Good or bad? Let it all hang out or hold that crap inside? This week’s quitting is one convoluted, complicated mother. 

Anger is a bitch. Sounds sort of angry in itself, doesn’t it? Externally I imagine I appear to be a very easy going guy. I don’t typically get too riled up in public and I for darn sure don’t show that anger if it’s there but the problem is it is there. It’s there and it eats at me. It colors how I see things in general. It affects how much I enjoy things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the source of the anger. It makes me sullen. I’ve been accused of pouting (which could be true) but I’ve always rejected it because I think it implies immaturity, (which of course it does) and I don’t consider myself to be an immature person. Again, others might disagree, but back to the object of this week’s quitting: anger.

For all its poor qualities I think anger is necessary. I think many, many great things would never have happened if someone hadn’t gotten angry. If someone hadn’t just “had it up to here” and said “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” then they wouldn’t have been moved to act. Heck, even Jesus got angry and flipped over the merchants’ tables in the temple. That gives me license to get a little pissed off because, you know, savior of the world and all that stuff. The deal is, showing that outward anger is just not in my DNA. It hardly ever makes an appearance. Except for this one time.

Fifth grade recess over the lunch hour at our one-room school in the country. I don’t recall what we were doing probably just jack-assing around but I remember Scott Richter threw a rock at me probably just what we were doing or for the hell of it and it hit my watch. Now, this was my Texas Instruments black digital watch with the red numbers. I know this doesn’t sound like much, I mean you couldn’t even pay your bill at Subway with it (not sure Subways were even around in ’75) but this was back when TI was a big deal. It made me mad and something snapped. I took off after him and he ran for the schoolhouse. I recall yelling at him something like “You better hope you make it into the school!” We both burst into the school breathless in front of Nancy Olson our teacher. Scott was wide-eyed and sort of looked around like he wasn’t sure if he was safe or not. I remember yelling at our teacher (our teacher!) something to the effect of “You better do something about him!” and essentially storming back outside.

I don’t know what I would have done to Scott had I caught him, I was really no fighter. It would be a whole year later before I would have my first “fight” with my best friend and at that very school no less, but that’s another story. Years later I learned that Scott thought I was going to kill him. He was two years younger and quite a bit smaller but other than maybe slug him once I don’t really think I would have done him much harm. The thing is that would have been the end of it. And when I get angry, that’s really about how it ought to go (probably minus the physical violence). Except too often it doesn’t.

I stew and I fret and I plot revenge and I ruminate (which I suppose is like stewing but I always consider it an even longer process, you know, cows’ stomachs and cuds and all but now I’ve gotten all Animal Science 101 on you, sorry) until I’ve tainted or ruined a few otherwise perfectly good days. I look back on some of those days and think, “what a waste.” If I’d just gotten ticked off enough to break a pencil or smash a glass (no more punching of walls or doors, again another story for another day, not one of my shining moments) perhaps I could have released that anger and gone on with my life. True, the actions described might have done some damage but then I could apologize (I always apologize, remorse is another go-to emotion) and hopefully be forgiven and that’s the other part of this.

The act of getting angry allows us to be heard and who hasn’t verbally vomited on some unsuspecting soul? College. Sophomore year. Todd Wheeler was a year younger than me and the younger brother of my best friend in the fraternity. Todd was one of the most likable, good-looking (almost too much, sort of made you hate him deep down in a place you wouldn’t admit) guys I knew. Unfortunately he made the unforgivable mistake of coming into my room one morning after a class we shared (that I had slept or studied through, I’m not sure which) and plunking down in a chair and saying something totally inflammatory like, “Hey, missed you in class this morning.” This incendiary remark so provoked me that I unleashed a tirade on this unsuspecting freshman that I imagine he still remembers to this day. I ranted about something I couldn’t understand, I’m sure filled with colorful four-letter descriptors, which were my reasons for missing class. Now, let’s be honest, I skipped class because the subject or the unit was kicking my ass and I didn’t want to take the risk of being called on and not knowing the answer thereby damaging my ego. That fact, along with Todd’s apparent grasp of the subject and cheery outlook, was enough to push me over the edge. I seem to recall his shocked expression and him laughing at me saying something to the effect of “Whoa Dick! (Not a derogatory term, although it fit in this instance, just a nickname we all called each other) Slow down! Not my fault!” Todd kept things light and laughed at me sputtering on, which he had every right to and should have, and the raving ended. Still, this was not and has not been my modus operandi and I’ve suffered for it.

Now, you might be saying, “Hold on a second you started out with “Anger is a bitch” and we all thought this was a discussion of the dangers of anger and about all you’ve done is tell us how we’d maybe be better off getting angry. What gives?” So, you’re right, anger is complicated. Like lots of things in the adulty world we live in, it’s a balancing act between chasing someone like you’re going to kill them and blowing up at a friend for no reason. Letting those emotions out is important so they don’t ruin whole days or affect how you deal with people completely unrelated to the situation. Maybe we’re talking about expression here or just merely being true to our emotions, I’ll admit to not knowing nor being good at all of those things. Anyone who knows me well is saying “You can say that again.” So, what’s the “quitting” regarding this convoluted subject of anger around which I have so very, very little expertise? Well, here goes.

Today, on this fairly non-descript Thursday in November; I am resolving to quit letting anger consume me. I will quit allowing it to affect how I treat others who are completely naïve to my level of irateness (Yeah, just made that up. Don’t antagonize the guy writing about anger!) Furthermore I resolve to quit denying my anger, to holding it all in and not expressing my frustration in a completely controlled, loving and caring manner (I’ll pause to allow you to stop laughing. Truly can’t believe I just wrote that) What we’re really talking about is not resolving to be completely blissed out, walking around hugging unicorns with rainbows shooting out of me but to get control over this small monster, anger.

Do I expect success? Oh, hell no. This won’t be easy but I don’t think I’m terribly alone in this deal. It’s my hope that as I struggle through and bring you along on this journey maybe it will help you with your anger relationship. No, not your marriage.

My wife is going to kill me for that, probably chase me into the school house and everything.

So, let me hear it, how do you handle this anger thing? Comment below if you would. I’ll need all the help I can get on this one.


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