The Beginning of the End is a popular title. There are books, movies, and song lyrics; perhaps it’s also a poem. While it is rather catchy, it’s somewhat inaccurate, at least for this post. Seems The End of the Beginning is also a title. This one fits a little better. Hold that thought…
“Starting over” can be exhausting. I have started over, and it is all-consuming and overwhelming. When thinking about this, more appealing ideas occur:
***Why can’t I just keep going?
***Why do I have to start at the beginning?
***Can’t I salvage something from the here and now and take it with me?
I might need something–like certain parts of me–to help me get where I am going. Some of the parts that helped me get this far aren’t all that bad. Some–like my ability to ignore the drama queens, or my refusal to be a doormat–might even be darned good. Those parts don’t need to start over. Yeah, I’m liking how this is playing out here.
It occurs to me that success* isn’t always about starting at the beginning. Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it isn’t that at all.
When Plan B appears we must detour. Maybe a marriage ended or a friendship went sour. Maybe there was a forced relocation, an eviction, or an unexpected job change. Someone, somewhere, didn’t need or want us anymore. Anger may have precipitated the event, especially if expectations were unmet. Regardless of the reason, but in the case of anger, we may feel as if we have been eliminated. We must journey down a new pathway–not one of our choosing. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what happened, the reasons behind the event.
As per the female, vehicular monotone, we find ourselves “recalculating.”
How we handle the upsets is life’s test, but the very words starting over, especially when it isn’t our idea, are frightening. We might be made to feel that we aren’t good enough, that we are lacking. We were eliminated, after all, so there must be something wrong with us, which leads to “What is wrong with me?”
Nothing. Don’t even go there.
In the line of fire
Being the recipient of someone’s angry behavior, whether you know them or not, can be unsettling, even dangerous. These behaviors may be damaging on many levels. Road rage, short tempers, and instances of anger have increasingly become part of our society (1).
***Recently, I was nearly slammed. A careless driver raced by me, through an intersection, on a red. It was close, and I was pretty shaken (and stirred).
***Years of unprofessional co-worker behavior in the workplace included (among other things) drama, door slamming, complaints, and accusations. The only time I spoke up–after I’d been targeted–was after nine years. I’d kept quiet until an email about me was sent around the office. I’d had enough. A few years prior, I was threatened with losing my job. (I had the nerve to stock paper bags in our shared room. The co-worker went ballistic. This is when the job threats started.) I asked for clarification that day, but the boss sat in her chair, eyes focused on the floor between us, shaking her head emphatically from side to side, stating “no.” A hostile atmosphere? (2). You bet, for many years.
Anger is the result of unmet, control-based expectations (3).
She expected me to continue tolerating all of the above (including her intimidation and threats about job loss). I expected her to fix the situation. Neither happened.
I spoke up and challenged that email because it was inaccurate and accusatory. This is what I was told: “You can speak but nothing you say will matter.”
In my experience
My belief is that people behave based on what is going on with them, not you. Read that again.
While it sometimes appears we are the target of someone’s anger, and the reason for their behavior, we may simply have been in the line of fire, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Turns out, I was pretty close: “Even though the content may be channeled at you, the driving force behind it is related to their personality, upbringing, and prior experiences. Most of their accusations are based on subjective opinions and are very loosely, or not at all, related to you personally” (6).
One author describes it like this: angry people feel like they never get something, or enough of something. “Raging people often are in dire need of an imaginary cupcake. A big part of their anger is driven by their belief or feeling that they never get any or someone stole or damaged their cupcakes” (6). They “are trying to tell you that they are feeling hurt, ignored, disrespected, unappreciated and unloved” (6).
Bingo. She was well aware she’d lost my respect and support for refusal to handle the situation.
Outcomes of stress
When a bomb went off at a bank in a nearby town, this phenomenon was clarified. The economy had fallen–it was late 2008–and people were out of work. Stress levels rose. I recall the news report: when people are stressed to the limit, sometimes they do things they would not otherwise do. Crime rates rise during times of economic stress (1). In addition to physical symptoms, “psychological symptoms of stress include: experiencing irritability or anger (50 percent); feeling nervous (45 percent); lack of energy (45 percent); and feeling as though you could cry (35 percent). In addition, almost half (48 percent) of Americans report lying awake at night due to stress” (1).
