The hard way

Work Zone Begins_edited

I’ve had two situations today in which keeping my mouth shut was the wise choice. It was NOT my first inclination, but that’s exactly what I did in both instances, thank goodness. Apparently I’ve learned a couple of lessons: “living to fight another day” and “picking your battles.”

So this is growth, right? My temper and my mouth got me in such trouble when I was younger. Over and over. I lost friends, jobs, relationships – the list goes on and on. Just about every time I opened my mouth in anger I was still yelling as I or someone else walked out the door. I felt justified in my anger and I told myself it didn’t matter. Picture Jack Nicholson: “You can’t handle the truth!” Not my problem. I was righteous, baby!

It did matter, though, and I have learned from those mistakes. That’s a good thing. Learning “the hard way,” as they say, is painful, but effective. I would like to reach a point at which I learn without pain, but I’m not there yet. Not even close, I’d say. I’d also like to say that I’m always able to keep my mouth shut, but I’m not there yet, either. I’m a work in progress.

Mostly, though, I’ve learned not to tick off people from whom I want or need something. That may seem fairly evident to you, but it has not always been that obvious to me. Duh. Turns out, people are not inclined to help you or give you what you want if you just yelled (or are still yelling) at them. Huh.

So, the second part of that puzzle is what to do with the anger that I’m not unleashing on someone, and I’m getting pretty good at that, too. I walk, ride my bike, write, sing, or play a game until I calm down. And I talk to myself. I talk to that angry part of myself who is so desperate to have her say. And we make a plan to make it be okay – to right whatever wrong has made me so hot under the collar – down the road. Not now…later.

Just because I’m not yelling, doesn’t mean I’ve given up. That’s the key. That’s what took so long to figure out. In the past I had two modes when something made me mad: get angry and lash out, or lay down and die. Angry as hell or depressed. Nothing in between. The concept of delayed gratification was foreign to me.

I get it now, though. As in all things, moderation has turned out to be the better way. As often as I can, I take the middle way: think about a considered response to whatever has set me off, and figure out the best way to deliver that response. Not in the heat of the moment, but sometime later when I’m calm enough to think it all through and make sense of exactly what made me angry and what I want to do or say about it, if anything.

Yeah, sometimes after I’ve calmed down, I don’t do anything. I work on letting it go, cuz I’ve figured out that no good would be served by responding. Imagine that! Thinking before you act or speak, and then CHOOSING not to do either. Wow. So simple, and yet so, so, very hard.

One of the situations today begs a response, and I’ll figure out the best way to respond when I’m calmer and I’ve thought about the situation some more. Fortunately, I have the time to do that. I have to try to be sure I know what I want out of the situation – turns out what I think I want initially is not always really it – and figure out what the other party wants, so I can present my case so that we both win.

The other situation I have to let go if I want to keep my job, and I do. So I have to work on reconciling myself to doing what I’m being asked to do, even though it’s not fair, it’s not right, and it sucks big time all the way around. No matter how I look it, I lose. Except I win, because ultimately what I want is to keep my job. So lips sealed tightly, fingers stopped from hitting “Reply” and typing what I’d really like to say, but can’t.

Growth, right? Maturity. Man, it’s hard. I feel like I won today, though. I still have my job, all of my friends, and my dignity.

Most importantly, I will live to fight another day.

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