Tag: anger

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR

Change happens. What we do in response to it, how we handle the emotional fallout, is often more important than the event itself.

Before Thanksgiving, my husband loaned his “project” car, a 1990 Jeep Wrangler, to his nephew.  Scott, being the endlessly generous man that I married, offered it up easily. Intuition suggested to me that it wasn’t the best idea in the world. I kept my thoughts to myself. People change. Right?

A MECHANICAL WORK OF ART!

Scott's JeepThe Jeep was my husband’s baby, his pride and joy. It has been his one and only creative outlet and escape from life’s weighty responsibilities over the last three years. In that time, he turned it from a well worn vehicle into a gorgeous piece of mechanical art! (At least that’s how he sees it.) Fresh paint and replaced parts, it was the inspiration for birthday and Christmas gifts from the whole family. On nice days, he’d take it here and there, just for the sheer pleasure of driving it. Otherwise it sat in the driveway for him to admire and work on on nice days.

Scott’s generosity swung around and bit him in the butt. Leaving the parking lot after work, Nephew flew around a blind corner at a high rate of speed and T-boned a truck parked in the lane. All parties involved were fine. The Jeep? Totaled. To make matters worse, we found out about it, 10 days after the fact, from our insurance agent.

CHANGE MOVES IN AND SETS UP SHOP

In a flash, “change” moved in and set up shop. Our plans for the day were lost to emotional turmoil and endless phone calls. When we woke up that morning we had no idea that such an occurrence would take over our week before Christmas.

As I listened to my husband’s end of the conversation with the insurance agent, I knew exactly what had happened and I was spitting nails angry.  It was not a surprise to me. Forty one years old and notoriously irresponsible, the flashes that he was growing up swayed Scott more than they did me. The adrenaline started pumping through my veins like  Shanghai Maglev.  I made the bed, did a load of laundry and washed the dishes in the five minutes he was on the phone.

Scott’s response? Total self-control. He dove straight into his head, pushed his feelings as far away as possible, and started a to do list in his head. I knew he was heartbroken and angry, and I knew in time he’d wake up to his feelings. He was not, however, ready to face the onslaught just yet.

He hung up the phone and decisions lined up awaiting navigation. On the surface, the decisions involved dollars and cents and boiled down to how we could recover the loss financially.

The underlying choices, however, would determine the long term fallout and the ability of those involved to learn from the experience and move on.

NAVIGATING CHANGE

The love of old vehicles runs in the family! My son’s purple VW is behind Scott!

This event was did not create serious life altering change, but it carried with it many of the components necessary to learn, or practice, dozens of life’s lessons. Change is like that. It shuffles the deck, deals, and then waits for us to play our hand.

My biggest challenge was navigating my anger. I was only indirectly affected and so my path was somewhat nebulous. My anger was not. I was hurting for my husband and suffering his loss, even while he was largely unaware of it. I knew it would come home to him in time, but for me it was immediate and present.

Unexpressed anger is a slow burn. It can lead to depression, illness and a growing sense of powerlessness. It sucks the life right out of us and leaves us wide open for future difficulties. Inappropriately expressed anger damages relationships and innocent people. It spills out in passive aggression, sarcasm, irritability, without diminishing the initial anger.

ANGER IS NORMAL

Anger is a normal healthy response. Allowing it, owning it and finding an appropriate way to put it to good use is the challenge. Anger helps us protect ourselves and set boundaries.  When anger arises, if we take time to experience it fully, it will direct us to the issues that need to be addressed. If it doesn’t call for an immediate response, it is best to let allow the adrenaline rush to dissipate enough to recover rational thought. We perceive things differently in the heat of the moment.

PROCESSING ANGER

As I sat with my anger, the following thoughts and feelings arose.

