Very late last night, I read something that made me very angry.
Anger is an emotion I'm very unfamiliar with, actually. It doesn't come easily and I tend to repress it, or rationalise around it. I have a very high tolerance for misunderstanding; I have a very high tolerance for 'lack of progress' when things aren't urgent; I have a reasonably high tolerance for most aspects of standard human behaviour. So a lot of things that get people irritable or angry don't affect me.
I used to get angry, of course, when I was a young child; I remember several decent rolling-around-on-the-floor temper tantrums, none of which had any good cause. They probably lasted until I was about nine; by then I was starting to realise what I was losing, and to take more care of my dignity. Then, too, anger started turning to sadness and retreat - and eventually I started skipping even that step in favour of analysing the situation and, well, doing something about it. Or learning from it.
Part of it, I guess, is that I have a reasonable self-esteem in a lot of areas, these days. So it takes quite a lot to threaten me. It's not often that I encounter any cause for fear, real or imagined; I have a good life. You can't hurt me by saying I'm ugly, or fat, or stupid, or selfish, or a whiner, or silly, or nerdy, or any manner of other things, because I know what I am. (To wit: I look like your average Chinese, I have a poor appetite, people call me unusually intelligent, I do things predominantly for others, and I complain very little. And I'm silly and nerdy and geeky and indecisive and overly serious. So what?) I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm even popular in certain circles, and loved by others.
I do place a high value on understanding. But I also appreciate that it's sometimes not easily obtained. If someone has misunderstood something, I know that that doesn't necessarily mean they think ill of me; such things can be resolved. Who knows, I might be mistaken, or I might not have made myself clear. I give people the benefit of the doubt in these situations too; I tend to assume they have good intentions, that they don't set out to malign me, and that nobody has perfect delivery. Some times understanding takes more effort than others.
I'm also used to having patience with and tolerance for people. If the lady at the bank has to sort out paperwork the previous customer left, before she can call me up, so be it. The person who stepped on the back of my shoe didn't actually do it deliberately. The patient who makes unreasonable demands is sick and needs comfort. The people in the queue in front of me have their own agendas and stresses. I don't need to get worked up about it.
When I see people's anger in these situations, I've always seen it as getting in the way of resolution - people alienate each other, make each other nervous, and stop communicating. I'm a communication junkie; I love to know that somebody understood what I meant, or how I feel, and to think that I can empathise with them in some way, and see what they are trying to tell me. Anger, as I see it, is often a barrier. And quite often a waste of time.
Which is not to say that I ignore injustice. I don't know, I must lead a charmed life, injustice seldom happens to me, or at least not in any serious way. And I don't have the sense of self-entitlement that leads some people to imagine injustice, whenever they don't get everything they want. When it does happen to others, I do what I can. I try to help those who need it. There are always options, ways around a situation, ways to cope and things to work on. I'm not motivated by revenge, but fairness appeals to me. And I have an exceedingly strong - overriding, even - sense of doing what is fair. Or trying to.
But anyway, last night, I was angry. Very much so. I even considered getting her back, showing her up by making it clear what I really was.
Of course, that idea quickly dissolved. What angered me was that realistically, there was no way to make things right and still be true to who I am and lead my life. There were options - there always are - I had considered and rejected them many times before- but they involve a lot more time and effort than I have available, or ever will. I am going to have a full-time job to go back to, after all.
So I did the first obvious thing: I vented to a friend. I didn't even have to tell her much, just point out what had happened and let her see the obvious injustice. She sympathised - that was all I needed - and I felt better immediately. After a rambling discussion on health, what she was cooking for dinner and what I had in the fridge, I thought I was ready for bed. It was 4am my time.
What I didn't fully appreciate was the energy that comes with anger. My mind was abuzz for the next two hours. I'm not one to think negatively of people, or to go over perceived misdeeds round and round again; I had already accepted that the injustice was there, and permanent; my previous efforts had come to nought. Where I was mistaken was in thinking that acceptance was the same as resolution. Instead, my mind got creative, and started presenting me with an infinite number of avenues. I could do this and this, and limit the damage... I could help others learn from my situation... I could be true to myself and what I really wanted to do by starting this or that project, and everyone would see. And maybe, yes, there was an easier way of showing her up; it wouldn't even have to be permanent ... no, here were some even better things to do with my time ... on and on.
I know now why they say never to go to bed on a dispute. Bedtime is the worst time to be angry, because you know you need sleep, and yet you can't. And you know that no matter what you think of, it will be best done in the morning; you'll be out of whack if you don't sleep; and yet you can't. The energy is there, whichever way you channel it, constructive or destructive ... it quickens your breathing and your pulse, raises your blood pressure, whooshes through your mind and your limbs. And you need your sleep! Darn it.
It got to six o'clock, normal time for our morning walk, although I knew Smith wouldn't be walking because he'd been up late trying to make something work. I got out of bed for a drink of water, and seriously considered doing the walk anyway, in the rain, by myself, just so I could sleep. I'd already tried progressive relaxation (and found my jaw was tense), and attempts at meditation, trying to block everything out with my mantra, but of course I was too tired for that to really work. Concentration was not available.
And then I dismissed the idea of the walk (I probably would have collapsed) and went back to bed, and Smith turned over and put his arms right around me ... held my head to his chest while he slept... and I was safe.
Only then could I let go, tell my creative mind to take a rest; only then could I slowly, visualising each colour in turn, bring my thoughts back to a normal level (I dunno, it works); and then, focused, take myself back to the reality of warm, soft bed, half-light, bird call outside ... cradled by my husband, I relaxed. Even then it took a while ... but I eventually slept.
And of course the options were all there in the morning, and some of them were more realistic than others. Morning is the best time to be creative, because you have the whole day ahead of you to do what you think best!
I haven't been that angry in a long, long while.
7 years ago