Yesterday, when I was avoiding the bad news on the 24-hour news and weather channels, I found this as I was going through old mail:
When I opened that envelope, I found two letters bearing bad news about medical issues I was dealing with in 2016. (If you want details about that bad news, see Day 1407: Enough and Day 1408: The News.)
Then, Michael, who was having fun fun fun shoveling the bad ice and snow, came inside and looked like he had bad news. Sure enough, he said, “I scratched your car while I was cleaning it off. You’re going to be mad. It’s bad.”
I did immediately get mad, because the bad news is that Michael has done that before, with my previous car. Eight years ago, he used a shovel and scratched the paint on the roof of my beloved grey Mazda. This time, he used a scraper and scratched the yellow paint on the hood of my adorable Honda Fit. I immediately delivered this news, “Never try to remove ice from the body of the car! You don’t need to! Just clean off the glass!” I think this is news to Michael because he doesn’t drive and has never owned a car.
Then, I looked at the scratches and even though they were new and bad, the good news is that I quickly stopped being mad. That’s because of all this good news:
scratches can be repaired,
Michael has a great ratio for removing ice and snow from my car without scratching it — he’s only scratched the car two out of a kashmillion times, to use the new word/number Michael made up a kashmillion years ago,
the scratches make my car and me look tougher,
you can’t see the scratches if you’re far enough away, and
Michael was neither scratched nor otherwise physically damaged while working so hard on the very bad ice and snow outside.
blame myself for not doing something differently to prevent the current situation, even if it’s too late to change all that.
And, lo and behold, despite much advanced planning, I found myself stuck in traffic on my way to the parent-teacher conferences, realizing that I was going to miss the first conference at 10 minutes and 00 seconds after the noon hour (but who was counting?).
As I realized there was NO WAY I was going to make that first meeting, I started down my familiar mental pathways to
imagining terrible consequences, and
However, I realized I could adjust that style in the moment, and I tried some different “I’m Late” stylings. That is, I let go of unhelpful thoughts and called my son’s father (whom I was meeting at the parent-teacher conferences) and told him
I would miss the first conference with our son Aaron’s English teacher,
I would join him for the second conference with Aaron’s Economics teacher, and
Could he please tell the English teacher the only thing that Aaron wanted me to tell any of his teachers — that I am writing this daily blog?
That definitely helped me let go of stress, of catastrophizing the consequences of my being late, and of self-blame for not doing a better job juggling these parent-teacher conferences with my work schedule.
Then, on the drive to the parent-teacher conferences, I tried yet another new style. That is, I allowed myself to get REALLY ANGRY at the other drivers who were in my way, on my trip to my son’s high school.
Now, believe me, that is NOT an unusual style of driving, here in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. As I mentioned in this recent post, Boston drivers are well-known for being impatient jerks, a-holes, and c-suckers.
Wow! I just used a totally different style of writing, in this post. I have NEVER before, in all previous 688 posts in these year(s) of living non-judgmentally, EVER used such language.
And I hope I have not offended any of my loyal readers or new ones, either (say, perhaps, my son’s English teacher!).
Why did I change my style of writing today?
Because, yesterday, on my drive to my son’s high school, in the safety of my own car, out of earshot of any other human being, I used language like that, as I got mad at the drivers who, through no fault of their own, were also stuck in traffic, and trying their best to get somewhere.
Why would I do something so judgmental and so unfair?
Because it was fun, people! And it caused absolutely no harm, to anybody else.
Also, it helped remind me of some things I often tell people in therapy:
Anger is the human reaction to (1) not getting your needs met and (2) feeling disrespected and
It is healthier to feel anger and express it in a non-damaging way than to squelch it or direct it towards yourself.
And, believe it or not, I arrived at my son’s high school feeling great, and earlier than I thought I would. However, I was still five minutes late, for a parent-teacher conference scheduled to last only five minutes.
