The alarm was set. I swear to God. But the volume was turned down.
I rolled over and looked at the clock an hour later. “Oh, Sh**!!!!!!”
“You’re here???” dear husband said. He had just been thinking how impressed he was that I’d managed to get ready for work and leave without waking him up.
I ran around the house, leaping over dogs and trying to figure out what to do. I did a fairly accurate imitation of one of those squirrels who sees a car bearing down on him, and can’t decide which way to run. At one point I was wearing my husband’s glasses, and wondering why I couldn’t see. I vaguely recall running into several rooms for no apparent reason.
I couldn’t figure out how to use my phone. My brain does not thrive on these abrupt transitions. I knew I had to call someone, but who?
I called my coworker as I rushed into the bathroom. “How long will it take you to get here?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know! I’m on my way! Less than an hour. I’m so sorry! Sh**!”
I was out of the bathroom and changing my clothes and out the door, shouting goodbye over my shoulder, in less than 6 minutes.
Thank goodness I have a hairbrush in my car. Unfortunately, I don’t have a toothbrush. And I hadn’t taken my morning meds. This is not the first time I’ve been grateful that I don’t do makeup.
I got to work, only 9 minutes late, feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump. I refuse to incriminate myself regarding how many traffic violations I committed to do so, and how many times I questioned myself along the way to make sure I was driving to the correct drawbridge.
Upon arrival, I looked in the mirror and realized I still had marks on my face from my CPAP mask. I’d gladly pay someone $500 to let me go back to bed. That offer is still on the table.
As I write this, I’m sitting here feeling gross because of skipping so many steps in my morning hygiene regimen, and kind of resentful of the fact that even though I got an extra hour of sleep, I didn’t get to enjoy it. And I’m doing that leg shaking thing that I thought I got over in my 20’s.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the anatomy of disagreements. Naturally this has been inspired by the extreme divisions in this country, but it also has to do with the fact that I’ve had several fundamental disagreements lately with people I love and respect. I really loathe these situations, and find myself evermore diminished by them.
So let’s examine what’s going on internally when someone disagrees with me. First and foremost, I get defensive. I look for ways to justify my point of view. I feel rigid and unyielding. I don’t listen to what the other person is saying. I’m too busy working on a rebuttal.
And my adrenaline starts pumping. You’d think I was being chased by a lion. And that makes me feel sick to my stomach and a lot less calm and rational.
Next, I start second guessing myself. What’s wrong with my viewpoint? Am I being stupid? Did I overlook something? Am I crazy? Should I really hold this opinion? Will the other person think less of me for disagreeing? Do I care?
Then this internal battle goes on with my adult self and my wounded self. The adult self says, “Listen to what is being said. You might learn something.” Wounded self replies, “No! I refuse! This person is a stupid old poopy head.”
Sadly, my adult self only seems to prevail when I’m well-rested, not hungry, and feeling relatively self-confident. I’m a work in progress. Some days I’m better at listening than others.
Disagreeing is stressful. Listening is difficult. And I think we, as a nation, are becoming increasingly exhausted, which makes it harder to be our best selves.
It’s not that I enjoy irritation. In fact, it irritates me. But sometimes it feels beyond my control.
The good news is that the older I get, the more level headed I seem to become. I think part of that is due to the fact that I can’t work up the energy to be annoyed as often as I could in my younger days. I just can’t be bothered.
Oh, but there still are things. Someone cutting ahead of me in line. People blocking grocery aisles to chit chat. Rude individuals. All things Trump. The common denominator here is that people aren’t playing by my rules. I have no idea why so many people have overlooked the memo that I am Queen of the World, but there you have it.
Another thing that has improved with time is my self-awareness. I am getting better at seeing the physical warning signs of my irritation so as to nip it in the bud. Is my heart rate increasing? Am I feeling adrenalized? Am I starting to fidget? Uh, oh. Time to evaluate the situation.
First off, am I already Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Then I need to H.A.L.T. Because any one of those four states are bound to cause me to overreact. At times like those, I’ve been known to look for a reason to be irritated. How stupid is that?
Next, I need to really look at what I’m feeling. Sometimes irritation is a mask for other, less comfortable emotions. Fear. Fury. Depression. Grief. Disappointment. Dissatisfaction with your relationship with the person who is triggering your irritation. A feeling of being disrespected. My own stupid impatience when someone doesn’t comply with my self-imposed time line.
In many cultures, we are taught to suppress “negative” emotions. But emotions don’t hold a positive or negative charge. They are what they are. You feel what you feel. If you suppress that, it’s just going to find a way out in other ways, such as irritation when your boyfriend leaves his dirty socks in the coffee mug. It helps to check in with yourself about what you are really feeling. (For example, you’re annoyed, and frankly a little scared, that he doesn’t care enough about your feelings to put the mug in the dishwasher and the socks in the hamper.) If you aren’t adept at that, and many of us are not, I suggest that you consider therapy. I highly recommend it.
