Any Excuse to Be Angry

There have been a lot of Facebook fights of late. People are scared, and they’re only brave enough to lash out if they can do it from a distance with very few consequences. I try really hard not to feed the trolls, but, as with everyone else, my patience is paper thin.

As I write this, I’m watching a live video feed with my governor and multiple nurses, in celebration of National Nurses Day. Even as these heroes talk about what it’s like to work on COVID-19 wards, trolls are commenting that it’s all lies, and that no one is really sick, and that this is just some twisted conspiracy to keep people from working. Attacking nurses on National Nurses Day seems like a new low to me.

I was also attacked online the other day for saying that as a bridgetender, I blow my horn at 8 pm to thank the frontline workers. This guy immediately jumped on there, infuriated by the number of times we bridgetenders have made him late to work. He said a bridge opening for a sailboat would often cause him a 20 minute delay.

First of all, the average bridge opening only lasts 4 ½ minutes from the time the traffic light turns red to the time the traffic gates rise back up, and I’ve never, EVER seen it take an additional 15 ½ minutes to clear traffic afterward. I’ve never seen that in 19 years as an operator. It may feel like you’re sitting there for 20 minutes, but trust me, you’re not.

I often wonder why people who get so irritated at drawbridges don’t simply take a different route. But I think it feels safe to be outraged at an inanimate object. Those iron girders can take it.

I think a lot of people are angry about any number of things, and don’t have the skills to deal with their anger, and therefore express anger at ridiculous things instead. That guy that jumped on my case told me that Seattle drawbridges are a pet peeve of his, and that any time a bridge opens, it infuriates him.

Um…  Get over it? It’s a situation that isn’t going to change. Why would you allow fury into your life several times a week? Either take a different route, or reframe it as an opportunity to step out of your car and get some fresh air, or maybe try and figure out why you have so much anger inside of you, and get some help to learn how to deal with it effectively.

Becoming infuriated by something you know you’ll be exposed to multiple times in the course of your life seems rather self-destructive, and frankly, insane, to me. Getting upset at a drawbridge is about as silly as getting upset every time it rains. Rain happens. Bridge openings happen. What on earth is the point of all your impotent rage?

I suppose, in light of all the anger that’s floating around out there, the rest of us just need to breathe deeply and not let their anger enter into us. Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t become one yourself.

But man, that’s easier said than done these days.

trollfeed

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Dude, Take a Breath

I was running errands recently, and one of the things on the to-do list was a stop at the post office. I had pulled into the suicide lane (aka the middle lane) of a busy 4 lane highway, because I had to make a left turn to get into the parking lot. I had plenty of time to assess the situation, because there was a lot of oncoming traffic to wait for.

As I sat there, I saw a man walking up the sidewalk. When there was a gap in the traffic, I noted that he was at least 20 feet from the driveway, and moving slowly, so I decided it was safe to make my move. And then he sped up.

But by that time, I was already committed. I was crossing the oncoming lanes, and cars were coming. When I passed in front of him, he was still a good 10 feet from the driveway, so I thought nothing of it.

I parked. It took a moment to gather my belongings. That turned out to be very, very fortunate, because the next thing I knew, the guy was pounding on my window and screaming at me.

“You b**ch! You almost killed me! You didn’t even see me.”

I tried to remain calm. I said, “Of course I saw you. That’s why I didn’t kill you.”

The whole time, he’s beating on my window, and I’m praying that the glass will hold, and feeling grateful that I had remained in my car long enough to have this conversation with a bit of a barrier between us. Because the man was unhinged. His eyes were bulging out of his head from pure rage. He proceeded to shout at everyone in the parking lot, telling them what a b**ch I was, and how I’d attempted to kill him.

Because, yeah, that’s my goal in life.

Needless to say, I didn’t get out of my car. Eventually he stormed off down the street. To say I was a bit shaken by this incident is putting it mildly. I decided not to pick up the mail after all.

To this day, that parking lot gives me a frisson. I make a point of looking all around me before I step out of the car. This guy will forever haunt the post office for me.

I really don’t understand people who go from zero to outraged in 2 seconds. Especially when the situation does not merit that level of aggression. I did not harm a hair on his chinny chin chin. Why did he attempt to harm me?

