I am a person who feels things. I am quick to laugh, quick to empathetic tears, and more distressingly, quick to “oh my god, your stupidity is making me rage volcano spew fiery hot lava through my veins.” When issues arise because of other people not using a single ounce of logic or shred of reasoning, I fear I might give myself an aneurysm. It’s my natural reaction. Luckily, I know better than to speak to the offender at that time. I am smart enough to give myself a few days to cool off. The thing is, I don’t want to take days to cool off, I want to be cool from the get go.
I read historical fiction about ladies of the English court trained to keep their faces from showing their emotions, which I imagine takes a lot of self-control and practice (especially in the face of the horrible misogyny these women confronted daily). I aspire to be more like these women, not only in controlling my face, but also in having some discipline of my mind. I need to take a damn breath and step back for a moment is what I’m saying. The problem is, I don’t know how. Can you help me Millicent? My cardiovascular health is depending on you.
No, really; I get it. Unfortunately this is something that you – and a huge portion of the critically thinking population – must deal with on an ongoing and painfully exhaustive basis. Fighting stupid is tiring, and your fear is well-founded.
The way I see it, you have two options:
1. You can move to a remote, uninhabited island where your only company is yourself and whatever shadow puppets you can conjure; or…
2. You learn to remove or reduce your physical reactions to emotional stimuli, which, granted, I know is difficult when you’re dealing with an idiot and one million years of biology is telling you to choke the crap outta this guy right now because it’s good for the village.
Before you read on, take a deep breath and understand that this is not something that you’ll be able to learn overnight. Without giving away my age let me just say that it has taken decades of practice to get to the Zen point where I am now, and even then there are occasional flies in the pudding and I need a reminder. One of the biggest (and mightiest) tools in my kit is this deep breathing exercise by Dr. Andrew Weil which I find enormously helpful in practicing mindful and conscious breathing.
Other times you simply need to walk away, and from your letter it sounds like you already recognize this is a good idea. Cooling off first is important when dealing with people who push your buttons, but let me ask you this: Who is this pushing your buttons? If it’s the same repeat offenders, or someone whom you are not bound by law or blood to care for then may I gently suggest being done with them entirely? Tell them you’re breaking up for safety reasons – theirs.
Keeping calm from the get-go isn’t always going to be a possibility, and in fact sometimes emotions need to be let out lest they get buried deeper and deeper until one evening you go to bed and literally explode. Not only is that bad because – hello, dead – but also because you’re leaving a hell of a mess for someone else to tidy up and well, that’s just not good manners.
Another thing to consider is looking at our other areas of your life such as exercise and dietary requirement. Are you getting enough fresh air? Every day? Have your blood pressure checked and a physical done if you feel your rage is detrimental to the state of your health. Also, if the impulse to use the Vulcan death grip is growing stronger, I’d suggest perhaps seeking a therapist or doctor who can guide you towards a life of serenity and/or discuss other options. Your sanity and heart health are not worth turning over to the jerk who cuts in front at the returns line in Home Depot and then forces you to stand in his fart cloud with nothing to do but count the warts on his hairy earlobe.
In the meantime, make sure that your heart is getting lots of positive stimuli – appreciate art in any form you can find it, spend calm and loving time with your friends and family – preferably outdoors in the sunshine – and treat yourself gently.
No one is perfect, Poppy; not even me.
PS. Only people who I’m sleeping with can call me “Milli.” You seem perfectly lovely, but I just don’t like you in that way.