Much to my delighted surprise, when I got to the English teacher’s class room, my ex-husband was still in there, meeting with our son’s teacher. So, I got to join them and tell her about this blog, in person! As we were wrapping up our discussion of how wonderful Aaron is (which would be my personal style of describing that conversation), there was a knock on the door and a frazzled parent suddenly entered the room, saying to the English teacher:
I’m sorry to interrupt, but aren’t you all done yet? There is some place I HAVE TO BE very soon and another parent is here before me, waiting to see you!
As I was thinking “that person has a very different style than me,” the English teacher showed her different style, too: calmly and politely asking the other parent to wait outside for a few more moments and then saying to us, “This is why I do not teach adults.”
It’s important for us all to know and respect our personal styles, don’t you think?
My personal style, in these posts, is to show you photos I’ve taken recently. But honestly, people, do you really think I had any friggin’ time yesterday to take pictures ??!!??!!?
Actually, I did:
My style of blogging also includes posting a YouTube video of some music I like — often something I heard the day before I write my daily post. I didn’t have much time for music, yesterday, but I heard this in my car while stuck in traffic (and, coincidentally, I might see this live, on stage, with my ex’s sister, this weekend!)
Recent examples of this? New, unexpected versions of Spotify (my choice for playing music on my iPhone) and WordPress (my choice for blogging), which have disoriented me and worsened my experience. As a result, I’ve needed to take extra time and care, constructing work-arounds to get my musical and blogging needs met.
2. Broken promises (especially unsolicited ones).
Promises made + promises unfulfilled = disappointment
…. if the promise was something I did not ask for. My growls get fiercer and louder if somebody elicits a need in me, then leaves me hanging.
I’ll give you an example. Last year, somebody at work volunteered to make me a CD of Kurt Elling tunes, because we both like that singer. This person, who was just an acquaintance, insisted they wanted to do it. And they never did. And that made me go
to a rather puzzling degree.
I don’t know why I had that reaction. I could have framed the situation in a more helpful way, like
appreciating the person’s wish to connect,
recognizing that other things got in the way, and
letting it go.
But, for a long time, I didn’t. Instead, I kept growling (instead of growing).
Recently, I had the same experience — unsolicited disappointment — on a grander scale. And this morning, I’m still growling.
I’m not sure why I get so upset when the unfulfilled promise is something initiated by somebody else.
It might be related to my having trouble asking for what I need. I mean, it’s bad enough asking for something and then not getting it. The last thing I want, apparently, is somebody creating a need I didn’t even know I had, and then dashing THAT, too.
Yesterday, I had a jam-packed, pinpoint-timing day, where I
did a full morning of work (individual and group therapy),
went to a hospital to get an IV of antibiotics,
got a filling fixed and a teeth cleaning at the dentist, and
drove my son to a play rehearsal
and all before 5 PM!
I got all these things done, in reasonable time, despite
pre-July 4th preparations in Boston, affecting traffic and
no parking spaces, due to the filming of a movie starring
Instead of focusing on all the successes of that day, I kept thinking about one thing: While I was eating the food they gave me at the IV infusion center
… I spilled some salad dressing on my skirt.
I realize this, now. Instead of being angry at my own carelessness, and picturing that stain for the rest of the day, I could have focused on a more helpful image, from around the same time:
That’s Angela, who was my IV nurse yesterday. When I admired her very cool snake earrings, she told me that snakes
have been her totem animal, since she was 10 years old,
connect her with all the mother goddesses of the world (since they all carry snakes),
suddenly showed up, in a group of 7, when her husband was very ill, and
have nested in every house she’s lived in.
Angela, if you’re reading this, thanks for the snakes (and for the IV, too). They all helped, yesterday.
Okay! One more thing that makes me go “grrrrrrr” (and hiss) ….
4. Not getting enough sleep or food.
Last night, I woke up at 3:30 AM. My thoughts and feelings went many places, including here:
As a result, I had trouble falling back asleep.
Lack of sleep and food can definitely increase anger, don’t you think? I can’t do anything about the sleep, right now, but I can help myself to some leftovers from Tuesday’s dinner (courtesy of bf Michael):
Somehow, I’m feeling much better than I did when I started this post.
