are super good at. (Creating conflict, I mean.) I snarl quietly inside myself. I’m so completely fed the fuck up with human beings creating drama. I’m fed up with us/them bullshit arguments that are little more than territorial pissing matches, and ridiculous vortices of righteous anger and outrage used to justify terrible behavior. Unclear expectations. Untested assumptions. It’s not even about my partner, or our relationship in any direct specific way. It’s… all of us. People. “Society.”

It reaches me unavoidably through the limited media I consume, and even in the behavior of passing strangers on city streets, in unexpectedly crowded shops (“There’s still a pandemic going on, ya fuckwits.”)(I’m shopping, too.), and in parking lots. Most people think they’re right – about something. Mostly those same people are not actually “right” about the things they are so invested in being right about. They just have a fucking opinion. I’m no different. We’re each having our own experience – but we’re all human beings. We’re not very good at being our best selves. We treat each other – even our loved ones – pretty fucking badly, rather often. It’s incredibly shitty and I’m feeling cross just actually being a fucking human being, at all. We kind of suck, as creatures, rather a lot. We mostly don’t even make a fucking effort to be better today than we were tomorrow. I’m saddened by that.

A thoughtless harsh word, a moment of frustration or anger, of disappointment, or hurt feelings, and my whole experience feels colored by that moment. How is it that moments of intense joy don’t have similar impact, across an entire day or experience, in the same way? That seems unfair to me, sitting here right now. I feel chilly. The room is not cold; it’s me. I’m fighting back frustrated angry bullshit tears I don’t choose to indulge. My headache worsens with the effort of pure will at the end of a long day and week. I’m alone in this room, in this moment, because this is not about him. He’s got his feelings and experience, too; those are his. This? This right here is about me. Me, seeking to be and do my best, struggling with some things that are definitely not me at my best. Me, working to get over my bullshit and baggage, and manage my chaos and damage. Oh, I’m not being an ass to myself, and there is no cruelty here. I’m not being down on myself, but this is hard emotional labor, right here, and I need focus and concentration, and some quiet space to do it.

I practice being better than this petty moment of provocation. It’s just not very easy, as practices go. I love my partner. He’s earned my respect, and has my enduring affection. He’s my best friend. My lover. My Traveling Partner. My spouse. I’m still just fucking maddened by some of our small challenges, now and then. I’m sure he feels similarly. It can’t be easy living with me. I’ve… “got issues”. (Who doesn’t?)

I take a breath. Exhale. Relax. Let it go. Let all of it go. Just… breathe. I listen to the computer fan spin up, slow down, cycling as I type. I listen to the steady ring, chime, shimmer, and ping of my tinnitus, in the background, louder than any sounds from the other room. This too has started to become an impediment to good communication; I watch people closely when they talk to me to avoid missing an important detail. I often mishear things when I don’t see them spoken, like when I am walking away. It’s frustrating. Now and then it gives the impression I’m “not paying attention”.

I’d planned – considered? – writing something quite different, but the idea (which I really liked) was washed away by my irritation. Another bit of aggravation, this evening. I take another breath. I blow it out fiercely, childishly, crossly. I take another breath, and insist on exhaling it gently, without hostility or resentment.

My partner sticks his head in the door. He smiles and there’s so much love there. We’re in this together. “Still cranky?” he asks. Yeah, yeah I am – but it isn’t so bad. I feel very loved, and that matters more. Even when my head aches. Even when I’m cross.

…I guess I’ll just begin again. 😉

This morning is weird. I woke early, no idea why. Maybe I just had to pee? I feel generally okay as the morning begins. The usual amount of pain, in the usual amount of places, and I feel decently well-rested in spite of the short night. The weekend was strange. Strained in some moments, infused with a too-fragile joy in others. I struggled to find balance. From my own limited point of view, it seemed my Traveling Partner did, too.

…Very human…

I wanted to spend the weekend painting; I’ve got some good ideas and feel inspired, but that intent went awry, skewered by other moments. It’s a routine Monday, today, and my to-do list is a mix of errands, phone calls, and shit left from the weekend that didn’t get done – and work. I’m not bitching, just saying that is where things stand today, on a chilly damp autumn Monday.

I pull my attention back to me. My focus back on this moment, here. I lift myself more erect, correcting my posture to preserve my comfort. I take a deep breath, listening to the sound of it mix with the sounds of the house. I feel where my pain is. I make a point to also feel where it isn’t. I take a minute to reflect on the things I would like to get done today. I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll be more likely to remember them all and get them done.