If Homie hadn’t gone completely crackers on me, we could have had a reasonable discourse. I would have apologized for startling him. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I must have triggered something in him. We all come with baggage. Sometimes our reactions have more to do with the past than the present.

But one wonders what a guy like that would do in private if he’s so willing to attack a woman in public. I wouldn’t want his life, where the tiniest of things brings him to the rage place. Along with being profoundly dysfunctional, it must be exhausting and isolating.

I suspect he will be dining alone come Thanksgiving.

Rage

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Lightning Bolt Eyes

I don’t lose my cool very often, but when I do, I’m a little scary. I get that from my mother. She was a quiet woman who hated confrontation as much as I do, but there was this line that one dared not cross. If you did, lightning bolts would come out of her eyes, and you could easily be charred to a crisp.

Just like with me, it takes a lot to create that particular weather system. It usually has something to do with putting someone in danger, or picking on someone (human or animal) who cannot defend his or herself, or acting aggressively toward someone we love. That is not to be borne.

I’m not strong or menacing, but I’ve been known to make very large men turn pale and step away, hands raised. I don’t do anything physically. It’s just the eyes and the tone of voice. I mean business. Zap!

I doubt I could even create my lightning mode artificially. I don’t know from whence I conjure that particular power. It tends to disappear as quickly as it comes. In fact, I’m usually exhausted after the fact. But it’s highly effective. It always hits its target.

So behave yourself. You never know who has a super power.

http _www.severe-weather.eu_wp-content_gallery_weather-photos_18092016_lightning_19

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The Current State

Okay, so I have several theories about our current Grabber-in-Chief, and each one is scarier than the last. Specifically:

  • He’s a little boy who delights in kicking ant hills so he can watch all the little ants scurry around in panic and fury. Why else would he change his views so radically, from one moment to the next, without any reasonable explanation? Even his own staff does not know what the heck he’s going to do, or who he will fire, next.

  • He is so far gone, mentally, that he doesn’t have a clue about what he’s doing. He’s completely unhinged. He’s loopy. Mad as a hatter. He’s off his nut. Brace yourself, folks, because there’s nobody flying this here plane.

  • He’s the purest, most distilled form of stupid on the face of the earth. He makes W look like a genius. He has absolutely no concept of the consequences of his actions, and is utterly incapable of seeing that he needs to rely on expert advice. Never before has this country been expected to bask in the murky waters of such unprecedented incompetence.

  • He is evil incarnate. He doesn’t care who or what he destroys, as long as the end result is personal profit. He has no moral compass whatsoever. We are doomed.

Duck and cover, people, because my worst fear is that the real answer is: all of the above.

mushroom cloud

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Flexibility

I’ve met a lot of very rigid people in my lifetime. I always feel kind of sorry for them. It must be exhausting to get worked up over the minutiae of life. There is plenty of significant stuff to focus on.

For example, I know someone who writes furious e-mails to superiors if someone doesn’t leave paperwork at exact right angles to their desk edges. Seriously? Is that all you have to worry about? Then you are in pretty good shape in the overall scheme of things, if you ask me.

There are two types of people. The ones who ask themselves “Why is this important?” before overreacting, and the ones who don’t. The ones who don’t tend to lead very tense, miserable lives, and they pile undue stress onto those who are unfortunate enough to fall within their circle of influence.

It is important to have some sort of scale to determine what is worthy of your rage. Someone putting the dish soap in a place you haven’t specified should not get a reaction equivalent to someone firing a mortar through your living room window. If you think otherwise, you must be operating in a realm of post traumatic stress that’s worthy of professional help.

The older I get, the less energy I seem to have for petty foolishness. I can’t be bothered. I’d much rather take a nap. The planet will continue to circle the sun without my assistance.

Here’s a rule of thumb. I can go days, weeks even, without being truly angry. If you’re someone who gets angry several times a day… well… you might want to rethink things a tiny bit. Learn to bend or you will surely break. Just sayin’.

flexibility

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The Body Check Scale

So I get to work early, thinking I’d be a good little newbie. I turn off the alarm and turn on the lights. Upon her arrival she immediately starts in. “In this office we do NOT use the florescent lights!” Such fury. Such angst. I turn off the left switch and turn on the right. Problem solved. “And don’t sit in that chair. That’s MY chair. Don’t ever sit there.” I move.

