The futility and stress of anger

I have a tendency to react before I think through events that have happened. My mom used to say I was "cutting off my nose to spite my face," and I pretty much ignored what that meant until I was well into the process of adulting my way through life.

I'm trying to remember at least one situation that I made a choice in the heat of the moment that I later regretted. I know it happened - more often than I'd like to admit back in my teens - but I can't seem to dredge up any examples from the depths of my brain. After all, this year, my teens are officially over 20 years ago. (Whoa.)

The thing is, I learned this response from both my parents. My mom and dad both had strong views and reacted with equal strength at times. They weren't hotheads, getting angry at the least little thing. There was usually a good reason, but their reactions weren't as measured as I believe either of them would have preferred to be. It didn't help that my mother had to take steroids as part of her treatment for neurosarcoidosis. I'm pretty sure we're kinda wired to have strong feelings, too. That doesn't mean it has to be the default reaction, though.

Mom eventually mellowed, partly due to a therapist that helped her figure out how to look at things differently so that anger and irritation weren't the default response. (Frankly, when you're chronically ill, is it all that shocking when there are bursts of anger from time to time? Because that's a sucky way to live.) My dad has mellowed, too. I think living just gives you a different perspective in these situations if you're open to it.

Being with Matt for the past 19+ years, I've mellowed too. Matt is ridiculously slow to anger - in fact, I've only seen him get truly angry a couple times and it comes nowhere close to what most people think of as an anger response. It's been humbling to watch how he reacts and compare myself to him. I never went to therapy but watching others in potentially charged situations has helped me learn the value of taking a step back to breathe and think.

My son has been the best possible teacher in this. He does such frustrating things. Try to imagine someone who's more stubborn than my son and you probably won't succeed. (Well, unless you know someone who thinks very literally, black-and-white, wrong-and-right about the world.) Communicating with him about various issues and events can feel like you're driving in circles and can't find a single exit that goes to your destination - or even close to it. 

I've had to remind myself that there's a reason for his response to every situation. When I remember to stop and talk to him about it, I get to understand him better so I can help him navigate similar circumstances when he experiences them in the future. And I've reinforced those ideas for myself in the process. 

One thing I've started to do is go to trusted friends for a gut check. That one step of describing a situation and asking for their input has made an enormous difference. Especially when I'm advocating for my child. 

Report cards came home recently and I have yet to sign and send his back because of one teacher's grades and comments. They're infuriating, particularly since I had no warning, despite meeting with her just a few weeks prior. I've done several gut checks. Described the situation to friends who are removed from it. I've talked to a friend who has two children in classes with this teacher - one is Brandon's best friend. 

My view has been validated, but I haven't gotten to the point where I don't want to swear when I talk about it, so I'm waiting a bit longer to address it. Because I've learned how much anger stresses me out and that it won't help me to get what B needs from school. Instead, I want to use it to drive the right actions to make things better for him. 

Anger's not a bad thing. But I think we have to be careful how we express it and when. You never want anger to undermine your ability to get the right response and you certainly don't want to regret decisions, actions, or words you make, take, or say in anger.

Three words to define my 2017

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever picked three words for the year for myself. Yay me! For the uninitiated, here's what the whole picking three words concept is all about.

To be honest, I didn't think that hard about the words for this year. They came to me pretty easily. Then I started second guessing them, so I waited to write about my choices until I was sure they were the right fit. These three words are all about me taking action but in very different ways. The meanings (for me) are also multi-faceted, but you'll see what I mean.

Write.

So, I'm a writer - just in case you weren't aware. That's my actual job title and I was (and still am) pretty excited (read: stupidly giddy) to be able to say that, even if I've been calling myself a writer for years now.

Choosing this word felt like cheating at first - of COURSE, I'm going to write this year and likely every year for the rest of my days on this twirling rock. And, as mentioned above, it's my job. However, in my eagerness to get up to speed at my new job and improve my health, I've let my personal writing projects fall by the wayside. I don't regret this; it was a conscious decision and it was the right decision but only for the short term. The short term is officially over, but I always planned for it to be over with the holidays anyway. I'm right on schedule. :) 

Journaling has been an important part of my life for nearly 30 years. (Oy, 30 years!!! I guess you get to say that phrase more and more often when you hit the year of the big 4-0!) A friend of mine inspired me to get back to the habit of daily journaling over the holidays - or, uh, last week. I had a run of committed daily journaling for several weeks a few months ago, but as I ramped up my self-care, I found it difficult to make time to keep up the amount of journaling I was doing. So, as my coach urged me to do, I'm being kinder to myself by loosening my standards about when and how much I do. I'd rather keep the habit that I find so valuable and do less of it daily than drop it entirely and lose the benefit. 

My fingers have been so restless to fly over my keyboard and get words out on a blank page on the screen. It's the strangest, but most wonderful feeling to have ideas and words piling up in your head so much that your hands practically vibrate with the need to release them. That's a good sign to me that it's time to blog more and spend time writing the books that are in my head. 

Create.

This is closely related to "write" in some ways, but there's a difference. I've got several book ideas that I've been working on at varying stages. There's a lot of creating that needs to happen. The worlds. The characters. But that can only happen as I excavate the story. I need to make time to create these things. It's invigorating. It's not unusual for me to lose massive amounts of sleep when I get deep into the creating process. It's not unlike reading a really good book. 

The other part of this word is an idea that has been germinating for about six months. I don't know if I'm going to take the steps to pursue this idea yet. I only know I have to start taking steps to decide if it addresses a need and if it's the right time to pursue it. I think it could, but I need to know for sure before it starts to move past the idea stage.

Advocate.

The second part of "create"? That idea has a bit to do with this intention. It's going to be up in the air until spring no matter what. 

Generally, advocacy is always going to be important to me. It is for any parent of a child with special needs. But it isn't solely about supporting my son or the charities that support kids with autism. It's also about advocating for myself and my family. It means saying no to the requests that don't move me in the right direction. It means saying yes to those that do when I can make the time. It means considering the whole picture - my family, my work, me, my goals, our goals.

I'm a strong supporter of Ottawa businesswomen in addition to the occasional work I do for autism charities. I love these things and I want to always contribute to them, but my level of commitment will vary over time as my focus changes. This is part of advocating for me and my family and maintaining balance in the work I do for the causes I'm passionate about.

Choosing these words got me excited about 2017 and the possibilities that exist. One of my favorite quotes for the New Year is this from Brad Paisley:

We're down to 361 pages now, but it's never too late to jump in.