So the other night, I told my husband about my previous blog post and tried to explain why I had written it. I sort of rolled my eyes at myself. And I realized that I need to explore this a little more.
Although I have charged myself with two things…
Practice don’t preach
Be for not against
…it doesn’t mean that I won’t get angry…or that I think I shouldn’t get angry, although I did have a momentary and saintly vision of myself having risen above any and all anger for ever and ever.
But still there was a disconnect. Even though I acknowledged that getting angry is okay, there was a part of me that really doesn’t think it is.
One thing I have realized over the past few years is that I need to better understand and deal with, not only my own anger (and other “negative” emotions), but others’ anger, as well. I also wonder, why this is so important to me? Why does it feel like walking a tight rope? Why do I expect myself to be perfect in this regard? And why am I so confused? (I think it’s because, as in many families, not to mention society, these things were not modeled for me in a healthy way.)
The crux of the matter is that I feel bad when I stand up for myself. I feel guilty when I disagree. I don’t like being angry. I think on some level I view being angry as putting bad karma out into the universe, which, in turn, will cause more wars. Or something.
When I was younger, I wasn’t very good at getting angry. I’d either stuff it or let it out destructively. I never felt okay after being angry. And more recently, I have thought that in order to be “evolved,” I must either never get angry…or figure out how to quickly change anger into tolerance. Or something.
The other day I got very angry with the folks who live next door. As they do every year, they hired a landscaping company to clean up their garden and pool area, which is just only a few feet from our yard and house and separated only by a wooden fence.
In any case, I went outside and noted that my car was covered with dust and dirt…at first I didn’t know why and then I saw clouds of dust and dirt billowing up over the fence, caused by the guys doing the work. They were using a leaf blower to “clean” out the flowerbeds and pool deck.
Man I was pissed off!!
My first reaction was to bitch and moan (I happened to have guests visiting) about what a lazy SOB our neighbor is, and I went on to list all the reasons I don’t like him. The fact is, this guy did something pretty bad, before we moved here, and ever since we learned about it, we’ve had a not-so-nice nickname for him.
Then I went over to the fence and called across to the guy with the leaf blower and said: “HEY!! You’re blowing dirt all over my car!!” He responded that he’d have it cleaned for me. And I said “yeah, but that’s not the point…why do you have to blow all the dirt from over there, to over here? Just stop with the blowing!”
I went back inside and railed against how nasty I think leaf blowers are in general. They’re loud and all they do is move dirt around…spew it into the air and make problems for other people. Damnit. And then the blowing got louder and I looked out the window and saw that leaf-blower-guy was blowing the dirt off my car.
And I continued to go on an on about the neighbor.
And then the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor and I was immediately worried that he had heard me bashing him. He apologized and offered to have my car washed. I was pleasant and said it wasn’t necessary, and repeated what I said to leaf-blower-guy…that it was the principle of it. And he said that he wants to make sure he’s a good neighbor…blah blah blah.
After my guests left, I brought the whole situation to Facebook, writing a status update about nasty old leaf blowers and how I was pissed at the neighbor and why. One friend commented that at least he made an offer to clean my car. I went on to say that it wasn’t just my car…there was dirt and dust all over our patio and it had blown in through the windows. I even took pictures!! I don’t want them coming in my house to clean up their mess…why didn’t they just know better not to have someone use a leaf blower so close to someone else’s house?
And finally, I decided to delete the post.
Later that afternoon, my neighbor and his wife came over again to apologize and to offer to “make it right.” And I felt stupid and guilty. And still a little miffed. And hypocritical.
I realized that the degree to which I was angry had something to do with the fact that I don’t like this guy and what he did once (even though it had nothing to do with me or anyone I know). I also realized that my anger should have been directed at the landscaper, not my neighbor.
So, I still want to try and live my life practicing not preaching, and being for not against, but I will add one more thing: it’s okay to get angry and express myself, but I will strive to be productive, not destructive, with my anger.
And, as usual, when the student is ready, the teacher appears and I saw this article online: “What Most People Don’t Know About Anger,” by Harriet Lerner (who wrote a book called The Dance of Anger, which my sister recommended just as I was telling her about the article, not realizing it was written by the same person!).
In the article, Lerner writes: “Unfortunately, few of use anger productively. Instead we do two unhealthy things with anger. First we may avoid anger and conflict at all costs. We are the peacemakers, the accommodators, the steadiers of rocked boats. Or, we may do the opposite. We get angry with ease, but getting angry is getting nowhere. We get caught in endless cycles of fighting, complaining and blaming that only make things worse.”
Lerner provides some great tips to first identify the true sources of our anger and to change our own steps in the patterns from which our anger springs. So now that I know better, I can do better. I also expect that it will not be a smooth, effortless process that I will “get” right away. And that’s okay.