Today I was agitated. I couldn’t focus and couldn’t seem to walk off my agitation. Why I was bugged doesn’t matter, the fact is that it prevented me from concentrating and I need to figure that part of me out because I get bugged all the time.
I get mad, and then I hold on to the madness. Which IS madness.
Let’s say something frustrating happens at work. I didn’t get an assignment that I think I deserved AND (insult to injury) someone who didn’t even WANT it got it. Or I got an assignment that I wanted and it turns out to be no fun–I will be most angry at myself in this case, but the annoyance still causes the same protracted reaction. Or let’s say someone hurts my feelings and I am too embarrassed to ask for an apology. Or I had to spend a whole day with someone whose toxicity has rubbed off and I am mad at them for spreading their bad attitude around. This sort of thing will be a bur in my focus for days if I am not diligent.
First, I will bargain in my head and try to distract myself. I will spend the morning knitting for example, or I will surf the internet when I should be working (that’ll show them!). Distraction never works because it doesn’t stop my brain from thinking, but I still try it every time. Maybe it works in small cases, like if I drove all the way to Walmart for a thing and they were out of it. Maybe that’s why I always try it, just in case. So let’s say usually it only allows me to keep thinking which is a problem because eventually Something shifts.
I’m mad for a reason. Right?
I am always mad because something is out of my control and I want it to be in my control.
That is both the smallness and the immensity of it.
So, it’s like the stages of grief, except for anger. Now I bargain. I start making up scenarios in my head that might SOMEHOW put this whatever or whoever it is in my control. I come up with witty retorts; I rewrite the proposal; I escalate (this is never a logical solution, if it were, the whole “not in my control” part would be invalid and I would be galvanized rather than frustrated); I imagine who I could call who would agree with me that this whatever it is is fucked up, then I come up with a convincing argument for THEM (and bless everyone of you out there, you know who you are, who have patiently listened through one of these–I am so grateful for you and I probably owe you a knitted hat or some homemade croissants).
Distraction–and while all that sounds consuming, it is really just the background noise as I go through my day–is crippling. I can accomplish necessary tasks, but I can’t do any real thinking with this shitty discontented radio station ruining my internal ambiance. It’s like the worst mix of evangelical gospel with speed metal intervals and mariachi music. All over a thing I can’t control. Often, a little thing, relatively. That’s why it is a gospel/metal/mariachi BUR and not a blow. It’s just that it bristles; it itches.
When I finally realize that I am not able to attend to my tasks at hand with any sort of devotion, it’s time to take action. (This part, this right here, needs to be better, or take less time.) I have to move because I can’t go smoke anymore like I used to. I used to watch that sinewy smoke as it slipped out of my mouth and lifted up from my hand and it would calm me, like a low-rent biofeedback machine. It made me at LEAST pay attention to my breath. So now, I walk, or go to yoga, or punch a heavy bag or a speed bag, or something equally physical and preferable sweaty. Lia Purpura says, “At least I still knew to regard with pleasure the way the stiff, hand crank activated muscles in my shoulders and back, and sharpened and fixed my attention. The exertion felt good.”
This blood-flow, it is a river carrying trash to the sea. Things are easier to let go of when you are moving fast, because you don’t need that shit to slow you down. I don’t need that shit, anyway: I’m slow enough as is. And if the workout didn’t flush all of the toxins, then a hot shower, or the steam room.
And if I am still muttering under my breath things like “Well, YOU’RE only here because of nepotism, you piece of” or “WHY DON’T YOU SIGNAL” more loudly, then it’s time to cook something or better yet bake it. Because you have to replaced the trash with some love.
What exacerbates the whole process is my awareness of my pettiness, of my overly sensitive unfairness-bone, and sometimes my selfish privilege bone. Quit acting like a child and suck it up like grownups do everyday, I admonish, unhelpfully. I mean, you parents out there, does that work on the kids? Because it sure as fuck doesn’t work on me. If anything it ups the petulance to like eleven. How old will I be, I wonder to myself while I am cussing out traffic for being IN MY WAY, when I finally learn to let go of the things I can’t change. Do I need a stupid wall hanging with footsteps in sand and a low-setting sun to remind me?
The thing is, I don’t think I can expect myself not to get bugged or angry-hurt or frustrated. And yet, that is where I imagine the problem must needs be fixed. This, I think, is a form of me not trusting myself to be bugged or hurt or mad for a good reason. Imagine you’re best friend comforting you over the loss of your promotion with “Don’t be a crybaby. People lose shit everyday–what made you so important?” There has to be a more compassionate way, or a more efficient way at least. I don’t know what it is yet, but I did buy boxing gloves today to take home with me. And I did promise myself to write it down.
I also read a bit more than half of Dennis & Vicki Covington’s Cleaving today. This is why today’s post is sponsored by the letters “therapy” and the numbers “straight dope no lying truth.” Man are Dennis and Vicki honest. It almost hurts sometimes, the things they admit about themselves.
The subtitle of the book is “The Story of a Marriage” and the prologue begins with a woman showing up at the Covington home accusing Vicki of having an affair with her husband. She is, sort of, having an affair with the woman’s husband. That is some of the truth, and she says, “There are a lot of ways to get the truth out of somebody.
“Most of the time people want to talk. Southerners find it satisfying in the way that overindulgence in anything is satisfying, and they’ll tell you more than you want to know. They love a story even when the truth contained therein wrecks their reputation and sets fire to things. For the writer, the truth is harder to find. Before I knew anything about well-drilling, I used to think that hitting water meant tapping into a flowing, underground river. I didn’t know that you get to water by gradually coming to the place where saturation has occurred, and that this layer of earth is called an aquifer. I didn’t know that water, like truth, craves release from whatever is holding it back. When you drive a well, you are relieving pressure. So pure truth, like pure water, comes not under pressure but when the pressure is taken away. You can submit to oath or torture or lie detectors, as many do. But it won’t be as pure as the truth that comes form the well you’ve driven into yourself.”
That’s all I can do, right? That’s all anyone can do: place the auger with intent and turn for as long as we can–the water’s there.