Another thing I try to do is a reality check. When I get irritated, I try to figure out which one of my rules is being violated. (As in: footwear and kitchen utensils don’t mix.) And then I try to remind myself that a) people are not mind readers, and b) not everyone goes by the same rules. (If both the footwear and the kitchen utensil are dirty, perhaps your boyfriend doesn’t see their intermingling as a big deal.) Then, maybe the two of you can discuss your versions of these unspoken rules and form a consensus. That would be ideal.
Probably the most important thing to think about, though, is that you are never going to be able to control other people’s behavior. Never. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t partially to blame for not hearing you when you tell them, however ham-handedly, that their behavior triggers your irritation. What it does mean is you have total control over your side of the equation. You can change the way you react. You can examine it, deconstruct it, and make alterations within you. You might be surprised. That could lead to changes in the other person, too.
But take your irritation seriously. It’s horrible for you and everyone around you. Here’s when irritation gets out of hand:
When you find yourself annoyed at what you know, logically, is a trivial thing.
When you get aggressive by yelling or being hostile or becoming violent.
When you have a chronic problem, such as getting annoyed, over and over again, at the same thing. (How is that working for you?)
When your temper gets worse when you drink or take drugs.
If any of the above applies to you, you have an anger management problem that you should take seriously, and I encourage you to seek help. Your life doesn’t have to feel like a miserable nightmare, and those around you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells, either. Life is too short for everyone concerned.
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I figured it was just the dog, so I didn’t even open my eyes. I settled back in, wrapping my arms around said dog, who was on the opposite side of the bed from the sounds.
That sure made me open my eyes. But slowly. Because I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to like what I saw. And I didn’t.
It was a little black bat, fluttering on the pillow next to mine. For a few seconds, I tried to convince myself that it was a really big moth. I could live with a moth. I could fall in love with a moth, given the alternatives. But no. It was a bat.
Everything happened really quickly after that. I jumped up, screaming. This freaked out the dog, who bolted from the room. (Some watchdog he turned out to be.) It also freaked out the bat, who proceeded to fly around my head. This, of course, made me run from the bedroom as well, slamming the door behind me.
Okay, good. The bat was trapped in the bedroom. I could take a moment to figure out what to do. First, close the hysterical dog in the bathroom, so I could prop open the front door. And then turn on every single light in the house.
Now it was time to turn around and release the bat. Except, I didn’t have to do that. Because the little b*****rd had squeezed himself under the crack of the door and was already flying into the living room to join me.
We had a moment, the bat and I. I was screeching and dancing in my jammies, he was doing an acrobatic pirouette, all around my head. (I bet it looked kind of artistic, from an emotional remove, with the mute button on.) Then he darted out the door, back into the night.
So, yeah, that happened. After I spent more than a grand last year getting the bats out of the attic and replacing all the insulation, then spending days blocking what I thought were their only entrances into my house.
I’m not having a good day. It’s bad enough when this country already feels askew because of the political shenanigans in the white house. Now I get to wonder if I’m going to have unexpected visitors in my home. Everything suddenly feels out of control. Forget parallel universes. Just stop tilting this one, please. I need my rest.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one sleeping in my car all summer.
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One of my favorite sayings is that a fish doesn’t realize it’s in water until it jumps out of it. I can totally relate to that. I just jumped out of something myself. Epic revelation!
I just got some really, really, really good news, which unfortunately I can’t share with you, dear readers. Just think about the best news you’ve ever heard in your life, and it’s on that level. The news is so good, in fact, that I’m feeling a little nauseous from sheer relief.
And therein lies the situation I just jumped from. Yes, I knew I had been under an incredible amount of stress. Yes, I knew it was making me miserable. But having the problem whisked out from under me like a tablecloth yanked out from under my mother’s best china, with nary a break, is, well, life-changing. There’s adrenaline involved, for sure. I don’t think I realized just how much the situation was impacting me on the most fundamental of levels.
I. Am. Free!!!!!!!!!
That’s an odd feeling. Because up to this moment I didn’t realize I hadn’t been free. I didn’t truly get how shackled I was to my stress and anxiety.
I feel like jumping in puddles! I feel like kissing someone! I feel like a new person. What a gift!
It’s moments like this that make life truly worthwhile. I hope that you get to have a similar experience at least once in your life. And when you do, I hope you recognize it for what it is: a leap out of your personal pond. Revel in it!
I’d say that working on a drawbridge is a very zen-like experience 95% of the time. Unfortunately, you never know when that 5% of pure chaos is going to rear up and bite you on the patootie. I had one of those days recently.
I went to bed at 3am. No, I’m not a party animal. It’s just that I didn’t have to be to work until 3pm on this particular day, so I tend to sleep in. Way, way in. It’s one of the few joys of being single, and I take full advantage of it.
So imagine my confusion when the phone rang at 7am, right in the middle of a REM cycle. My dream popped like a bubble. I hate when that happens. For a minute I have no idea where I am, or even who I am. It’s like my brain has to reboot.
I was being called to come in to work early. How early? 11am. They needed me to work a 12 hour shift. Okay. Crap. I set my alarm for 9:30 and went back to sleep. At least I’d be getting 4 hours of double overtime. (Thanks, union!)
