Anger is overrated. As much as it is wholly satisfying and sometimes justified to let it rip now and then, to give someone who hurt us or offended us a piece of our mind, it’s how we handle it afterwards that counts. I try to abide by the rule never to go to bed angry with someone I love – what if that someone were abruptly taken away and I could never say I was sorry or that it didn’t matter or how stupid it all was? I know, this falls under my penchant for catastrophes real or imagined that I keep at bay by, well, imagining. But today I was thinking this is a rule that should be applied to all our relationships, casual and work related.
It started as another Sunday, packed with activities which came to a screeching halt when an unexpected phone call from my boss informed me that a colleague of ours was dead. While I was up at two a.m. reading a book on the couch hoping to fall back asleep, he was the victim of one those freaky freeway accidents Los Angeles is known for. Mostly, he was the victim of yet another drunk driver.
There is never a silver lining to the premature loss of a life. Never. In my personal thoughts of this day, I could only frame it as a reminder of how frail, impermanent and, probably, pointless, everything we have, or think we have is. And thoughts on how much time we spend at being angry or just annoyed popped up. At the end of each day, what should count is the difference, big or small, we have made – with a kind word we said even if we didn’t feel like it, the extra mile we walked even if tired, where we placed our values. The rest is bull. It’s all about showing up, being present and being joyful.
In ancient Eastern philosophies it is thought that harboring resentment and anger causes energy to be blocked which leads to emotional and physical breakdowns. Whether true or not, how the body tenses when we are angry is a good indicator that it’s not a healthy emotion to hold on to. Whatever the reasons. My colleague and I were not particularly close, we had known each other for a few years, pleasantly interacted day in and day out. I liked him and he had a great sense of humor. On Saturday he sent me an e-mail offering to do something that wasn’t requested of him, just out of kindness. At the end of a long day I was tired and eager to get home and thought I would thank him after the week-end and accept his offer. Now all I will have to do is press “delete”.