People under stress sometimes do things they would not otherwise do. You may have noticed I already wrote this above. I meant to. (Bottom line? It ain’t about you.)
The power of choice
I choose to see life as generally good, and I try to stay positive. I value my life and believe it to be worth living. We all handle life differently, that is certain, but I believe in the power of choice. Did you notice how I started that sentence? I choose to see….
We can absorb, deal, and move through tough situations, or we can fight it and suffer. Perspective is everything (it helps to know how to research, too). Ever read Byron Katie’s books? You must! (5).
Make no mistake; the absorbing and moving through part of receiving someone’s anger is not easy. It’s damn hard and may seem impossible. Even when events are not life threatening, anxiety may eventually appear. When your core has been shaken, you have to find terra firma again. Anxiety is one dirty/bad/nasty. Have you ever tried to control anxiety (I don’t do medication unless required)? Didn’t get very far, did you? Me, neither. It appears suddenly and squeezes your lungs. It’s hard to breathe. Paralysis seems imminent. It’s like being warm frozen. It can linger or be fleeting. Sometimes you feel awful, not to mention worthless. The crawl up and out may be very slow.
Maybe success* is a continuation or a progression. Instead of leave behind the parts and pieces, I’d rather collect and keep going, even crawl through something, than dispose of what is useful. I’ll gather the parts that have served me well as I move towards something better.
Here’s the deal: an internal makeover, having to change everything you thought was you, and morphing into someone or something others have decided you need to become, is not only distasteful, it’s not required. Others’ angry actions may make us feel we are lacking, worthless, or somehow deficient. Wrong.
I came across some poignant words recently. The year was 1952, the young author astute. It reads: “There’s an old saying-What ever you are be a damn good one-That doesn’t leave anybody out.”
When I read the words I stopped in my tracks. Then I read them again. Turns out the original author was Abe. His exact words were: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” The more recent author added damn. That’s OK; I like the emphasis. I especially like the inclusion: “That doesn’t leave anybody out.” That includes the eliminated.
We all have value. We all have worth. It makes no difference whether you are a lawyer, a teacher, a factory worker, a housewife, a street cleaner, a doctor, a librarian, or a_____________. You fill in the blank. Whatever you do, do it well. Do it really well. Be good at what you do. Be the good one. Be the damn good one.
We cannot let others define who we are; that is up to us. We must not let others measure our worth. That is also up to us. A good family friend once said to his children before he passed away: “Don’t let the bastards beat you down.” He was a father-figure throughout my life, and I won’t forget his words.
Here lies the truth: only when we give consent are we measured and defined by others. No consensual labeling here.
I don’t pretend there’s no room for self-improvement. I don’t buy the victim attitude. There is always room for improvement, to try to better ourselves. We might become better listeners, for example, or we might ask the following question. “Will this matter in five years?” If the answer is no, we might reevaluate our next action. We can always think about ways to self-improve, to prioritize what matters. It may be the beginning of a new understanding.
Back to reality: many of us experience angry outbursts. Sometimes we buy into others’ negative assessments and don’t self-support, not nearly enough. We don’t realize our value, our worth. Too often we fall prey to others’ damaging opinions.
Whether it’s the beginning, the end, or the beginning or end of either, from now on, I will gather the valuable parts from the here and now. I will look forward, from right here. When I move, I’m not going to start at the beginning. I’m not going to start anything.
I will continue and progress and bring along the parts. I will build on what I have, to get where I’m going.
If I damage a cupcake, too bad.
I define myself. What I say matters.
I am the damned good one.
The young author was 22 when he penned that letter. Thank you, dad.
*How do you define success? Is it peace? Is it being right? I smell the makings of another post.
Reflection: How have you moved through adversity? What has helped you move forward? What has inspired you?
NEXT: I’ll let you know.