Anger Management


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I woke up today with this in my head

Seriously, I wasn’t even out of bed.

I was feeling just a bit strained,

Maybe it was because it rained?

I don’t know,

Perhaps it’s just due to VanGogh.

I swear to God this arrived, complete, into my consciousness the minute I opened my eyes this morning.  Before I went to sleep last night I was looking for images for my blog header. I wanted to use VanGogh’s “The Potato Eaters” (Shout out to PeachyTeachy). Also, it was raining. And I had worked a double with Princess Persnickety (see: https://javaj240.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/princess-persnickity/ ). And I was tired. Bone tired. I am seriously getting too old for this shit!

After reading my post about my daily header art feature, a loyal follower (that kinda makes me sound like a rock star or an evangelist—- I’ll never be either, thank God!) suggested that I post some “potato” art. I think that she was jokingly referring to Mr. Potatohead type of stuff. Which is fine. There’s certainly a place for that. Although, it’s fleeting. Potatoes rot, after all. Given the short shelf life of a left-out potato, those working in such a medium would be required to photograph their work. Which begs the question, what is the art? The original “dressed up like a pig” potato or the photograph of the “dressed up like a pig” potato? Food for thought, followers, food for thought (or just food, if you’re hungry and the potato hasn’t gone off too badly, undress it, slice it up, and make yourself some home fries or something).

Not wanting to step on any toes and with an understanding of my limitations, I’ve decided to leave the burning philosophical “What is Art?” question to the professionals. That’s why they give out MFAs.

Anyway, when the potato idea was suggested, I immediately thought of VanGogh’s “The Potato Eaters”, which is a painting that has always struck me as very un-VanGoghish. It’s a departure from the more colorful landscapes and portraits that we normally associate with VanGogh. Turns out it was one of his first paintings. He painted “Wheat Field” (see above) five years later (in 1890), just 19 days before he shot himself in the chest, after a long bout with depression, or syphillis, or absinthe addiction, or whatever. The point is that the differences between these two works are just striking, aren’t they?

In an effort to streamline my morning header changing and because I am technologically-challenged I figured I would go ahead and search for the art last night. Which I did. And it’s posted. So there.

Anyone who has ever read my blog knows that I can get annoyed by lots and lots of things, most of them out of my control. What you don’t know is that there was a time when I would react to every little annoyance. My personality was permanently set to “hothead”. As you can imagine, I was a joy to be around.

After my daughter was born I found that I no longer could operate at that level anymore. And I was just too tired. And I stopped caring about everyone else because I had this little creature about whom I cared too much!

Slowly, as my daughter got older and I had less to do on a day-to-day basis to insure her survival, I could see the return of the hothead. So, I decided to make a serious effort not to be that person again. I haven’t been 100% successful, but for the most part I have managed to remain on a relatively even keel. How have I done this? I’ve learned to customize how I respond when I’m angry. For some people I employ the stinging retort. Others require the calm, “that really hurt my feelings” thing (this must be used sparingly and only with people who will actually give a rat’s ass that they hurt your feelings; reserve this for very, very close friends. Warning: the temptation to use this information against you in the future may be irresistible). By far my favorite is complete indifference. This is not the silent treatment; the silent treatment is juvenile, annoying and designed to get the person who is being given the silent treatment to ask “what’s wrong?” (my husband could teach a master class on this method).  Being completely indifferent is akin to being impervious to arrows. There is no need for the symbolic or the actual shield because you just don’t care. Once you recognize that the person you are annoyed with is someone that you would probably think twice about saving from drowning (you know, it might depend on the water temperature, the tide, whether or not you had just eaten, etc.) then, trust me, complete indifference is the best approach.

It’s important to note that you have to actually feel the indifference, otherwise it’s just the silent treatment. As I get older I find that I tolerate people more and more; like them less and less. So, this system is a pretty effective one for me . Quite possibly the best part of complete indifference, the “bonus” Twinkie, as it were, is that eventually the person on the receiving end realizes I’m doing it (some are quicker than others) but… wait for it… they are powerless to stop it.  What can they do? Beg me to talk to them? Thus far none of them ever have. But it kills them! Kills them! I literally witnessed the moment that PP realized what I was doing. I saw him looking askance at me, wondering how to deal with this unexpected turn of events; he really had no idea how to combat my behavior. Oh yeah, his wheels were turning because it wasn’t like we had some kind of knock-down, drag-out that precipitated my behavior. There was nothing specific. I just cannot listen to him anymore. Because he never shuts up. Ever. The whole shift is a running dialogue on how wonderful he is (and, by comparison, how incompetent the rest of us are).

