My vacation goal was to forget what day it was: live outside the calendar and off the clock. It’s marvelous if I can pull it off. However, it entails a whole new level of letting go, of not caring or worrying about what has happened and what will happen, which is something that I’ve never been very good at. My problem is that I give a shit and I enjoy the rush of stress, which means a pretty serious anger problem.
My family knows that if the negative-gamma waves start coming off my body, it is best to yell back until they have my attention. My oldest daughter once described it: “Shit, Dad, it’s like the ground will shake, you turn green, tear your shirt off, and the sky fills with molten lava, ash and smoke. The veins bulge in your neck and forehead, your teeth in your lower jaw protrude, froth sprays from the mouth, and there is a blood-curdling howl as you go wild-eyed. It is like having a wild animal trapped in the house.” When it’s over I have a vague recollection of what I said and did and, the hard part is that I still know that I was just trying to make a point, and I am probably right.
So much for humility!
Although I don’t have any major felonies to report, I’m not dangerous. I’m just not the kind that stockpiles weapons or high explosives, so I won’t be going postal any day soon. I am just a pain in the ass. The problem is that I am too thin skinned, I’ve seen too much disappointment, too much suffering, and I’ve gone to too many funerals. My friends in the Twelve-Steppers have yet to break away from the AA herd and create their own group. In part this might have something to do with copyright laws. What would we call this new organization? The name “Anger Anonymous” is a dumb and stupid on two levels. First, it sounds like AA, and the touchy feely stuff doesn’t fly with this group, and second, there is nothing anonymous about a terminally pissed off person. Everyone finds out about it sooner or later.
My anger is my inner beast; it is like being a werewolf. Legend has it that a person carries this curse can see a pentagram in the palm of hand of his next victim, and it is always the one he cares most about, which is why these dog-faced bastards tend to be loners. I’d like to think that the wolf-man thing doesn’t make me that different from everyone else. Anyone who hasn’t been lobotomized has a breaking point. Anger, rage and hostility are what remind us that human beings haven’t advanced as much as we would like to think. In fact, maybe the wolf is in all of us, part of our animal heritage and culture. All of our 19th-century utopian bullshit about civilization only served as a pretext to hide the fact that White Europeans were every bit as brutal and cruel as the so-called primitive people of the Dark Continent.
This is not to say that there aren’t good reasons, but the reasons are never up for debate, only the snarling and howling and the fear. Like when I was in a meeting and I told a colleague he had better “reach down and find a bigger set of balls” so he could make a decision. What can I say, the wanker was vacillating, running time off the clock, and preventing a decision from being made. He is (and continues to be) a ball-less son-of-a-bitch, but these kinds of antics don’t follow decorum.
If was for this reason that I went to a two-day anger management course. When I called to make my reservation, the receptionist got the jitters when she couldn’t find a pen. I joked with her, saying “Don’t worry, Ma’am. I won’t lose it with you. This could be a test.” I am not sure she appreciated my humor. On the first day, the first thing they teach you is to channel your aggression. The director of the seminar said that it was necessary to “get on top of the anger by owning it, and then write down the things that upset you.” My first thought was that I would need a goddamn secretary to write down all the shit that routinely pisses me off, but it was worth a try. So, for the next week, I carried around a little journal with me and, every time something irked me, I whipped out the notebook and jotted down a description of the incident, along with the date and the time. My first entry read: Monday, 9:30 am, Wal-mart, asshole in front of me has three items too many for express checkout lane, tabloid articles terminally stupid, woman in other lane looks like a water buffalo, sign above the checkout lane reads: 20 items or less” and should read: “20 items or fewer.”
The second entry read: Monday, 9:40 am, Wal-mart , Self-checkout register and system malfunctioned. Had to wait five minutes for idiot to find manager to fix the system. Once checked out, idiot had to add more register tape to machine. The next entry was something about the greeter. The next series of entries contained descriptions of the four-year-old eating potato chips too loudly, the Jesus-freak who was yelling something about Russian nuclear weapons; the jerk in Chevy Caprice who parked too close to the yellow line in the parking lot; and the nimrod in the SUV who was honking at me for writing in my notebook. By the end of the day, I had filled several pages.
I was on my way to improved mental health.
I wasn’t sure if the system was teaching me to channel my anger or conditioning me to accept the fact that the world is an imperfect place inhabited by fuckups. In any case, the second anger management class dealt with how to identify the things that really upset you. It seems that not everyone is as readily in touch with their inner wolf-man as I am. Some wander around for years, denying that they have a raging beast inside of them. They never embrace the monster. On the contrary, the hide it away, embarrassed that others will find out. Some tell themselves stories, make excuses, blame others, or pretend it doesn’t happen. These are disassociating clods, because the hardest thing for them to do is get a grip on what is pissing them off. A tree can fall on their house in the middle of a thunderstorm, their car can get totaled in an accident, and nothing happens. But, someone leaves their shoes out on the floor, and all hell breaks loose.
These hot heads have to make inventories. Like the rest of us, they whip out the notebook and jot it down. Their problem is that they don’t notice the anger until it gets out of hand. By then, they don’t even know what is pissing them off. Usually, it is because they have two or three issues at the same time. They have to separate and reduce the anger to single issues. Then, they have to decide which problem they are going to deal with first. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, because some problems will solve themselves.
Sometimes the hardest thing for the wolf in me to do is tolet things go.
Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=526