Before I end, I’d like to continue the feel-good trend, by asking you two fun questions: Which photo in this post is your favorite? Which one do you think is mine?
Thanks to Felix the cat, Johnny Depp the actor, Angela the IV nurse, and Michael the boyfriend; to tigers, snakes, and other fierce creatures; to those who cry, laugh, and have all their feelings; and to you — of course! — for whatever sounds you’re making today.
Good morning, WordPressers (and people who read this blog without that much awareness of their surroundings)!
It’s time for the Post-Birthday Wrap-up Blog!
It’s going to be short one, so let’s look at the highlights, shall we?
As I wrote a couple of days ago (in this post), I knew there might be disappointments during the anniversary of my birth. Here’s a quote from that post:
As much as I love and look forward to my birthday, I’ve been disappointed, during some birthdays past. I’ve expected too much, and gotten too little. So, perhaps, I’m afraid of a repeat of those disappointments, this year.
And, yes, there was a point during the day when it looked like I was NOT going to get the attention, fuss, excitement, awareness of my birthday that I expected, wanted, yearned for.
So what happened?
I got mad, and I started to talk to myself, as follows:
Arrrghh! This sucks! Why do I even get excited about my birthday, anyway? People think I’m doing all sorts of exciting things, but I’m doing NOTHING! And I’m all ALONE right now! Where are the people who are SUPPOSED to be here?!? Geesh! Maybe people are planning a successful surprise party for me, for the first time in my friggin’ six decades?!! AS IF!!! No sirree, people who know me are all just living their lives, assuming that I’m getting what I want on this day … AND I’M NOT!!
Well, sports fans (or observers, in general), what would you say was going on, during that portion of yesterday’s game?
Here’s my analysis:
I was having a tantrum.
That is, I was focusing on assumptions and expectations of what the day should be like, plus memories of old disappointments, and the result was this: anger, in a child-like way.
Now, I didn’t scream, hit, break anything, or hold my breath until I turned blue. I didn’t even yell (although that would have been okay). I just allowed myself to feel the feelings. And I did speak my thoughts out loud, including this one:
This is what I want for my birthday. Just to feel my anger and express it, without judgment.
And I felt better.
Soon after that, I was able to contact my son’s father, and arrange to pick up my son. Since spending time with my son was one of the gifts I was expecting on my birthday, I felt better.
On my way driving there, I still allowed myself to feel all my feelings, including my disappointment and annoyance. And while I didn’t want to be late, I allowed myself to stop and take this photo:
And thought, “So what if this makes me a little bit late?!! Screw them!”
And I felt better.
When I got to my son’s father’s girlfriend’s home, and I was waiting for my son to get ready to go, my ex said something to me that …. pissed me off. I got annoyed and defensive. So I said to him, “You know what? Today is my birthday, and this is what I want for my birthday: I want to be able to get mad at people and not worry about the result. And I’m mad right now!”
So I said more about that, to my ex. And I had a “tone” — an angry tone (which I’ve caught hell for using, in the past). But my ex actually seemed okay with that. He just listened.
And I kept going. As a matter of fact, I kind of had a little tantrum — but in an adult way. What do I mean by that? Well, I followed some rules, for interpersonal effectiveness, even while I was expressing my anger.
Use “I” statements whenever possible, describe my personal experience of thoughts and feelings.
Explain the context of my reaction.
Use adult skills, including logic and self-awareness.
I DID NOT:
Call names, make threats of any kind, or appear unduly frightening.
Use “You” statements, which put other people on the defensive.
Because I was following these rules, and my ex was just listening, this actually became a little bit …
So when my ex’s girlfriend came into the room, soon after followed by my son, I informed them what was going on, like so:
It’s my birthday today, and I’ve decided what I want. I want that to be a day when I’m allowed to get angry at anybody I want to. Like now!
And everybody was okay with it, amazingly.
As a result, I felt much better. And there were even smiles and some laughing, in the room.
