Archives for category: anger

Eat less or exercise? Personally, I have to do both. It’s non-negotiable. If I get less exercise, still keep my caloric intake well-managed (and low) and eat healthy food, I gain weight anyway. If I get plenty of exercise, but make poor nutritional choices, I also gain weight. If I eat a poor quality diet, don’t manage my calories closely, and also don’t get sufficient exercise, I not only gain weight, I gain a lot of weight, and I pack on the pounds fast. Some medications cause me to gain weight, too; that’s something I reliably find out the hard way. So… eat less or exercise? I don’t get to choose, I’ve got to do both. πŸ™‚

There are quite a few things in life that we sometimes get snared viewing as a choice between options, when, actually, it’s a choice to change, or not to change; all the options involving change may be required to make change occur in the direction we’d specifically like to see. Real-life doesn’t tend to negotiate with our whims.

Emotion, and the skillful management and expression of strong emotion, specifically, has some things in common here, with a twist; incremental change over time is super slow, but our emotions jump to the head of any queue, lead every moment, and arrive to every party too early. So sure, it’s reasonable, and true, for someone mid-freak out to have the recognition and understanding that their experience is based on “irresistible” internal forces beyond their immediate control; strong emotion, particularly powerful emotions like rage, frustration, and sorrow, can erupt from within us, sweeping over us, taking away our sense of control, and eventually leading to regrettable words and actions. The “I’m sorry”s begin to pile up (if you are that decent sort who regrets treating others badly). So do the rationalizations (about hormones, childhoods, provocation, circumstances…).

It’s also quite true that our behavior is a choice. Yes, all of it. Yes, pretty much all the time, every time. The first time someone lashes out with an act of violence, they might get by with “I didn’t know” or an expression of astonishment that they could be provoked to that point, but second times? Third times? Times that occur after someone – anyone – has pointed out that’s not okay? Yeah, those are choices. Yielding to strong emotion and relinquishing control over behavior is a choice (unless maybe you are profoundly mentally ill and urgently in need of inpatient treatment). Well, if that’s also true, is everyone who ever treated a loved one poorly, or punched a wall, or lashed out with horrible words deeply mentally ill and urgently in need of treatment? Some of them probably are! Most of them likely are not. That they are choosing such behaviors is still a choice, and they could choose differently, and no you can’t “make them” change, and omg – if they decide to change themselves, that is a process that can be infernally slow, fraught will failures, and varying results.

…And before we can change ourselves through our willful choices in the direction of being our best selves, we actually need to 1. be aware that we would like to be other than we are, and 2. understand that change is possible, chosen, and must be practiced. It’s a lot to hold onto. It’s a lot of work. The practice has to come ahead of the need to be changed. It’s necessary both to feel, and to practice our best behavior under the stress of an “emotional load”. We’ve got to do both. It’s work that will have to be done in the face of real-time failures, disappointed frustrated loved ones, relationships that don’t make it through the process, friendships that end because it turns out some of them were invested in what is being changed. It’s work that is continuous and ongoing. Change is a verb – and you have choices.

Another school shooting. I read about it and can’t help but wonder where so many people have gotten the idea that their anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other emotional experience, entitles them to take a life – any life. Where did that come from? How long has this toxic seed been part of our culture? Did the shooter understand this is unacceptable behavior? If he did understand that, and chose to do it anyway, where did he get the idea that this is a course of action appropriate to his emotional experience? Why do so few people understand what poison their “righteous anger” actually is? Even otherwise good-hearted people can be drawn into making the most outrageously hateful statements about the value of another life (don’t read the comments on the internet, People, I’m just saying there’s an astonishing amount of rationalized hate out there), given the opportunity to frame that other human being as a bad guy of some kind. We most commonly succumb to hate due to a lack of empathy… I don’t know how to fix that for the world, or my nation. I’m still working on it for me – one practice at a time. Changing myself is within my control; I have choices.

Time to begin again.

I woke much earlier than my alarm. Early enough to do yoga, shower, dress, and make an Americano before my alarm would have gone off. I’m quite alert and wide awake, and feel rather as if weeks and weeks of fatigue and illness are finally behind me. Still have the weird headache. Still have more future appointments to deal with it. Still have the arthritis pain. Still bitching about that. It is morning. I am human. πŸ™‚

I sip my coffee contentedly, noting how good it is this morning and just really enjoying that. It is a Friday, tomorrow is the weekend. I feel relaxed and at ease – because, partly, I’ve chosen to practice having this experience of relaxed contentment, learned to build and sustain that over time, and it’s become (if not my default “state of being”) quite common to feel this way. It is a huge improvement over being mired in despair, chronically frustrated, and wondering endlessly what the point even is to living. πŸ˜€ I’ll straight up say it; I got here with my choices. I got here with practice. There were – and are – verbs involved. Practicing practices is an ongoing thing; this is not a task, these are processes. This is me, living my life, and my results vary – right now, this moment here? It’s very pleasant. πŸ™‚

There is stuff yet to do. Housekeeping. Tidying up. Maintenance. Repairing, cleaning and maintaining. lol There’s also brunch with a friend, hang out time with another, and perhaps a lovely hike with a new camera on a pleasant Sunday morning. πŸ˜€ I get to choose. πŸ™‚

I’m ready to begin again. Let’s start this day!

