Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Contemplating Anger

As you may have noticed, I’m a very angry person. I think the things that make me angry are real and legitimate, be they political, cultural, technical, social, personal, or just plain fucking infuriating. Getting angry – or pissed-off, annoyed, irritated (all of Anger’s little cousins) – is what I’m hard-wired to do. It’s tied to being sad. I’m a very sad person, too, and have been since childhood, since for as long as I can remember.

Mad, sad, lonely and confused. That’s me. Indeed, in the words of the great William James (1842-1910, American philosopher, psychologist, physician, and brother of novelist Henry James): There are two kinds of people in this world: those who take things easy and those who take things hard. Guess which one I am. Fortunately for me, I also have an expansive, in some ways twisted, sense of humor. I laugh heartily throughout the day at people, situations, and things that I find ridiculous or just plain funny. I’m sincere when I say that if I didn’t have a robust sense of humor, I’d be dead. But I digress…

Getting legitimately angry and expressing that anger in a non-violent way is, I believe, often a healthy thing. It shows you’re (a) alive, (b) thinking, and (c) have strong feelings about things that are intrinsically bad, ignorant, insensitive, dangerous, or any combination thereof. My day started just a few hours ago and I’ve already been pissed off by the news, a bank, a city agency, and a stupid person at my local pharmacy.

However, I’ve been going through a new stage of life and state of thought recently. I think I’ve finally been imbued with the wisdom I’d heard comes with age, but which I, frankly, don’t think I had a lot of until, perhaps, now. I’m very smart, but intelligence isn’t the same thing as wisdom. The latter combines freestanding intellectual smarts with experience, compassion, [good] character, a more holistic view of life, a greater appreciation of the importance and speed of time, and a deep desire to live in a state of inner peace.

All of which is to say: while it’s good to get angry, it’s not good to live in a constant state of anger. It’s physically and emotionally enervating, decreases the peripheral vision of one’s humanity, creates immobility, causes bad decision-making, and only changes something if channeled into positive action – and in recent years, I’ve engaged in less positive action and more unnecessary shopping, because shopping (or retail therapy as it’s sometimes called) is a kind of comfort food, especially for angry women.

I believe my wisdom-that-comes-with-age is developing now because Mother Teresa was made a saint; I’ve been watching re-runs of Lewis Black comedy specials (and while I continue to share his outrage, I’m concerned his head and heart will explode); and I’ve weaned myself off of Big Pharma anti-depressants that I suspected were only making me feel worse (in addition to exhausted and dizzy) and I am feeling better without them.

I hasten to add that if anyone reading this is taking anti-depressants, DO NOT STOP based on my feelings and experience. There are different kinds of depression, different kinds of drugs to treat them, and each of us, with our individual chemical response system, reacts differently. So if you want to change your meds, work with your doctor (imperfect though he or she may be). I’ve done my weaning off with my doctor and strongly advise you do the same.

Now to return to anger and wisdom… I think my wisdom is seeping in and constant anger is being minimized because I’m finally keenly aware that my time is limited and I want to spend it more calmly, peacefully, productively, and pleasantly. I will continue to feel angry, I want to do that, but I also want to be able to let it go, an emotional bowel movement, if you will. I don’t want to be anger-constipated.

And I think my sense of humor and the absurd will help me do that. For example, it still upsets me very much that I was robbed years ago by a young man who I allowed into my home to help me. He thought himself a person of high spiritual and moral ideals. I was kind and generous to him. Which is why it’s hilarious that among the things he stole was a gold and pearl pendant that belonged to my mother and was very precious to me. It was a pendant of Moses holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This little shithead stole a pendant of the Ten Commandments! Now hurt and angry though I may be, that’s funny! And that I can appreciate and laugh at it: that’s wisdom.

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