And from then on, my birthday was great. Really and truly, one of the best birthdays, ever. Because, not only did I get these gifts:
Having my own anger, without consequence, and
Spending time with my son and my inamorato 1.
… I got these great gifts, too:
And the last (but not least) gift I’m going to show here ….
Thanks to my family, my friends, all those people who can express and/or hear anger in an effective way, and to you — of course!! — for reading today.
Thanks to fellow blogger, babsje, who suggested this title for my boyfriend/studmuffin/honey/sweetheart/whatever-you-want-to-call-him, Michael.
Here’s what I want to do today, people! I would like to free associate on the idiom “Left holding the bag.”
Before I do, I would like to provide a wee bit of context, as follows:
I like to write about idioms, and so I have: here, here, and here. 1
I enjoy free-associating and writing about idioms, just for fun, but I suspect I might also do such things when I am avoiding being direct about something.
I have trouble being direct when (1) I need to keep something a secret and/or (2) I’m upset.
“Upset” is often a euphemism for “angry.”
Now, my context may have raised some confusion2 which I would like to do my best, right now, to clear up. Here are some thing I’d like to clarify:
I don’t like keeping secrets, but I do so when it’s in the service of keeping a situation “safe enough.”3
I was upset last night, and woke up feeling upset this morning.
This post is a way for me to move forward, through being upset, to the next right thing which — to me — is often related to connections to others.
Arrghh! I think I’m digging myself deeper into a explanatory hole here. The more I say, the more I fear I need to clarify. I think it’s time to …
…. stop this portion of the post, and move on to the Idiom Du Jour, which is
Left holding the bag
So what does that idiom mean? Here’s a result of an online search, this morning:
be left holding the baby (British) also be left holding the bag (American)
to suddenly have to deal with a difficult problem or responsibility because someone else has decided they do not want to deal with it. “He abandoned the project after a year because he felt that it was going to fail and I was left holding the baby.”
I have to say I was startled by the surprise appearance of a baby:
… but I guess that’s because I’m American.
Well, this is fun, but I think I’d like to be more direct, right now.
In a recent post, called “Free-floating, re-sticking anxiety (The __ Metaphor)” I wrote about suspecting that somebody was angry with me. I did check that out with that person and, as I suspected, I was incorrect. However, as I also wrote about in that post, I often suspect that SOMEBODY is angry at me, so when I continued to check out that perception, I did eventually, discover ….
…. somebody who WAS angry at me.
You know what? At any particular time, there probably is somebody, somewhere, who is angry with each one of us. Why? Because as we move through the world, with all our imperfections, with our messiness, and with our selfishness (which is not always a bad thing), inevitably we are going to hurt somebody’s feelings.
So if you keep asking people, “Have I offended you?” …. no matter how nice you are, or how hard you try NOT to offend people, eventually, the answer will be “yes.”
So THEN WHAT?
Well, speaking for myself, when I DO find somebody who is angry at me, my first response typically is ….
… to feel anger, back.
But that’s just the first step. There are lots of options for ways to continue from there.
So why did the idiom of “left holding the bag” come to my mind today?
That’s a reflection of this: My first discussion with this person was too short. We only had five minutes to speak on the phone. So, as a result, I felt left holding the bag. What’s in the bag I’m holding? Anger, I suppose (or whatever else we want to call that feeling).
So, in my blog post today, I knew I wanted to get ahold of that bag, understand it, perhaps make it smaller, before I talked to the person again. And I definitely want to maintain my connection with this person.
And, you know what? Writing this post has definitely helped with that.
Also, I chose this topic today because I had a photo I wanted to show you:
Why did I want to show you that? Because that’s the bag I’ve been carrying around lately. It’s made by Vy & Elle, who recycle vinyl billboards into bags and wallets (among other things).
Bags that you’re left holding can also be beautiful.
Thanks to Vy & Elle, my friends who have been angry with me at any time, stop signs, babies, and to you — of course! — for reading today.
