Monday, January 22, 2007

Uh, where was I?

Oh, that's right -- blogging. Sorry for the gap in posts. I was in Philadelphia last week for a few days getting a stress test done. I could make a joke here: something about how there were actually two stress tests, and only one of them involved medical personnel. That's because I had a fight with Stobex. That wouldn't be a fair or even very funny joke, though. Actually the fight was very useful, in an odd and, yes, narrow-end sort of way.

Gotta do the updates first, though. I have heard from the only law firm that has my resume; the head of the complex litigation department is still swamped from end-of-year administration and the backlog that resulted from a big trial he had last year. That's okay, I told him, I'm not in any particular rush. And it's true. I have enough on my plate now without a job to factor into the mix! I have 2.6 miles on the week, and 15 for the month/year. I also lost some weight; I weighed 6 pounds less at the cardiac imaging center than I had a month earlier at the doctor's. Don't bother with the happy dance, though -- who knows where their scales have been. A cautiously good sign, though, I reckon. I'm almost completely caught up on the Vanity Fairs, have kept up with the weeklies (EW, TV Guide, and SI) and am getting ever closer to the dreaded Jaws music that is . . . The New Yorker.

And the demon lurking around this week is the latest installment of my Dealing With Anger. (When I was in law school, Eric -- my best friend at the time -- and I used to identify annual themes. One year seemed to focus on Pieces of Work, for example, meaning those pesky people who really suck all the fun out of your life, and make you crazy in the process. I am beginning to suspect that this year's theme is going to be about anger...) The fight with Stobex was the catalyst for this week's anger safari.

The topic, issue, context, and framing of the fight itself are not important. The meta-issue seems to be how much I value people who are self-aware and making some forward progress in their lives, but even the meta-issue isn't all that interesting. (Still, here's the short form, if you care: Self-awareness is vital. I know that's not objectively right, but it is heavily weighted in my internal sense of worth, and I value it disproportionally in others. Someone else might value contribution or accomplishment, and I could hardly argue. For me -- well, let's just say that my motto is "The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living," and leave it at that. And if you're not self-aware, then I like to see a lot of progress. The people I know who neither move forward in their lives, nor have a clue what's going on and why, are difficult for me to love and support. I just want to shake them. And that would be objectively wrong!) No, what was interesting to me was my willingness to put some action into my reactions.

There were two key moments in the past few days when I actually did something about what I was angry about. In one, I walked away from someone I love because I recognized that I couldn't change what was happening. For a few hours afterward, my various ego-states checked in and voiced their opinions. Fear, shame, righteous anger, dismay. I really got the theme & variations. I think it was the first time I wasn't overwhelmed by any single emotion but was able to co-exist with them all. Uncomfortable, but revealing a nice sense of progress.

The second epiphany was last night. Someone said something that felt wrong to me. I didn't dwell on it, and actually didn't think about it consciously for the rest of the night. Strangely, though, I stayed up late which I mostly never do. It just seemed right last night. When I got up this morning, nothing out of the ordinary until I sat down to draft an e-mail regarding the statement that had so briefly concerned me and discovered I'd tapped into a real resevoir of "hell no!" Starman helped me reframe my approach (phone call rather than e-mail, basically) and in the end, I said what I needed to say. I kept my perspective; I could see my anger was turbo-charged by ancient events, but I also knew I wasn't wrong. And the recipient knew it too. The specific issue will probably get dealt with, but the big, bigger, biggest issue certainly got slayed: I'm not afraid of my own anger anymore.

Such a small moment in the hugeness of one life, but I think I'll hang this memory up next to the epiphany I had in a bagel shop in 1988 when I saw for the first time that people critiquing my performance at work actually wanted me to improve, so I didn't need to fear them. Self-awareness and forward progress may not win the Nobel Prize or earn me millions, but I'll take `em.

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