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Friday, May 27, 2011

Anger Management

It's not the anger, we tell they who must be told, that's problematic-- anger is, of course, a normal human emotion-- it's what you do about the anger you feel that can be problematic. Like, for instance, engaging in self-injurious behavior, i.e., placing your fist through some drywall or abruptly and forcefully introducing a loved one's head to an item from your toolbox. Maybe you're angry at your boss for some passive-aggressive slight or other and you stifle it all day or all week only to, on an otherwise languid Sunday afternoon, explode at your spouse, or your cat, or your window air-conditioning unit.

Poor, poor Emerson Quiet-Kool. We hardly knew ye.

This is probably going to come out sounding (unintentionally) funny, but I'm not particularly good at getting angry. Of course, you're reading that going, "What the fuck does that mean?" and I suppose I'd have to come right back at you and say, "I don't really know." I suppose I say that because I am under the impression that one ought to be "good" at getting angry, as if there is some sort of skill to it. And I think there probably is. Believe me, I know how to swear and rage when one of my vamp-teeth pierces my lower lip while eating a Granny Smith apple, and I certainly know how to unleash a stream of delightful epithets when a Toyota Camry stops in front of me, for no reason other than the fact that the driver is probably having a T.I.A.

So... I can do that. I'm not all that deficient.

But, when it really counts, when it gets emotional, well, that's sometimes where I run into a mite of trouble. Because, see, emotions-- um... I'm not particularly good at emotions either. I'm fine with talking about how I'm feeling, it's just that I launch so enthusiastically and skillfully into the talking that I rarely find that I get to the feeling. Maybe I'm flattering myself a bit here, but I think that I can sit with someone for, oh, I don't know, say 50 minutes, and pretend that I've just talked about my feelings the whole time when, really, truly, I haven't said anything.

I'm kind of awesome that way.

Oftentimes, when I get very angry, I get very quiet. Why? I guess it's because I feel like I need that time to sort through what I'm feeling, because, even if the emotion is one that should be relatively easy to pinpoint, most of the time, the road to arriving at that particular emotion is, well, foggy. And I don't use my foglights very often, so I need that time to find the switch on the stalk. Or is it a button on the dash?

See what I mean?

Maybe, I think, I sometimes trick myself into believing that I don't have a right to be angry. Or maybe it's that I'm scared of what other people will do or think if they see me get angry. Maybe I'm scared of what I'll do, or think, or say. My mouth is scary, and not just because my teeth are fucked up and English-looking. Scary things emanate from my mouth. My cakehole. My venom-pocket. It's a cruel place. It's supposed to help, and heal and, for roughly eight hours a day, it succeeds, to varying degrees, but I'm afraid of what happens when the time-clock swipes out.

I'm afraid.

And fear will keep you from doing lots of things, I suppose. It'll keep you from taking risks. It'll keep you from confronting realities about the world in which you live, and your job, and yourself. It will keep you from climbing rock walls, or at least it'll keep you from enjoying it. It'll even keep you from getting angry.

Yesterday afternoon, three big, angry black guys were this close from beating the shit out of my 67-year-old Israeli mechanic. They had pulled into his garage in a beat-up Pontiac Grand-Prix with two shredded front tires. My mechanic had the nerve to ask them where their spare was. They didn't have one.

"Driving without a spare is asking for trouble," the mechanic said.

"MOTHAFUCKA! JUST FIX THIS SHIT!" one of the men screamed.

A mouth-match ensued, and my approaching-elderly Sabra mechanic, who has shot Arab soldiers dead in the desert many years ago, was winning. But I knew, at any second, it could go the other way, and I was scared. I work in a place where simmering violence lies just below the surface, like a camouflaged snake ready to pounce. And here I had survived another day, only to probably be killed in the cross-fire in my mechanic's garage. Fortunately, the driver of the car exited the vehicle, got between the parties, and apologized to my mechanic for his friends, and reason had prevailed. Anger was, sort of, managed. The temperature outside was 92 degrees, but it had cooled down considerably in the garage, and, as I went into Soly's office to settle the bill for my new car battery, he remarked that he hadn't seen my wife in quite some time.

"I know-- that's what happens when people buy Hondas, you never see them anymore," I said. His gaze shifted from the credit card machine to meet my eye and he said, with a mischevious glint,

"Maybe I should get one for my wife!"

And we both laughed, more out of relief that we could than anything else.

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