Tag Archive | anger

Anger Management Part I

My cat Lunesta, named for my favorite sleeping pill. She really knows how to chill out.

My cat Lunesta, named for my favorite sleeping pill. She really knows how to chill out.

Is it just me, or does anger management get easier with age? It’s taken me decades, but everyday aggravations don’t get me nearly as riled up as they used to. Is it simply that my psychotropic meds are working the way they should? Is it because of hormonal and biochemical changes as I creep toward genuine old age? Or is it the cumulative effect of all the years of life experience I’ve racked up?

Maybe it’s all three, but in any case I’m grateful that I’m usually able to follow Bobby McFerrin’s advice – “Don’t worry, be happy.” (That’s when I’m not in a clinical depression, of course. But deep depression is so enervating, it doesn’t leave enough energy for anger.)

Over the past couple of days, though, something’s been making me intensely angry. No need to go public with the details – suffice it to say that it involves a creative group project I’ve been a part of for several years on an annual basis. Over time, the group’s chairperson has become increasingly dictatorial and resistant to anyone else’s ideas, to the point where I decided I could no longer associate myself with this venture, even though it’s something that’s brought me great pleasure over the years. 

In years gone by, I would have fumed and fretted over whether or not to quit. I probably would have done some yelling and screaming, slugged down a couple of glasses of wine, lain awake nights obsessing over the injustice of it all. Today, there was none of that dramatizing. I simply sent the person an e-mail saying I was dropping out. I’ll admit I copied in a couple of relevant people, and there may be some further fallout, but I’m sticking with my decision to distance myself from a situation that’s clearly bringing me uptight and is thus potentially damaging to my mental health.

I’m proud of how I handled this. I did what I had to do, said what I had to say, but now it’s over and done, and I’ve already moved on. I’m feeling calm, and my pulse rate and blood pressure are back down where they should be. Writing this blog post is cathartic as well – how wonderful to be able to channel all that angry energy into writing that all the world can read! 

Katie Couric show on January 14th, the day I visited

Katie Couric show on January 14th, the day I visited

Since my recent visit to Katie Couric’s show, I’ve been watching her more than ever, though I clicked off today because she’s interviewing families with lots of kids, and frankly, I couldn’t care less. But a few programs ago, the show featured a cardiologist who hooked her up to a heart rate monitor, thereby demonstrating that her pulse went up alarmingly when she was caught in midtown Manhattan traffic (even with her own private car and driver!) or before the show when she encountered some fans and wasn’t yet wearing her makeup. Over time, that kind of physiological reaction can do serious damage to a body. Though I’m not a Type A adrenaline junkie, my blood pressure is borderline high, and I believe the ability to chill out at will is a valuable talent worth cultivating.

Buddhist meditation

Author’s note, two days later:

Just as I typed the words “Buddhist meditation,” a friend phoned me. Maybe not coincidentally, she’s extremely involved in Buddhist meditation. Jungian synchronicity, maybe? After that, I had to go to my UU church for choir practice. Then yesterday, we visited my brother in the Bronx, so I haven’t had time to get back to this post until now.

Visiting with my brother Pete Lomoe in his Bronx apartment yesterday. He looks rather like Buddha, doesn't he?

Visiting with my brother Pete Lomoe in his Bronx apartment yesterday. He looks rather like Buddha, doesn’t he?

There’s lots more to say, but I think I’ll save it for my next post. I’ll close with a brief progress note about the situation I described above: writing that e-mail saying Sayonara wrapped up that issue nicely, and though it still comes to mind off and on, I’m still calm and collected about it. Besides, it’s one more responsibility off my plate, giving me that much more time to zero in on my novel.

Does anger play a major role in your life? Any coping strategies you’d care to share? I’d love to hear from you.

A starving artist and a viral spiral

Pablo Picasso, The Tragedy, 1903

Yesterday one of my Facebook friends invited people to visit his website, where he’s put up a PayPal button for donations. The cause? Help him with his daily struggles – pay the rent, buy food, that kind of thing. He described himself as a starving artist. The first comment: “Are you f*&%ing kidding? Who do you think you are, asking for money? What do we get for it?”

I jumped in, saying, “What we get is the chance to read Ned’s* poems online for free.” I then proceeded to say how few local writers had bought my books. This in turn prompted more angry responses. How dare Ned and I think we deserved to get paid? So what if I was Albany Author of the Year? The exchange between the two gentlemen continued with considerable vitriol, and other writers jumped in with their own tales of woe – “I can barely make ends meet either, but you don’t hear me bitching and moaning about it!”

Why not? What’s so shameful about admitting we’d like to sell our own work, or even inviting people to make voluntary contributions in order to read it on the Internet? This in turn brings up another important topic – how much are we willing to give away by pouring our creative energies into sharing online? Does there come a time when we can reasonably ask for payment for everything we’re putting out there? What’s in it for us?

For me, what’s in it is the joy and excitement of communicating with people all over the world, the instant gratification of knowing my words are being read and appreciated.  But I wouldn’t mind a little cold hard cash now and again.

I’m reading a fascinating book by David Bollier titled Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own. I saw the author on C-Span’s BookTV a couple of months ago and was intrigued enough to order it online. It’s not easy reading, and I’m not yet ready to write an entire post about it, but here are a few provocative quotes:

Never in history has the individual had such cheap, unfettered access to global audiences, big and small . . . .

The people . . . are reclaiming culture from the tyranny of mass-media economics . . . overthrowing the ‘read only’ culture that characterized the ‘weirdly totalitarian’ communications of the twentieth century. In its place they are installing the ‘read-write’ culture that invites everyone to be a creator, as well as a consumer and sharer, of culture . . . Two profoundly incommensurate media systems are locked in a struggle for survival or supremacy . . . (pp. 8-11)

Powerful stuff. But although Bollier stresses power to the people and the heady virtues of sharing information in the global commons of the Internet, he’s not clear about exactly how we commoners are supposed to profit in this new marketplace. Maybe he’ll have some answers later in the book – I’ll keep you posted.

Words have the power to wound, even – or maybe especially – online. In the course of the angry Facebook exchange, I interjected a memory from the years I was working as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie. At a social on a locked ward one Friday afternoon, an alleged “recreation therapist” said to one of the patients, a gifted artist, “I hate to say it, but you look like shit.” The next day the patient escaped from the ward, headed over to the railroad tracks that ran along the river, and committed suicide by train.

The Viral Spiral of the Internet can be a force of positive energy, a way to build community, or it can infect people with hostility and anger. The choice is ours every time we log onto the World Wide Web.

Please share your thoughts on this important topic – I’d love to hear from you.

*I’ve changed Ned’s name, but the online exchange took place among members of the Capital District’s vibrant writing community. We don’t all need to agree – getting total agreement from artists is like herding cats – but I hope we can agree to disagree in a more civilized manner. Then again, who am I to talk? I’ve been known to use the F-word too.