  • How irresponsible! (I value personal responsibility in myself and in those I keep close to me.)
  • How self-centered! (I value thoughtfulness and caring that goes beyond what is in it for me.)
  • How disrespectful! (Scott is deserving of respect from the nephew he practically raised. Inherent in this is appreciation and gratitude.)
  • Fear. Will Scott set his own boundaries? Will he take appropriate action, or will he sublimate his anger and let Nephew off the hook. This always comes back to bite us both.

The action I took:

  • I decided to share some of my thoughts with Nephew. In other words, I told him directly that he had better man up, take responsibility for his actions, and make it right. When he gave me the runaround, not unexpected, I called him back to responsibility and then let it go.
  • Then I through my support behind my husband. I listened and I encouraged him to hold Nephew responsible, but to take control of how things played out with regard the vehicle. In other words, to do what was best for him, not Nephew.

DISSIPATING ANGER

My anger has dissipated. I’m over it. As for my husband, he’s navigating his part of the equation in his own time and way. He has the more challenging obstacles to overcome, but he’s holding his own. His loss is eking out in bits and pieces. It will take time and he’s learning every step of the way because he’s holding the experience loosely.

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha:Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and Liberation

We get into problems with change and anger when we hold on too tight. When we try to make things happen, force the issue, fix the problem now we operate in a reactive state. We’re wrapped up in our emotions and unable to see the bigger picture. Taking time to breathe and slow down the process results in better decisions and less lingering discomfort.

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Truth ~ What Are We Fighting For?

Truth ~ What Are We Fighting For?

The value of truth seems to have lost its influence. 

The world keeps turning. I get up in the morning to the sun, and go to bed each night with the moon and the stars shining their light on my broken heart. The world is a “hot mess” as my young millennial friends would say.

Navigating life now is not an easy task! Walking the medial way, with one foot in the world and one foot in Spirit, isn’t easy to do under “normal” circumstances!  Now, it feels impossible, and yet it is certainly an excellent opportunity to practice! I, like many I talk to, long for simpler times.

SPEAKING THE TRUTH AS I SEE IT

What is the Truth?
I woke up this morning feeling exactly like Alice in Wonderland. ART BY: David Hoffrichter

I keep choosing, every day, to speak the truth as I see it; to ask the questions, explore the answers, look for what lies beneath the surface of things. Even as I try to be kind about it, not attacking or name calling, my words seem to cause sparks to fly.  People rant at me and call me names.

In the past week, I was called a bigot, a pseudo-intellectual, an irrational feminist, and a few other choices names I’d rather not repeat here.  The nastiest, meanest comments came from men, who I previously believed were highly rational, intelligent, educated men. The comments I received from women were angry and upset, more aimed at the belief that I should be taking about the politics on an aging site, nor should I take sides. I weigh this question constantly.

“JUST GET ALONG!”

The most common concern I’ve heard from women has been, “don’t you think you should play nice and just accept what is happening?” To this I say, yes and no.

Nothing infuriates me more than the part of our culture that wants us to get on board with the status quo. What we are experiencing right now IS NOT NORMAL. It is not business as usual, and I won’t pretend it is. I protested in the 60’s and my values with regard to peace, love and acceptance remain the same. I’ve never been a fan of the establishment, but this is going too far!

NAME CALLING HURTS!

It hurts being attacked.  Conflicting feelings rise to the surface, adrenaline pumps through my body and I’m suddenly in fight or flight mode. I want to lash out, and with my weapon of choice write an epistle explaining exactly how and why I am not what they say I am.  When I realize that more conversation would be pointless, I sink into despair. What am I to do with all these feelings now?

ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS

I have no choice but to go inside myself and ask the hard question. Are they right? Do their labels fit?

Am I a pseudo-intellectual?  I’ve never thought of my self as an intellectual, so that one was lost on me as a true reflection of myself. However, by asking the question I began to see the perpetrators projection. The particular label came from a man who, even at 16, took abundant pride in his intelligence. He believed his intellectual abilities made him superior. Sadly, all these years later when we reconnected I discovered that he has not grown past his arrogant, narcissist ways. He still needs to be intellectually superior, and when he feels threatened, he does what all great thinkers do, call people names.  I told him he was behaving exactly like the President-Elect, which he was. He didn’t like that a bit and unfriended me. I now consider it a victory to have stirred that particular pot!

