by Nate Andrew
I’ve been debating posting this for quite awhile now. For some reason, I felt it lacked a universal appeal, but I’ve decided it’s probably more universal than I initially believed. I also thought the subject matter was too simple, maybe even overplayed. But, as much as I like to focus on complexity, originality and the avoidance of cliché…I really don’t care. I’ve spent far too long delaying and revising, so I figured what the hell, I just want to stop obsessively looking at it.
For those that know me or have had the pleasure of sitting in the passenger seat of my car, it’s no shock to you that I have little patience for poor driving. If I encounter it from behind the wheel, I typically erupt with some odd strain of curse words and white knuckled grip on the steering wheel. It’s mostly directed at the moron that decided it was a good idea to cut me off, or slam on his brakes, or not get in the right lane when he’s going 15 under the freeway speed limit. It’s a fruitless burst of energy, and yet still incredibly satisfying. If I could remind the driver of his idiocy with more than just a single finger, there is no doubt I would. But, it never actually crosses my mind to stop, get out and lecture the other drivers. The option exists only in my imagination as a fantastical reaction to a real world situation and as such it will remain.
Regardless of my action or lack thereof against this driver, anger has been born from my acute impatience for ignorance. It brings sweat to my forehead and slurs from my mouth. It engulfs me. It gathers every ounce of energy I have for the sole purpose of driving its red-faced demon to the surface and keeping it there. It consumes me like a parasite leeching the life source from its host. Whether it’s due to carelessness on the road or any other aggravating action, it is a reaction that consumes me. Even if the moment that infects me with anger is fleeting, it spreads and festers as if it has a remarkable impact on my life. Most times, the situations are meaningless. Nothing negative occurs. Nothing positive occurs. It is a momentary glitch in an otherwise unaffected system and yet, it festers. Certainly, there are times when anger is merited. When anger emerges because something horrible has happened to me or to a loved one, it is explicable. If I was to learn my brother had been shot in cold blood and I became angry, it would be explicable. If my sister ate all my goldfish and there were no more goldfish on the entire planet and I became angry, it would be explicable. But still, what does the feeling of anger accomplish? Where does this feeling lead me? Does it lead me to some sort of inner peace? Does it lead me to a more positive outlook on life? It’s denial to think it does. In truth, it leads me to hopes of retribution and pain. It leads me to negative thoughts and poor health. So why do I let it bother me? Clearly, I shouldn’t and yet here I am, affected enough by it to take the time to write something very few people will actually read.
In case you’ve never experienced a car ride with me, I’ll explain, in average detail, a recent occurrence that had me questioning my quick temper and its not so subtle impact on my life. As I was driving my buddy to the airport the other day (like a month ago), we came to a stop sign at a two-way intersection. As I pulled up to the stop line, a crazy son of a bitch came flying around the corner and nearly took my front bumper off. I was still several feet behind the stop line and not at a complete stop. I smashed down on my emasculating car horn and proceeded with my typical obscenity filled outburst. Turning square is probably one of the first things we are taught when we learn how to drive (to be fair, it’s also one of the first things we forget). The instructor beats it into your brain like your first grade teacher did with simple arithmetic. As he drove by on my left hand side, I couldn’t resist but to throw up the classic bird and mean mug the guy like I just dunked on his face (i.e. T-Mac after he destroys Shawn Bradley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OHUAjxPo4I). No surprise, he returned fire. Then, he stopped his car and threw it in reverse. At this point, I was pretty shocked. In all my years of driving, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone with the audacity to stop his car in the middle of the street. It was ferocious. We looked at each other for a few seconds before I decided it was a good idea to lock my door and roll down the window (I have old crank windows so this was a pretty humiliating experience for me). I started the conversation by asking him a fairly simple and straightforward question. “Did you see the stop line?”
“Yeah, that’s why I apologized,” He said.
I will spare you the rest simply because I don’t want this outlet to become riddled with words inappropriate for use in a professional atmosphere. However, I will tell you there were several words beginning with the letter F and ending with the letter K followed by others beginning with the letter Y and ending with the letter U.
My first response to his statement, “Yeah, that’s why I apologized,” was one of disbelief. Of course, I should have known he apologized as he drove by with a middle finger pointed in my direction, but my telepathy had been pretty shoddy as of late and the night before was a bit rough. I hadn’t seen an apology. I hadn’t heard an apology. I certainly didn’t feel as if this driver had hoped for my forgiveness. Yet, deep down I felt guilty. Having heard of his intention, I felt as though I had wronged him. The feeling was not strong enough to outweigh my desire to drop breakable objects from a twenty story building, but it rooted itself firmly enough in my mind that I would retain it. Had I robbed this man of his sincerity simply because I could not forgive an honest mistake? No one was hurt and there was no damage done yet there I drove, my composure burning like a forest in a wildfire.
So, I sat for awhile, minding the road, and listening to whatever song was playing on my stereo. I was still angry. I still had the crease in my brow and the tension in my hands. I became aware it was useless, though I couldn’t control it. I offered this revelation to my passenger, wondering how he felt about the idea that this lingering anger had no purpose. As expected, he replied with a simple and elegant response, “Yeah, it’s true.” But, why was it true? Why did I hold this anger so long after such an insignificant confrontation? Surely not because I wanted to hold it. Maybe somehow it comforts me to know that I can experience an emotion so strong and persistent. Maybe I have a hard time letting things go. I don’t think either is true. No matter the reason for holding onto that feeling, it only caused more negativity and wasted time. I got angry over a non-issue and clung to it as a drowning man clings to his rescuer. Finally, just maybe, I had an epiphany. Why be angry?
Generally speaking, I am not an angry person. But, I have been known to have a quick temper. If someone perceives me as an angry person, that is likely why. The difficulty I face is in letting the anger go when it arrives. It lingers like the moisture in the air on a humid day, clinging to the back of your neck when you walk to work, sticking to your skin when you lay in bed at night. It is an uncomfortable feeling one cannot easily forget, but one that no one really wants to remember. But maybe we should remember the feeling. Maybe we should keep the feeling so close as not to forget the crushing burden it places on us. After all, in order to avoid the feeling, you must be aware of what it feels like, what triggers it, what keeps it at bay. I am not concluding or suggesting that we bury our anger, a tactic that would have much more adverse effects, all I am suggesting is that when it arrives, we let it go. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t let it control you. Don’t let it steal the energy from your mind or from your body. Just let it go.
Even when anger seems warranted, let it go. Feel it, become aware of it, accept it, and move on. Watch what you accomplish. Notice the effect it has on your overall perception of life and the lives of those around you. It’s worth a shot. What could go wrong? Your anger suddenly leaves you and your left with the rest of your day to worry about actual issues rather than dwelling on the useless ones? You don’t need me to tell you that. You don’t need me to tell you my stories. You have your own. But if I can remind you through my words that there are certain things we could do without, I should tell you. And in an effort to maintain my ego and justify the arrogant extension of myself that thinks writing helps more than me alone, I’ll keep telling you.