So in to work I went, to find that I had company for the first 4 hours. A Trainee. Actually, I like training people. It’s kind of fun. And this was a pleasant person to talk to, whom I could see would work out nicely. As I’ve written before, I can pretty much tell if someone is fit for this job within the first 5 minutes.
But while he was here, the sidewalk camera shorted out. That’s a problem because it means we can’t see all the pedestrians before we open the bridge, and Seattle pedestrians are horrifyingly non-compliant about staying off of moving bridges, despite flashing lights, loud gongs, and us desperately screaming at them. It’s a wonder no one has been killed. So fixing this camera is a top priority. Which means the electricians had to come out. Now we had 4 people crammed into a tiny little room, and that can be a bit emotionally draining. But they fixed the camera and were gone within an hour.
And then it was time for the trainee to leave. Finally, my usual routine. Peace. Quiet. My own domain.
Then the storm hit. Rain was coming down in sheets. And the next thing I knew, BOOM! Lightning struck just south of the bridge. Now, when I was a bridgetender in Florida, I was used to this. It was a rare day when lightning didn’t strike somewhere in my vicinity. But here in Seattle, I’ve only seen lightning three times in the nearly three years I’ve been here, so I nearly jumped out of my skin this time.
And then alarms started going off. Oh, shit. That’s never good. It turns out that 3 of the 4 drives that operate bridge had shorted out. It was after hours, so I called the supervisor of the electricians, and he told me to walk down to both ends of the bridge and push a specific button to reset the drives. All well and good, but the storm was still raging. I had to walk down with lightning crashing all around me. That was fun.
Then I walked back up to the tower, only to discover that one of the drives had reset, but the other two had not. I made a call again, and was told, again, to go down and push the button. Naturally, the two drives in question were on the far side of the bridge, which meant yet another long walk through the electrified tempest.
I came back to the tower. The two drives were still malfunctioning. Phone call number three. This time he said he’d be right out. So I sat there in the tower, drenched in sweat, waiting, as sailboats stacked up like cordwood on the canal, and I was contacted every five minutes by various boaters and had to explain why I wasn’t opening the drawbridge for them.
Could things possibly get worse? Of course! A traffic accident south of bridge backed up traffic for miles, delaying the arrival of the electrician.
And then the phone went dead. I’m getting calls on the marine radio from a variety of employees, asking if I’m sure that the phone is properly hung up. Do I look like an idiot? Of course the phone is properly hung up. Then the phone fixes itself with no intervention on my part, so of course everyone thinks the phone was not properly hung up. Sigh.
Oh, and the sidewalk camera went out again. Fortunately, it, too, fixed itself. Go figure.
The electrician finally makes it through the traffic snarl, and is able to fix things within 45 minutes, bless him. By now I’m so exhausted from the adrenaline rush that I’m nauseous and practically delirious. I have never been so happy to see 11pm in my life. The next challenge is driving home without falling asleep at the wheel.
When I finally get home, my dog is extremely happy to see me. (I just love dogs, don’t you?) So I feed him, take a shower to get all the sweat off, and dive into bed. I suspect I’ll be asleep within 5 minutes, which is a good thing, because I have to be back to work at 7am the next morning. I’ll be lucky to cram 5 hours of sleep in.
Except, did I mention that my dog is extremely happy to see me? I may be ready for bed, but he is not. He wants to play! He wants to tell me about his day. He wants to know where the hell I’ve been for 12 hours. He wants to warn me about the lightning monsters that come from the sky.
I hug him. I give him kisses. I tell him he’s a good dog. I beg him, I plead with him, to settle down. Finally, he curls up by my hip and…the next thing I know, the alarm goes off, and it’s time to do it all over again.
If I were a cartoon character, I’d have one of those squiggly lines above my head right now. I need a hug.
A friend of mine recently posted this video of Dan Osman, extreme sportsman, on her Facebook page. In it, he basically scrambles up a 400 foot cliff in 4 minutes, 25 seconds. Without a rope.
While this is fascinating to watch, my first thought was, “I bet he doesn’t live long.”
And sure enough, a quick check of Wikipedia revealed that he died at age 35. He was jumping off the 1,200 foot rock formation below when his rope failed. Is it just me, or was that predictable? Physics. The great equalizer.
When I was younger, I might have admired his ability to live life to its fullest. And it can be assumed that he died while doing something he really, really loved to do. How many people will be able to say that?
But I’m not so young anymore, and I know what it’s like to experience grief. And because of that, I can only view this amazing man’s antics as a horrible waste. He left behind a daughter and other people who loved him. Was it worth it?
No man is an island… even if he is an adrenaline junkie. You don’t just live for yourself. You are living for others as well: People who need you. When people give you love, that also saddles you with a certain level of responsibility.
In this tribute video for Dan Osman, which shows some of his more hair-raising stunts, the first thing he says is “When this is all over, I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my daughter and family…” and one of the last things that is said in that video is that a friend who witnessed his death heard his final scream before he hit the trees.
When I see people, usually young men, participating in extreme sports, I have very mixed emotions. But the one that endures for me is sadness. The older I get and the more people I lose, the more I realize that life is a gift that’s more precious than any shot of adrenaline could ever be.
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