A bigot – that one got me.  A bigot is “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions” – this coming from a man who unfriended me because he didn’t like what I was saying on Facebook. Am I a bigot? We all have our blind spots so I’d have to say yes, I’m intolerant toward some who hold different opinions. Our president-elect would be one of them. Trust me, I am working on this. I long to find a place of acceptance that does not mean acquiescence.  Right now, I can’t see the divine in this man just yet. In fact, I tend to think he’s evil incarnate and see it as my job to speak out against him.

COMPASSION FOR ALL WHO HAVE BEEN & WILL BE DISAPPOINTED

Beyond that, I have deep compassion for the people who elected him believing he would change their unhappy lives. I have less compassion for the meanness and hatred that a few carry and choose present to the world. I want to say, show me your misery, this I can understand. But anger, rage, hubris, entitlement? And yet, tolerance is tolerance. I’m working on it.

Here’s what I do know. The women before us modeled tolerance and acceptance as a virtue, and to some extent it is.  They did not feel free, however, to rebel or speak up when perhaps they should have.  We feel freer to do so, and yet the past that lives on in us often keeps us feeling guilty and wrong when we do.

Making nice is not always possible, nor is it human. We have a wide array of thoughts, feelings and reactions. it is to our detriment to keep them buried. They will erupt when we least expect them to and it won’t be pretty.

THERE IS A TIME & A SEASON

There’s a time to fight and a time to stand down. There’s a time to speak and a time to be silent. We must each in our own way and find a balance between speaking our truth and taking time for deep reflection. None of us are totally clear on what we are fighting for. Those who are, seem to be fighting one particular battle. Maybe that’s the best any of us can do.

We must continue to ask ourselves challenging questions:

  • What am I really angry about?
  • Are there unacknowledged feelings and thoughts beneath my anger? Are the thoughts I’m thinking true?
  • This feeling of fear, what is it really trying to tell me?
  • When have I felt powerless before? How was that similar to what’s happening now?
  • Is this situation triggering feelings I’ve had all my life?
  • What are those feelings?
  • Can I be proactive in giving myself what it is I want from others?
  • Have I taken time to sit in silence?
  • Have I expressed my feelings honestly?
  • When I speak my truth am I using “I” statements?
As I navigate these strange times, I take comfort from the wisdom of great teachers.

“Wholeness is possible only through the coexistence of opposites. In order to know the light, we must experience the dark.” ~ Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that is the one that is going to help you grow.” ~ Caroline Myss, Defying Gravity

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman. . .have faith. . . there is yet time.” ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” ~ Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ~ Elie Wiesel, Author of Night, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” ~ Elie Wiesel
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ~ Elie Wiesel

Choose the Quality of Your Life

Choose the Quality of Your Life

Hydrangea
“The Truth is that circumstances do not determine the quality of your life; your choices do. Mystical Truth is the nuclear power of your soul. Personal truth is a stepping-stone, but it does not contain nuclear powered grace, so to speak. Why not go for the real thing when you know you have it in you?” Caroline Myss

The subject of “truth” comes up often in politically charged conversations. As candidates enter the race one by one, the pot is stirred, as are emotions. Blanket statements are made and often taken out of context. All rules of debate are thrown out of the window and it becomes acceptable to prove a point with opinion.

We each have our own take on what is true and what is not true, based on our own unique and very personal experience. Our perspective by nature is limited. When it comes to politics, we tend to support candidates whose positions we believe line up with our perceived “truth”, and are let down and sometimes enraged when all points are not congruent with one another. When it comes to politics there is no truth. There is no right or wrong. There’s only opinion. The truth will only be out after the election is over, the race is won and the winner has served his/her time in office. All that precedes it is conjecture, speculation and opinion.