“Fuck Portland.” It came out as a snarl. I said it more than once. It was an unpleasant commute. I said much worse as I crept east on Division at less than 10 miles per hour. I waited at least twice at all but one intersection on my usual route. My GPS mocked me by pointing out it was “the usual traffic”. “Oh, Google,” I sneered, “I disagree.” Construction delays? Nope. A freight train halting traffic at important crossroads? Nope. Bus traffic? Nope, not this time. No, this time it was… Portland. Yep. The very culture itself combined with certain specific circumstances and… commuter hell.

One of the things I least appreciate about the area is the odd practice of extending courtesy to who or whatever is directly in one’s view, while utterly disregarding the existence of anything else at all. In this case, very polite drivers yielding the right of way of other drivers who have no interest in so doing, and haven’t consented to giving it up; a car waiting to turn, dense commuter traffic on a primary road that has the right of way, and lo! The oh-so-polite Portlander just fucking stops dead still in the middle of the road to allow someone whose turn it is not to go ahead and make their turn – sometimes, even if doing so requires just sitting there awhile as the perplexed driver who recognizes they do not have the right of way wonders what the hell is going on, until they finally also recognize that this polite clown is actually no kidding going to fucking sit there until eternity – unless that turn gets made. This is an experience over which I just seethe. I get very angry. Anger is hard on me. I’m not good at it. I have to practice the best possible anger-related skills and practices, or risk utter failure at adulting with skill. So. I practiced all the way home.

I did say “fuck Portland” a bunch of times, I won’t even minimize that – but I said it. I didn’t scream it while beating my fists on the dashboard, or throwing myself against the car door, or throwing shit. I just said it, and I totally meant it in the moment, too; fuck Portland. Fuck city convenience. Fuck traffic. Fuck the endless badly maintained pothole covered pavement. Fuck the multifamily housing being added to even the smallest available remaining city lots. Fuck the high rent. Fuck having to listen to neighbors through thin walls. Fuck being far away from family.

Oh.

Oh, hell. Is that what this is? Am I feeling lonely, and it is erupting as anger? Why the hell would I find anger a more comfortable emotion than loneliness?

I got home, and sat awhile in the parked car in the driveway, listening to the rain fall and the shhh shhh of passing traffic. I checked the mail, and tossed the pile of nothing into the recycling bin on my way to the front door. I let myself in, expecting to feel at ease, and when I didn’t… I sat down to write. My “safe space” isn’t always a meditation cushion next to a patio door, or a fireplace, sometimes it is pen and paper, or a keyboard and a text box.

My writing is interrupted by conversation with my Traveling Partner. It’s funny. I’m already totally over being angry. Definitely more invested in this conversation with this human being I love so much. So… I think I’ll do that, for awhile, and see where the evening takes me. It’s a nice way to begin again.

One moment of many.

Time shrank, stretched, and snapped back, today. I got home feeling I had simultaneously done much more and much less than I had planned to do – more than I expected to get done, less than I urgently needed to get done, and certainly enough actually got done. Time can be peculiarly malleable, and sometimes I think I’ve almost got the hang of doing it at will. (That would be quite amazing.) πŸ™‚

At some point, I realized I needed a couple things from myself. I was feeling fairly pressed for time, pretty frazzled, and I was overwhelming myself with details, and small frustrations. When I started getting close to that very special moment – you know the one? That moment just at which not having some sort of horrific tantrum or untoward meltdown would just no longer be possible? That fairly strained moment of longing and regret-in-advance? (Is that just me?) I could see it there, just ahead of me… the snarled remark, perhaps, got my attention – and a moment of appreciation that although I’d spoken aloud, I was seated alone. I paused, and listened for just a precious second of limited time – really listened – to me – and I recognized unmet needs. Simply that. I heard me. I needed recognition that I’ve been sick. I needed better self-care. I needed to slow down a bit, really focus, and be patient with myself. I needed a healthy meal – a real, actual, cooked-with-care, meal, prepared from fresh ingredients that meet all of my dietary needs. (I’ve been sick, right? Cooking takes some effort, more than I could manage for a couple days, so it’s been… broth. lol Mostly just broth. And coffee. Tea. Fizzy water. Cold medicine.) I looked at the clock and acknowledged to myself how very human I am. I reset my expectations, and moved my workload around a bit. I reset the expectations of others, with consideration, with care, and as firmly as I know how to do graciously. I finished the day with a plan.