I understand that my behavior may be characterized by some as “passive-aggressive”. And it is. It absolutely is. But trust me, no one wants to see “aggressive”! Especially me. Not only is it not pretty, it’s actually pretty scary. And this guy is definitely NOT worth losing my job over. So. I will continue with my master plan to drive him crazy. With unfeigned indifferencene.

The evolution of  Van Gogh’s technique is apparent. The evolution of my anger management techniques may only be noticeable to me and those who “knew me when”.  VanGogh may have had some chemical help which altered his brain.  Who knows? Maybe I did, too. Maybe it’s hormonal. Maybe it’s that our brains, given time, do reconfigure naturally. But I’ll leave those burning questions up to Neuroscience. As for me, I cannot wait to go to work tonight. Tee-hee! Tee-hee!

Incidentally, just in case I have made any of you nervous with the poetry (and I use the term loosely), I promise it will not be a regular feature!

10 thoughts on “Anger Management

  1. javaj240 says:

    I will access that post. I, too, love potatoes!

    Tolerance is an art in and of itself, straddling that fine line between acting interested and encouraging people requires a certain amount of craftiness. LOL.

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  2. peachyteachy says:

    I kind of wish there was a “tolerate” button. Just for life.
    Van Gogh was a huge influence on me as a teenager. Nothing more dramatic than idolizing an extreme, suicidal painter who never sold one in his life. We won’t go into my “type’ of guy.
    My post “The Sanctity of the Spud” provides a bit of insight into my affinity for the potato. Same period of life as my Van Gogh obsession.

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  3. javaj240 says:

    Maiming is out, too, right? Just to be clear.

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  4. When we get older we can learn the difference between “like” and “tolerate.” Now, when I am around people I have to tolerate, which is constantly, I just understand that the situation dictates that I don’t kill them…but just get through it and move onto the next one. I could “give it to them” everytime I see them, but that isn’t productive and ultimately just the opposite.

    Hang in there!

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  5. I shut down when I’m hurt or angry and I think I’ve always been this way. I shut myself off from everyone around me and this could possibly be construed as “the silent treatment” or as I choose to see it, self preservation. It’s much easier for me to sit with my iPad and express myself through words, which I’ve always done as well.
    I had a friend tell me that my actions are hurtful. When I close the door on them, they feel as though they’re unworthy of my time when I make up excuse after excuse not be around them.
    I’ll never let anyone in. Never.
    p.s. I saw van goghs sunflowers in a museum a few years ago. I was in awe and to me, that defines art. Whether it’s a masterpiece hanging on a wall, a photo of your children, or a picture drawn by your grandson, art.

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    • javaj240 says:

      I think we all struggle with anger. I don’t care if you’re the most easygoing person in the world, which I am not. What I’ve discovered is that expressing it to people who can’t be trusted just gives them the upper hand. So, I’ve stopped doing that. I’ve stopped letting them get a rise out of me.

      My husband and daughter are “silent treatment” types. I’ve learned to live with it. They are important enough to me for me to communicate my real feelings with them. I am patient enough with them to give them the time they need to process their anger. The “silent treatment” is “feigned” indifference; complete indifference is not “unfeigned” indifference. It’s an important distinction.

      In terms of folks being “hurt” by your process, well, that’s kind of on them, as well. I have certainly asked my husband and my kid when they might knock a brick out of the wall so that we can try to communicate. Usually, it’s not long after that that they seem to come around.

      I have a friend that says “the opposite of love is not hate”, the implication being that hate requires energy/time/thought, “the opposite of love is indifference”. And I think she’s right. It took me a long time to come around to her way of thinking, pigheaded Irishwoman that I am!

      For me, the blogging has been very helpful, LOL! For you, too, I gather. I cannot believe it took me so long to get here!

      I, too, love “Sunflowers”. One of the most striking things about seeing it “for real” is its size. I never imagined it would be so small, did you?

      A few years ago my daughter’s class went to The Met on a class trip (she was in 7th grade, I think) and when she came home the first thing she said was, “Mom, do you know how small ‘Sunflowers’ is?” I remember laughing and thinking that maybe she is more like me than either of us care to admit, LOL.

      I love The Met. One of my favorite things about it is that you can kind of just wander around and stumble upon all kinds of things (sometimes in unusual and unlikely places); it’s like a maze, except that there are no monsters awaiting you, just more things to be astounded by. When I was younger I would go there by myself and roam around for hours. I miss having that kind of time.

      This may sound weird, but I think that one of the reasons I did not pursue an M.F.A. in Art History is because I thought that knowing “too much” would take the mystery out of the art and would steal some of it’s beauty in the process. I’m weird. I know.

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