You know, when I include a link to another post, I’m not just doing it because I’m trying to spruce up my post with different colors, people. I’m including posts I think you might actually find helpful, interesting, and maybe even fun. It wouldn’t kill you to click on one of those every once in a way, would it? (If you do click on these links, I apologize for my tone, which may seem a little harsh.)
I started a post last night, with the title “Confusion,” in which I wrote some stuff about the fluctuating temperatures around here (for example, yesterday the high was allegedly 47 degrees: today the high is supposed to be 19 degrees). I rarely start posts the night before; when I do, it’s because of an unusual circumstance. In this case, I’m going to my son’s school this morning at 8 AM, so I thought I might not have time enough to write a post this morning. Almost always, when I start a post the night before, I don’t use it.
Therapists are trained to keep confidential the identities of their clients. While the people referred to in this post are friends, not clients, I often get into the habit of “secretiveness” regarding personal details.
I’ve written several times, this year, about perfectionism. (For example, here, here, and here.)
Nobody is perfect — including the writer and the readers of this post. As humans, we all make mistakes, every day. (Probably, we all make mistakes every hour.)
I react differently to the Making of Mistakes, though, depending upon who is doing the mistake-making.
When I realize that I have made a mistake, this is my usual response:
I feel awful.
Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:
Oh, no! I made a mistake! I should have paid better attention. This is really going to be a problem for other people, too. What’s the matter with me?
It’s a different story, though, when somebody else makes a mistake. Often, I forgive other people their mistakes.
It’s much easier to remember that everybody makes mistakes, when it’s everybody else.
However, when somebody makes a mistake that has a direct, negative impact on me, that’s a different story, too.
Then, this is my usual response:
I feel awful.
Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:
Oh, no! This other person made a mistake! And that really caused me some discomfort. What do I do now? How do I tell them about it? They’ll probably think it’s MY fault, too! How can I prove it’s NOT? Maybe it IS my fault, somehow! And what if it’s NOT my fault and they don’t own up to that? THEN what do I do? Also, if I mattered and was important enough to them, they would have been more careful! Now I’m angry! NOW what do I do? If I express my anger, I’ll probably alienate them! I don’t want to lose them! But I don’t want to pretend that it’s all okay with me, either, because it’s NOT!
This is what I notice about THAT, now.
When somebody else makes a mistake, I tend to have MORE thoughts.
Well, I’m really used to my own mistakes. I KNOW (by living with myself) how imperfect I am: I’ve got lots of proof about that. At times in the past, I’ve thought of myself as a screw-up — somebody who constantly make mistakes.
So THAT’s familiar.
But, somehow, I’ve never gotten used to other people’s mistakes.
Why is that?
This is my best guess, right now: When I was a little kid, I needed important people — upon whom I depended — to NOT make major mistakes. (And they made mistakes, of course. They were human.)
I know I’m not alone, in that.
Here’s a personal example of that: I needed the doctors keeping me alive — through surgeries and new technologies — to NOT make major mistakes. Big time.
So, my wish — even as an adult — is that people NOT make mistakes. But they do, of course, every day.
Also, if somebody makes a mistake that has a negative effect on me and doesn’t own it, I can feel some anger about that (naturally). And as I wrote, two days ago, I can be a little clueless about anger, once I have it.
So there you have it: My reactions to other people’s mistakes.
It’s easy for me to write this post today, dear readers, because somebody — whom I’ve yet to meet — made a mistake last night which did have a negative impact on me. At this writing, the person is not owning the mistake, which may or may not change.
This is what I’ve done, so far, this morning, to deal with this:
I wrote an e-mail to the person, pointing out the facts.
By focusing on the facts, I let go of any wish to affect the other person’s feelings about this in any way.
I worked on this blog post.
All those things helped.
What’s missing, for me, right now?
A cool image, for this post!
My next step: consult my iPhone for recent photos.
Oh! Here’s one:
Recently, I saw this hand-written message on a sign, regarding a overdue repair to a machine.
So there you have it, my dear readers: Another way to respond to other people’s mistakes.
Thanks to everybody who makes and responds to mistakes and to you — of course! — for visiting here today.