The commute was okay. Rainy. I was pre-occupied with my own thoughts, so less frustrated with the shenanigans of other, less skilled, drivers (I know they are less skilled, because… did you see that shit?? You did not. I did, though. lol). I picked up some healthy ingredients on the way home and made myself a small London broil (although I rarely eat beef, if I am at all a risk of anemia, or have recently been ill, it definitely perks me up to have it), some steamed broccoli, and homemade yam steak fries. I cooked. I enjoyed a solitary evening meal, listening to music, thinking my thoughts. First day back to work is tough on me after being sick, so I take things pretty easy this evening. I want to do more, and look at my “to do list” with a certain purposeful yearning, although I definitely do not have the energy for all that (or even most of it, or… yeah… none of it at all, actually, not tonight). An early night will be the thing, then. Maybe some quiet time reading? Meditation. I’ll write (hello!). I’ll meditate. I’ll call it a night.

Of course, the internet grabbed my attention pretty quickly – it was hard to tear myself away. A couple rounds of being annoyed with myself, followed by a reminder, again, of how human I am… the evening continues.

Self-care does not come naturally to me, in any way I can tell. I really work at it. I sometimes seriously suck at it, but it needs to be handled, and generally, it needs to be handled skillfully – or I am doing little more than hastening my own demise through neglect. :-\ So, tonight I practice self-care practices. Gentle verbs. Verbs that nurture. Verbs that heal. Verbs that soothe and tend and care for.

Tomorrow is soon enough to begin again on all the other verbs. πŸ™‚

I am in a fairly crappy mood this evening. No particular obvious reason stands out. Nothing really seems to be wrong. The work day wasn’t bad. The commute wasn’t bad. Just my mood. The headache isn’t helping, but I’ve taken something for it, had a big glass of water, and made a healthy evening meal of left over acorn squash stuffed with kale and quinoa. Pretty yummy. I’m okay. The house is secure and warm and quiet… so… what’s this bullshit about? That’s not really a rhetorical question – and I do know the answer. Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage “you’ve gotta pay for your thrills”?

I’m managing a smile in spite of my crappy mood, and feeling sort of… accomplished? I broke all my routines celebrating the new year with friends and loved ones. Late nights hanging out, listening to music, celebrating or grieving change, all of us together, enjoying irregular meals that didn’t conform well to specific dietary needs (sugar!!!!) – and all the over stimulation a great house party can provide have finally taken a real toll. I’m not just tired. I’ve gotten some good rest, and my sleep cycle already seems pretty well restored to the usual sleeping/waking timing, so no, it isn’t that – or, that’s only part of it. It was a damned good time, and I’m finding it hard to “come back to real life”, in the sense that merry-makers making merry don’t find much cause to have to “manage their time” – and I was really enjoying that. lol Now it’s back to planning, managing, and dealing with a steady grind that – however pleasant – is not built on my agenda, and over which I have very limited power to influence the course of events, or decision-making. Honestly, I’m just an analyst. A cog. A worker. A human being converting precious limited life-force into cash money for later use elsewhere.

Sure, beautiful…but… it isn’t “home”.

I sigh aloud in the empty still room. This too shall pass. I’m feeling a bit moody, but not particularly broken; this seems a positive change. I’m not angrily protesting the status quo, or furiously ranting about the unfairness of it all (the status quo kinda sucks, for a lot of people, and worse than for me – and frankly, we’re all pretty fucking familiar with unfairness, too). I’m calm and quiet, just sort of irritable – and I guess I’m even okay with that, sitting here quietly, after a nutritious meal, thinking of “home” – is it? Out there in the quiet countryside… among friends… out in the trees…Β Is it “home”? It could be. God damn it, I very much want it to be.

More than a beautiful view. A life.

What if I don’t live that long?

Okay, that goes too far, Brain – what’s with the vicious attack in the middle of a quiet evening? I catch myself tearing at my cuticles. So human. Shit. My mood wobbles toward frustration, fear, despair. I’m still okay right now. There is nothing going in this immediate moment that puts me at any greater risk of imminent death than I’m in at any other moment. We will all die at some point, and it is the rare circumstance when the end comes at a planned time. I sneer angrily at the lame attack on my emotional balance by my irritable brain. I seethe over my own bullshit. I’m not having it tonight. Another sigh punctuates the quiet, and I switch up my approach; I decide to “be here” for me – because I am literally the only person here right now. lol Maybe I can cut myself some slack? I really did throw self-care into the waste bin for 4 days, in the sense that my effort was half-assed at best (it’s still a lot of ass, just less than usual). πŸ™‚

I take a minute, remind myself “this too shall pass”, and think back on other disruptions to routines, other trips away with challenging emotional outcomes. That trip to Vegas? The meltdown after that must be legendary – I haven’t had to face anything like that, this time. I’m just a little moody – and not even a lot. Just headache-y, a bit irritable – and still totally okay right now. I smile, noticing how heavily I am reinforcing that awareness. Practices take practice.

Sometimes it isn’t even obvious if there’s a path to be on.

One step at a time, we each walk our own hard mile. Tomorrow, I’ll begin again.