Temperatures are rising all over the country. Double-digit forecasts crowd the air waves. Videos showing people baking pizzas on their dashboards. It’s Summertime, folks. And the ambient temperature isn’t the only thing heating up.
Anger seems to be a big topic lately. In print and in Cyberspace. In fact, it kind of surprised me that the topic I was thinking about was on brighter and better minds than mine! I would say “Great minds think alike”, but I think I just got lucky on this one …
To start with, yesterday I read an article in my current issue of “More” magazine about the end of a friendship. One of the most powerful things about this article was the author’s admission that she has a hot temper (she compares herself to Wasabi), and how her own anger contributed to the end of a valuable friendship. What made the article memorable for me was the journey she made, intellectually, to understand her own responsibility and feelings in the situation, and how she has grown from the experience.
Then, this morning, I saw a post from one of my fav bloggers, Kebba Buckley Button, giving her take on a very similar topic! (http://upbeatspiritualliving.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/upbeat-spiritual-living-when-anger-isnt/) I found her spin on understanding what our anger is really telling us, and dealing with it effectively, to be right on the money.
Let’s face it: if you are old enough to vote, you have had an Ooops Moment in your life. One of those times when you lost it, blew your top, exploded like a bomb, flew off the handle, freaked out, went crazy, screamed like a banshee and just plain let your anger get the best of you. If it wasn’t a common problem, there wouldn’t be so many ways we refer to it, would there?
The main issue is not if you have Ooops Moments. The issue is: how do you handle them? Because we all get mad. We all have things happen to us that get us riled up to the point where our mouth goes into Overdrive and our good sense gets left behind in the dust.
That’s why I liked both these pieces; because both writers talked about learning to live with the reality of anger, and not letting it get the best of you. Anger doesn’t have to lead to Ooops.
I know, try telling that to the people who appear on all those Judge shows. I wish I had a nickel for every episode where I watched one woman sue another woman for keying her car, because she was “mad”. I wish I had a penny for all the times I heard the ‘other’ woman claim it was the Plaintiff’s fault for “… making her mad…” Really? If someone ‘makes you mad’, that gives you carte blanche to do whatever pops into your overheated brain? I guess I missed that class when I was growing up …
I used to have a bad temper. My nickname isn’t Badger because I have a furry, striped back. I was a walking, talking bundle of pissed off most of the time. I didn’t even know why I was pissed. It got that bad. It took on a life of its own. It became its own reason for being. And it pretty much took over the Me that I lived with.
I have to say, that was tough on my family. I am incredibly lucky that they stuck by me. I’m lucky that I have forgiving friends, too. But a lot of them just got tired of the toxic message and got away as fast as their feet could carry them. Of course, that just made me angrier.
It took a lot of time, a lot of being real with myself, a lot of eating so much humble pie that I’ll never lose that extra ten pounds, before I learned some basic rules to avoiding Ooops Moments in my life:
Rule #1: Feelings Aren’t Facts – Just because you ‘feel’ something doesn’t mean you have to act on it. It isn’t a fact. If you ‘feel’ like someone stabbed you in the back, you don’t have to blow their head off. You don’t have to give Feelings the power to determine your actions. Recognizing that they are feelings, and that you control your Actions helps keep the Ooops Moments at a minimum.
Rule #2: Think Before You Speak – Where did this rule go in our world? I remember hearing that when I was a kid, about a million times. OK, I forgot it, but I remembered it. And remembering it has been one of the best things I could do for myself. Just take a deep breath, count to ten, or twenty, or one thousand six hundred and forty two. Ask yourself: Do I really want to start something? Do I really want to fight about this? If you don’t, then shut up. It’s that simple.
Rule #3: The Ten Year Rule – This one is especially good for marriage and family stuff. We are all going to get on each other’s last raw, bleeding nerve from time to time. It happens. And it is really annoying. What I find works for me is the Ten Year Rule. Before I jump down someone’s throat, I ask myself: “Will I remember what this is about in ten years? In five years? Next week?” If the answer is No, then I let it go. If it isn’t a deal breaker of some kind, I choose to spend my energy on something besides ripping my loved ones into shreds.
Rule #4: It’s All About Choice – This is the biggest one, I think. It’s all about Choice. You CHOOSE to act on your feelings. You CHOOSE to stay angry, to feed the anger, to carry grudges, to remember old hurts and slights. You CHOOSE to spend your energy, your precious time, hanging onto all that negative crap. Have you ever just stopped and asked yourself Why? What is it getting you? What is your ROI? Why aren’t you choosing to just say: So What?
I will give you an example of Rule #4. Many (many) years ago, I went to a Parents Without Partners dance up in Connecticut. (I used to live up there.) I was in the Ladies Room, brushing my hair, and listening to the woman behind me talking about her daughter’s wedding a couple of weeks before. She was ranting so much she had foam on her lips, her eyes were bugging out of her head, and her face was a really uncomplimentary shade of red. She was angry that her ex-husband had come to the wedding. She couldn’t believe his nerve. Couldn’t believe that he walked her daughter down the aisle. The whole event was ruined for her, because this evil man had dared to appear.
I was taken aback by her attitude. I figured, maybe he had just left her a month or so before the wedding. That was the only reason I could think of for her to be so incredibly angry. So I asked her, “When did you separate?” What do you think her response was? “Twenty years ago.”
All I could do was stand there and stare at her with my mouth hanging open like some fish out of water. I couldn’t believe my ears. I had to ask her “What did you say?” And she replied, “We were divorced twenty years ago. Why?”
I found myself starting to laugh. Inappropriately, unforgivably. I had to shake my head to get a grip. As she stared at me with this pugnacious glare on her scarlet face, I said to her “Do you mean to tell me that you have been this pissed off at him for twenty years? While he has been out living his life, you spent twenty years of yours being angry? Who did that hurt? Him? Why would you do that to yourself?”
OK. It wasn’t pretty. I thought she was going to kill me with the tweezers in her hand. I beat a hasty retreat, shaking my head at her utter blindness. I know it wasn’t my most empathetic moment, but I couldn’t help it.
I admit I forgot that story many times in the subsequent 24 years or so. I would remember from time to time, but not often enough to prevent a lot of Ooops Moments in my own life. That’s not the point.
The point is: I got tired of causing my own Ooops Moments and learned how to prevent them. I learned to Choose Not To Be Angry. Yes, it really is a choice. Ask my family. They have learned I’m not that nasty, hair trigger rodent person any more. They actually enjoy spending time with me (or so they say…)
Whether it is putting your foot in your mouth and losing a friend, or choosing to let your anger take control of your mouth, you will always be faced with potential Ooops Moments. You can learn not to let your feelings run your life. You can actually run your own life. Just remember the rules. Just CHOOSE.
Sandi Tuttle is the host of the Blog Talk Radio show “An Average Woman in a Superwoman World”. For more information, go to: http://www.averagewomansj.com.