Factual truth, evidentiary truth, is always limited by the very nature of the concrete world in which we live. Mystical truth steps outside of the concrete world and does not bother to take sides in political debates. It knows it is ludicrous to do so. The language spoken is not the same.

The quality of our life is not determined by an election.The quality of our life is based on the choices we make every minute, every day, every hour of our life. What we make manifest in the world today does make a difference. When we manifest political vitriol today we spread ill will and angry energy in the world. Our choices make us who we are. Our choice to be angry and venous today fills our life with anger and venom. It changes us. It does not bring about the positive change we envision.

I broke my own vow, made long ago, to only spread positive, uplifting and compassionate filled messages via social media. There is far too much of the other. I broke it when I became angry with Dell for how they are handling, or shall I say more accurately not handling, my computer’s repairs. I felt my anger at Dell begin to boil. I let off a little steam on Twitter. I justified it in my mind, “I want everyone to know to avoid Dell.” Truthfully I wanted to punish Dell for betraying a loyal customer. These feelings grew as I vented, reminding me of the injustices I experienced with Allstate Insurance, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC. The anger grew. I felt conflicted. Isn’t fighting for change important, I argued with myself? When all was said and done I felt drained and I realized I was participating in the much ado about nothing of personal opinion and perspective.

What do I want the quality of my life to be today? That was the more important question I kept asking myself. I do not want my days to be filled with fighting and anger. I’ve done too much of that in the past. I want to focus on things that really matter, like supporting people trying to find their voice, their truth, their lives; to offer hope to those in despair, encouragement to those who fear, and support to those who are alone or suffering.

One need not be angry, or stirred up to speak the truth and keep speaking the truth as one knows it. I resolved to keep speaking the truth as I saw it to Dell and while I waited to focus on the positive quality of my immediate life. I have no room for anger, condescension, combat, name calling. It serves no one. It does not serve the world and it does not serve truth.

Anger builds walls. We tear down walls when we go inside of ourselves and find the voice of truth. Then we hold on to it with everything we have while we go back out into the world and live it. When we can say, “This is what I feel, this is what I see, this is what I hear, what do you see, feel, hear and believe?” Then we can learn from one another, even if we do not agree or see things in the same way, as surely we will not. We can, however, allow them to have their perspective, their truth without relinquishing our own. Honor ourselves, honor and respect them and the real “truth” lies somewhere in between.

Fighting for what we perceive to be the truth need not be done with swords and angry words. Real truth will always cut like a knife through non-truth. On that we can depend.

More on the Inner Life of AgingBest of Aging Abundantly Book

How Long Does It Take A Wound to Heal

How Long Does It Take A Wound to Heal

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth 1948 The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth 1948 The Museum of Modern Art, NYC

The wounds of childhood run deep. They run broad and wide and fester when they do not experience the light of understanding, of compassion, of acknowledgement, of love. Tears may be shed, cries and protests may erupt in the moments during or following an injury, but when unattended, the wound is covered up with ignorance, indifference or cruelty. The injury  is ignored as if it doesn’t exist, as if it never happened. The sands of time, layer upon layer, muffle the sound of the heartbreak, cause the bleeding to disappear from sight, but healing cannot occur. The bleeding and heartbreak continue on out of sight, underneath a layer of scar tissue.

I received a laceration to my hand in an accident, now four years ago, that has a left a scar. Shards of glass from the window beside me, the window I instinctively pressed my hand and arm against to brace myself as the car rolled…and rolled…sliced the tendon between my pinky and ring finger as it shattered against me on impact. Once the car came to a standstill and I found a small portion of my senses I knew I had suffered a serious injury to my hand though I could see nothing but blood. Somehow I knew that beneath the blood my fingers had been rendered useless. I even thought I had lost my pinky. It was instinct, out of sight awareness that led me to this conclusion.

