I was angry enough to go to his office and give him a piece of my mind. (As if I have any extra mind to spare.) A fellow had engaged in some self-dealing, inconveniencing me and my kid — and then he denied it. I let him have it.
The next day, I lunched with my long-time friend, sometime client, ofttimes collaborator Mark Wallinger. I was still a little hot under the collar, so I confessed as we sat down, “Man, was I ever steamed yesterday. I actually yelled at someone.”
Mark put up his hand, stopping me. “Can I just ask you one thing?” he asked. “Was it over something big or something small?”
Ouch. Of course, it was something small. This was ten years ago, but I’m still learning from Mark’s very wise question.
Most things are small things. There are some big things — where we should all be angry. But the small stuff isn’t worth it. What had happened? I wasn’t processing my anger. I was simply leaving myself in a condition where it could boil over, and I would quietly (and sometimes noisily) pop my top at the smallest incitement.
Surely, this is what happens on the highways every day. Folks who are still simmering from the last small thing, and the hundreds of unprocessed small things before that, are slightly affronted. And suddenly they split in two. Are you angry? A test: Perhaps another driver wants to merge into your lane. Perhaps someone drives offensively. What is your reaction? Do you decide to take it upon yourself to teach the bastard a lesson? Or do you drive defensively and generously? You know, your reaction is your choice — if you aren’t always ready to boil over with anger.
There are great readings that led me to a point where I don’t get angry. If you find yourself teaching the bastards lessons, have a look at ’em. They have immeasurably improved the quality of my life.