Before I launch into today’s post, I feel the need to make a disclaimer: I did – regardless of how the rest of this post is going to make it sound – have a really good weekend. I had dinners out and saw movies I’ve been dying to see with a couple of really great friends (Saving Mr. Banks with Disney Amanda and American Hustle with the sweet and lovely Chelsea). I also had my car fall through the ice around Amanda’s driveway. Yes, you read that correctly. It took us the better part of an hour to chip it out and a push from the guy across the street but we managed to free the ol’ girl and, no word of a lie, I laughed about it the whole way home.
And yet, right in the middle of the fun something happened that seemed to throw the rest of my weekend for a loop. I’ve always hesitated to write about these kinds of experiences because I never know if I’ll be able to write about them in the right sort of way. I want to be honest without invading my own privacy too much. But honesty is what I’ve been striving for here and you’re supposed to write about what you know, so I’m going to give this a try.
Something happened this weekend. In all honesty, it was something small and something that, to pretty much everyone else probably seemed innocuous. But to me it was big and to me it mattered. To me it hurt and changed my perspective about certain things in my life.
I’m sure more than a few of your can probably relate to this kind of experience. We’re all in this together, guys. *insert back-pat of understanding here*
Now, I’ll pause here to acknowledge that I’m being vague and cryptic. I hate to do that, I really do. But in reality the what’s and the who’s of the circumstance don’t actually matter. This isn’t a story about the what’s and the who’s. No, dear reader, this is a story about anger.
It’s amazing how these things can come out of nowhere. One minute you’re living life and having a great time and the next you’re smacked upside the head by something completely unexpected that seems to change so much.
That was what happened to me this weekend and when it did, I was angry.
No, I was furious. Absolutely livid.
I was angrier than I’ve been in recent memory, and that shocked me. In the past few months alone there have been plenty of experiences that were probably much more deserving of that kind of a reaction, so even I was surprised that this was what tipped the scales for me.
But there I was, pacing my apartment. Picking things up and putting them back down again, unsure of how to focus all of the sudden and reckless energy that was burning beneath the surface. Why was kick boxing so far away? Could I reasonably manage to get a punching bag set up in my living room? QUESTIONS.
I felt so completely unlike myself that it was almost scary.
I played with Jasper for a bit and, while it took my mind off things, the rage was still there lurking on the periphery of my mind. I called my mom and ranted to her about what had happened. As soon as that call ended I phoned one of my best friends and did it all over again.
Was I crazy for being so upset?
No, they both assured me. They couldn’t find fault in my reaction.
That was good to hear (I always worry that I’m overreacting when something drums up that strong of a reaction out of me) but I still couldn’t put the issue to bed.
Finally, in the wee hours of the morning I sat quietly, still sorting through my emotions. I was exhausted by this point and much of the initial rage I had been wrestling with felt exorcised. As I sifted through what was left I was at last able to focus in on what was at the heart of all of my anger: Disappointment.
You see, it is my experience that anger is often a by-product of some other emotion. Sadness, fear, the sense of betrayal; Whatever the case may be, I’ve always looked at anger as something that does not stand alone but rather is a defensive response to some other unpleasant feeling.
That was why I stayed up – my reaction had been so volatile, so incredibly out of character, that I knew I had to get to the bottom of it if I had any hope of moving past it.
Still, disappointment is a heavy beast and I was still struggling to lift it even after a good long sleep. As I lumbered through a morning walk with Jasper I knew I was going to have to find a way to let it go. I had to shake it off.
Couldn’t help myself. Sorry, not sorry.
Sometimes we can act on it. Sometimes we have no choice – the thing that has upset us needs to be confronted in order to make things better.
But sometimes dealing with the problem head-on simply isn’t the right course of action. Sometimes we have no choice but to shake it off and move on because acting, even if the act is thoughtfully considered and carefully played out, will still only make matters worse.
I broke it down for myself: What had happened had hurt me, but it otherwise wasn’t going to affect my day-to-day life. It had been disappointing, but it was the sort of thing that had provided me with the mental tools to move forward and proceed as a stronger and wiser person. I was going to be okay. I was already okay.
There is something so frustrating about the disconnect that often happens between the head and the heart. When logic tells you that the point is moot and there’s no use in dragging it out your heart can still be stubborn and refuse to go down without a fight. It was driving me crazy because I was ready to move past it. All I wanted was to be happy.
Happy, as it turned out, was the magic word because as soon as I acknowledged that was what I wanted, I knew what I had to do. I had always known what I needed to do. Hell, I had just written about it less than a week ago.
If I wanted to be happy then I was going to have to change my attitude.
Something that I find really helps me when I need to change my attitude is to find a mantra. Often I’ll turn to inspirational quotes, finding the perfect one for my situation and putting it up in plain sight where I can refer to it as often as necessary. For example, whenever I start to doubt myself I turn to my girl, Coco Chanel:
Trust a few,
Do harm to none.
– William Shakespeare
I am not an angry person and I am not about to let anger change who I am.
And you know what?
I feel better already.
What about you? Can you remember the last time you were REALLY angry? What do you do to turn things around when you feel that way? Tell me about it in the comments!