I’ve “lost some progress” emotional-health-wise over the course of the pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m back in therapy. I’m not saying that with any particular sense of failure (although I sometimes feel a certain pervasive sense of “catastrophic futility” when I’m taken by surprise in some bleak moment); it’s a complicated journey, and realistically, there’s a high probability that I’ll sometimes struggle with some trauma-relevant detail of my experience or another, now and then, all my life. If I set the emotional wellness goal at “just as perfectly whole and well and balanced as if I’d never experienced any moment of trauma ever at all”, I’m guaranteed a lifetime of struggle, failure, and futility. It’s not a realistic goal. That’s why I focus on contentment – which I can build – rather than chasing “happiness”, which is not only fleeting, but also damned difficult to define clearly. I have at least learned to avoid setting myself up for failure. Mostly.

I finished the book my Traveling Partner recently gifted me, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?“, by Alan Alda. First rate work on communication, and I plan to read it again, immediately, and maybe also buy the e-book so I can easily highlight passages I’d like to study further, savor, or share. It’ll go on my Reading List shortly (yep, it’s that good).

I take time with my coffee to properly reflect on my recent business trip. I think over what I learned (about various things, including some travel practices that could improve my experience if I am to do this sort of thing regularly). I think over even details like “what I packed that I did not need” – there’s an art to traveling light, and still having “everything I need”. I’m rusty. The last job I had that required regular travel was… the Army. Trust me when I say that it was a very different style of travel! I’m surprised to find that I genuinely enjoyed being in the office for a couple of days – and I got a lot done. I also enjoy working from home very much, and find that day-to-day my “baseline” productivity is generally much higher working from home. It’s the “living life” part of work-travel I haven’t figured out; I finish those work days wrung out, in physical pain, and cognitively exhausted, just as I often do at home, and lacking any reserves with which to do anything much recreational. I got my walking in. For now, that’ll have to do, and I guess I’m okay with it.

I sip my coffee and consider what value my Traveling Partner may get out of my occasional business travels. We miss each other so much when we’re apart, but it seems to have a healthy positive value to get that “bit of space from each other”. How to do that in a way that does not create moments of insecurity and doubt would be helpful as a skill. I think more about what he may want and need out of life, generally, and ask myself some hard questions about whether I provide those things, and how I could do a better job of that? Then I turn a mirror on that question, which is super hard for me, and I ask myself what I want and need out of life generally – and whether I am providing myself with those things (or communicating them skillfully to my partner), and how can I do a better job of that, too? It’s a profoundly different question – and deeply relevant to my emotional wellness. In a very real way, I can only treat people around me as well as I treat myself. I’ve been letting myself down rather a lot, sacrificing pieces of myself to the job, to the world around me, to the household, to my partner, and to those vacant slack-jawed moments of cognitive ease that end up being my inadequate substitute for legitimate self-care, too often, lately. (I could “blame the pandemic”, but I recognize it is more complicated than that.)

…Damn, I’m glad I got back into therapy…

Here it is, the edge of a new day. The beginnings of a beginning. There are so many other things to reflect on, to consider, to handle differently, to work at… it seems like a lot, taken as one colossal single monolithic unsatisfying uncompleted “project”… I sigh, sip the last swallow of my first coffee of the day. One step at a time. One task at a time. One reminder at a time. Eventually, things get done, and incremental change over time becomes part of the here and now. “Could be” becomes “is”. It still takes so much practice. So many new beginnings. I stare into my empty coffee cup. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

“E” is also for effort. Sometimes “easy” isn’t within reach. This morning is one of those times. The weekend, so far, has its ups and downs. My head aches today. My arthritis joined the party before I even woke up this morning. My sleep was restless, disturbed, and filled with strange nightmares of failure and inadequacy, and being tangled in dense sticky spiders’ webs. It was not a restful night.

I remind myself to begin again. To stay open to success. To choose. To choose again. To practice good self-care, to practice self-compassion. To treat myself and my partner well in spite of where I find myself this morning. I breathe. Exhale. Let my shoulders relax (again). I acknowledge my pounding headache, and sip my coffee as if the headache doesn’t matter. Later, I’ll pull myself together into some form similar to an adult human being equipped to handle the needs of the day, and go do those things I’m up to doing. For now, I’m here. Thinking my thoughts. Sipping my coffee. Hoping to one day be a much better version of myself than I was yesterday. (Right now, the bar seem relatively low there, so perhaps I do have a shot at that, in spite of how I feel right now?)

…All too human. The anhedonia and ennui are dragging on me a bit. It’s not as bad as despair would be. I make myself fully consider those words as I type them; this truly could be much worse. Another breath, it becomes a sigh. I exhale slowly, deliberately. I let the feelings come and go, observed but not interfered with. Acceptance and awareness are important steps for change.

My coffee grows cold. My thoughts begin an unproductive spiral. I shake it off. It’s time to begin again.