It must be exhausting to be her. Everything is a crisis. She’s the queen of overreaction.

I think about a trick that someone taught me long ago. It’s called the body check scale. When you come across a situation that requires you to react ask yourself what its equivalent would be on this scale.

  • 100% Death
  • 90% Terminal illness/paralysis
  • 80% Broken Bone
  • 70% Flu
  • 60% Sprained ankle
  • 50% Cold
  • 40% Stitches
  • 30% Rash
  • 20% Scraped knee
  • 10% Bruise or bug bite
  • 5% Stubbed toe

To me, someone turning on the wrong light would be the equivalent of a stubbed toe at the very most, so my anger would go to 5 percent, or mild irritation for the purposes of this exercise. (In truth it would bother me not at all.)

For her, on the other hand, it’s the equivalent of death. I have no idea why. Post traumatic stress, perhaps. None of my business, really. I’m just glad I don’t overreact like that.

spider-panic

[Image credit: roflitup.com]

That Rage Place

Maybe it’s because we can now hide behind the relative anonymity of social media, maybe it’s because we find less and less need to look one another in the eye, but it seems to me that more and more people are going to that rage place with relatively little provocation these days.

A typical Facebook scenario: Someone posts something political. Someone responds from that rage place. “I am so sick of you people saying…” And the original poster calmly says, “Well, this is why I feel this way,” and posts links to informative research. Rage person responds, “I don’t care about your links and I won’t read them! You’re just stupid!”

I don’t get it. Why the hostility? And why is rage person behaving as if he or she has been personally attacked when no one forced his or her participation in the conversation in the first place? And why would you not want to read informative links? Why would you want to cut yourself off from available evidence? Even if you disagree, why would you not want to avail yourself of every possible detail if you feel so strongly about a subject?

Personally, I find people who are unwilling to be challenged to be highly suspect. It seems that these types of people tend to get their information from only one source, and that is always a bad idea. It’s lazy and irresponsible. And maybe that’s why they get so angry when you try to show them other sources of information. They don’t like to be prodded out of their lethargy. It’s comfortable there. “Don’t make me think! Just tell me what to think!”

Yes, it’s probably much easier to be fed intravenously, but I prefer to shop for my ingredients and cook my meal myself.

And if you disagree with me, well… you’re just stupid.

fury

Embracing Negative Emotions

“Few situations –no matter how greatly they appear to demand it – can be bettered by us going berserk.”

Codependent No More, Melody Beattie

Most of us have been taught that there are negative and positive emotions. Anger, sadness, grief and frustration are bad. Happiness, love, joy, and bemusement are good. Because of this, we are often less skilled in coping with the negative emotions. We are taught to suppress them, deny them, ignore them and fight against them.

I think we do this at our peril. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for anger, and if you are not allowed to express it in a healthy way, it can fester and build up and find its way to the surface in the form of violence or at the very least, inappropriate outbursts.

Growing up, I was plagued with migraines, and they would often be triggered by tears. My migraines would last for days and be accompanied by copious amounts of vomit and excruciating pain. Thus the family creed became: Don’t Upset Barb, She’ll Get a Migraine.

Because of that, it took decades for me to learn that it was okay to cry sometimes. It was acceptable to be upset. It wasn’t the end of the world, and it didn’t have to get blown up to epic proportions. I could be one with my tears, embrace my tears, and move on.

Someone I love has a problem with anger. When he gets angry, usually for political reasons, his fury comes out like a nuclear blast that tends to flatten everyone in his vicinity. I’m not sure why he never learned to direct his anger at the source, but it’s definitely a problem that impacts every aspect of his life, including his health and his relationships, and it breaks my heart to bear witness to it.

And then there is the fact that the vast majority of men on this planet are taught that they shouldn’t cry. Is it any wonder why they are much more prone to violence? I honestly don’t think it’s nature as much as it is nurture, or in this case, the lack thereof.

It is important, in fact imperative, to teach our children that it’s okay to feel what you feel, and express those feelings in healthy ways as they occur. If you want adults who are assertive rather than aggressive, you need to teach children how to communicate what they are feeling. Not to do so can have societal, even global implications.

marvin martian

(Marvin Martian has long been my favorite cartoon character, because he allows kids to have conversations about anger.  I think that’s important.)