The surgeon craftsman in the trauma center repaired the damage to the best of his ability though he had to be creative with what was left of the sinewy tissue. He enjoyed the challenge. I was grateful for his confidence.  After two hours of surgery, it took twelve weeks of bi-weekly physical therapy and home treatment  to regain some use. It took better than a year for the pain to stop and two years for me to stop being aware of the discomfort of the minor malfunction. This wound, was a simple, fairly obvious wound to attend to and heal, in the overall scheme of things.

The deeper wounds, the ones that are out of sight and remain unattended, discounted by ourselves or overlooked by those who have the power and awareness to help us heal, do not receive the treatment they need, the support of a team of experts, the attention of skilled rehabilitation specialists. We are left to carry them by ourselves, live with them and to attend to them in whatever way we can.

The accident left me with a TBI and PTSD. Both were not diagnosed or attended to in my post-accident medical treatment and it wasn’t until my hand began to heal that it came to my attention that I had been crippled in a far more significant way by the accident. I had not lost my finger but I had lost my life as I knew it,  my sense of security, my ability to trust myself or the world around me. I could not think. I could not remember things for five minutes. I could not plan or execute. I could not leave the house.

In that car, that day, I had been a sitting duck. I was a passenger in the car. I had no control over any part of my life. I was a victim just waiting to be victimized again. And, I was. Thank God. In spite of the pain and anguish I experienced during the years since, it does not compare to the anguish I suffered for a lifetime prior as I lived with buried wounds day in and day out, fighting depression, anxiety, self-doubt, deep, deep despair, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, failure, failure, failure. That accident shook everything loose in one fell swoop. I was turned inside out and upside down, literally and figuratively, my insides poured on the sidewalk to be picked through and inspected.

One by one, piece by piece, bit by bit, day by day I sort through and heal, sort through and heal. If the truth were told I’m still afraid to let go of the deepest numbness that replaced feelings too intense to hold, too lethal to bear. Yet, I know this is the only way to continue healing. One must open up the wound, must shower it with attention, understanding, and above all love, allowing tears to flow, anger to surge so that healing can take place. If we keep the lid on it, it we keep the bandage on the cut it is slower to heal and may never heal at all.

Ripping off the bandage is painful. It is best done with another, with someone who loves us and who can hold space for us. It is not something that can or should be done alone. Allowing love in is part of the healing process. Allowing others to care for us, to hold us and touch our hearts again is what we all long for. It’s what we all require.

So, how long does it take a wound to heal? It takes as long as it takes, but it begins when we take notice of the wound and give it the attention it requires. The healing process moves forward each time we shine the light of truth, understanding, love, acceptance and forgiveness on our hurting places. It ends when we no longer think about it.

We Cannot Ignore the Cry

We Cannot Ignore the Cry

embersWe dig beneath the surface of our pain not only to eliminate the pain, but to grow into and beyond it; to discover who we are in the corner of our heart left unattended as life passed by. We grow weary of living on the surface, of trying to catch up with the cultural ego or our own, of trying to be something we are not.

The pain is a reminder. It teaches and instructs us. It tells us where to look, what needs our attention. An ember burns within each of us, a smoldering, glowing energy that calls to us, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a scream. It speaks our name. It knows us. It understands us, and it will not abandon us.

We can ignore its cry. We can drown out its voice with the loud, crashing sound of a carefully constructed external reality. We can numb it with each and every one of a myriad of addictive behaviors…both small and large…dampen it, drive it down, imagine it is gone as we turn our heads away to binge on cookies, or computers, or anger, or work, or fear, or exercise, or friends, or talking, or worrying, or…..we run away. Like children, we put our fingers in our ears or hide under the dining room table.

Or…or until…we rise up, shake off  the shackles of denial, of fear and open our arms and our hearts to that great something…and with each breath we take, we breathe the breath of life into it, watching the flame grow and burn once again or for the first time…hot and fierce forging strength and courage and a boldness we never knew we had.

We dig beneath the surface of our pain not only to eliminate the pain, but to grow strong and bold and wise, and fully present to that we value.