Like a lot of folks, I’m sheltering in place (in the house 24/7). I’m in a vulnerable group, over 60 (yeah, I admit it) and have an underlying health issue. So, I have all this time on my hands. I thought I’d spend it thinking deep thoughts and writing through the difficult situation I referred to in my last post. I also thought I might finally finish the revisions of my novel. I was already retired before the quarantine so I can sit in my comfortable home every day without negative consequences like not being able to eat or pay bills. But I’m not thinking at all. I flit from writing, reading, cooking, housework, paperwork…but I can’t focus on anything because I’m not thinking. About the only thing I seem to be able to do consistently is eat.
From November (NaNoWriMo) through to February I kept track of how much I was writing, reading about writing and learning about writing. I’m not doing that now. I’m not in the moment with anything. When I’m not mindlessly moving from distraction to distraction, I stare out the window without thinking. I have the TV on with the sound muted. Ordinarily, I would walk in nature to center myself. I’d like to go for a walk but, nope, can’t think about doing that either. I’m too afraid of who I’ll meet along the way.
Fortunately, I’ve talked to friends and family who feel the same way and I realize that my inability to concentrate is due to fear and anxiety, as is theirs. And that realization makes me angry. The pandemic scares me more than the scammer did. Obviously, lots of us feel the same way. Almost all the bloggers I follow here on WP have posted about the coronavirus. So, I’m frightened, anxious AND angry. On top of everything is the fact that I said I wouldn’t blog about the coronavirus or its effects but here I am…because I can’t think about anything else. I have no idea what else to talk about.
Stay well and healthy everyone. My prayers are for you all and your families.
Sooo…I heard about this rancher who was angry about not being able to graze on “his land,” (Let’s ask the Shoshone, Ute and Paiute and other First Nations about that claim…) and I was really disturbed that someone with some sort of ancestral or historical connection might lose their land or ties or livelihood–you know I kinda get passionate about that kinda stuff. I actually felt sorry for him–or at least based on first impressions I felt some sort of kinship or empathy. More details, came, I felt less sorry, but still intrigued by what this story meant for what American democracy means to different types of people and why they get passionate about the nature of being an American and their idea of freedom. After all, it was just Passover…I’ve had eight days to think about what freedom means and how glad I am not to be enslaved. (Wait–I do that…
NEW YEARS. It’s the time we use to mark the passing of the old and the beginning of the new. I don’t go in much for traditional rituals so I do my year-end assessment a little differently. First, I don’t think of a year as being “gone”. I like to think I bring every precious, previous minute into the one I’m living right now. In that way time is never “lost”. Secondly, I don’t make resolutions. I feel that’s a sucker’s game and I try not to set myself up for failure. What I like to do instead is reflect on the best lessons I’ve learned in the past year. I have no doubt that the best lesson I learned in 2013 was disciplined anger.
Last August I wrote about a conversation we had in my church group about anger. We were considering whether as Christians we can ever accept anger as justified. It took place a few days before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and I admit, I had righteous anger on my mind. I was loud and adamant in my opinion. I blogged about it and even made a video to bring home my point. In the post I said, “I think anger and a thirst for justice are at the forefront of movements for equality and non-violence is not so much a belief system as it is a political strategy.”Well, I was wrong. I made a mistake by framing the question in foot-stamping emotional terms. I was childish and churlish. I didn’t take the opportunity to reflect maturely in a deeper spiritual way. Then a wise friend of mine sent me a link (http://www.inc.com/hitendra-wadhwa/great-leadership-how-martin-luther-king-jr-wrestled-with-anger.html) to an article about Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. (Thanks Janie!) Here’s the quote from it that was the eye opener I needed,
“…the words of another great leader, the one who taught Martin Luther King, Jr. his signature technique of peaceful struggle, Mahatma Gandhi. “I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world.”
Wow, “heat conserved, “peaceful struggle”. I guess that’s why Martin Luther King could admit he was angry that his home had been bombed and still move forward; he learned the lesson. How spiritually well grounded does a person have to be to transform anger into a positive power, including the power to understand “the other” and practice courtesy? And how mature does a person have to be to then use that energetic power as a tool for positive action? I had to sit with that and be honest enough to say I was lacking. And I’m still working on it because I realize the lesson doesn’t just apply to social justice. I had to look at the behavior in my personal life and admit I have a pattern of seeing my anger as justified. As we all know, it’s easy to be an ass when you feel righteous. I’m very good at rationalizing my opinion as fact in order to feel superior or feel I have “won”. Even knowing that, I have to remind myself of the power of disciplined anger constantly because I forget so often. (Sorry to the apartment management and the daughter who gave me the gift certificate for Christmas.)
There are other lessons I learned in 2013 but that’s the best one. I’ll take it and the others, along with the cumulative moments of my life gratefully into the time to come. I hope you look at the days past, realize the good and go forward wishing for the best.
Sometimes as I’m moving along on my journey I come to obstacles that are hard for me to overcome. You see I have anger issues. I’m the kind of person who gets irritated at people easily and frustrated quickly, to put it mildly. My late husband used to tell a story about going a computer store to correct a cord problem. The tech person hassled him about it so he said to him, “Listen, my wife is a very angry woman who wanted to come in here and rip you a new one. I thought I’d save you that but if you’d rather deal with her…..” He came home with a new cord. And since I’ve gotten into more than one bad situation because of my road rage, I had to buy a paper fan-like device called “Smile on a Stick” to disguise my face so I won’t get killed. Yeah, I’m that person.
I know that I have a very deep well of anger to dip into. I also know that a lot of my anger is justified. But that’s a big club. Let’s face it, most of us have lives that are disproportionately filled with things that are sad, unfair or outright outrageous. Some of us deal with that reality better than others. I deal with it with anger. But when I dip into that well I don’t right any wrong, nor do I achieve any goal. I just wallow in past issues and fall into a behavior of negative energy.
What I have come to realize is that the difficult events in my life are pebbles in the road. In the larger scheme of things they are small and scattered. If I respond with anger, then I’m stumbling. And if I stumble on the pebbles, how can I expect to get to the place where I can extend love and compassion and be of service honestly with an open heart? (Please see my very 1st post on “The Bow”.) I really want to get to that place.
So I’m getting up, brushing off, picking up my “Smile on a Stick” and moving on.