Tag Archives: anger

The best (according to me) tweets I have twitted over the course of the previous week or so, as a momentary stay against the essential evanescence of twitter.

The best (according to me) tweets I have twitted over the course of the previous week or so, as a momentary stay against the essential evanescence of twitter.

I sin sometimes, but I’m not really a sinner.

deadly-sins-gluttony

It’s true that I eat a lot — but eating a lot is not who I am. I don’t really consider food that important, honestly. My therapist says I have an oral fixation, so it’s not like I’m just eating for gratification. Anyway, I know spiritual things matter way more than food, and I’m prety good about spiritual things.

deadly-sins-pride

It’s true that I can be brash, but it’s not out of real pride. It’s just because I spent my whole childhood being such a people-pleaser, always sacrificing my own needs for the needs of people around me. So now I make up for that by asserting myself. It’s good to assert yourself, stand up for yourself! If other people did that more often, they wouldn’t be so sensitive.

deadly-sins-envy

It’s true that I think a lot about how good my friends have it, but that’s more like a condition than a sin. Believe me, thinking that way causes me a lot of pain, and if it causes me pain, it can’t be a sin, right? I wish I weren’t so envious. If I just had some of the advantages that my friends did, I wouldn’t have to be envious. I guess I’m just unlucky.

deadly-sins-sloth

It’s true that I can be lazy, but I do need time for myself, down time, me-time, time to recharge. I’m an introvert, after all, so being around other people is really draining for me. If I were an extrovert, I would give a lot more of my time to other people. It’s a lot easier for extroverts! Most people are probably extroverts, so they don’t have to try as hard as I do.

deadly-sins-greed

It’s true that I usually take the best things for myself, but the way I grew up, I thought that to be holy, you had to never enjoy anything. So neurotic! It’s no wonder I overcompensate a bit now. At least I really know how to enjoy the best things. I think getting the best things matters more to me than to most people, so it’s pretty understandable.

deadly-sins-anger

It’s true that I get angry a lot, but only when something really unjust happens. I’m not like those people who fly off the handle whenever something doesn’t go their way. Or anyway, I only do that if I’m short on sleep, or hungry: I’m not an angry person. I know I got angry at my waitress, but when it really matters, I can be very forgiving. I bet if somebody ever stole a bunch of money from me, I’d forgive them.

deadly-sins-lust

It’s true that I think about sex a lot, but honestly, isn’t it really that I’m just starving for connection, for intimacy? I’m not one of those people who just wants sex. Honestly, it’s not even really about sex. It’s not about the pleasure, anyway. I can do without pleasure. I just need somebody to look after me, to care about me, to make me feel important. Everybody needs that.

To be honest, I only sin — if you can even call it that! — when I have legitimate needs.

My dear friend A. recently revealed to me that she’s bisexual, or whatever you want to call it — I’m no more comfortable with that term than I am with the term “gay,” but you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure female homosexuality is a whole different beast from the male variety, but some of the stuff is just Human Stuff.

Anyway, A. said I should feel free to publish some of our exchanges here. I didn’t even ask her, she just suggested it. Ain’t that generous? Even in the middle of all the hurt and confusion she’s passing through, she wants to help everybody she can. What a lady.

(Of course, if you feel like letting me publish your exchanges with me, let me know; otherwise I consider them strictly off limits.)

Here’s a bit from a recent email, with A.’s bits as block quotes.

You said another crush ended when you became close with the person, and had to deal with jealousy more rarely. That is why I’m writing again. I have had that kind of crush on my roommate […] since I was a freshman.

Oh, that’s really hard, and it’s a long time! I don’t mean it’s unusual that it should last that long; unfortunately, when we have these kinds of relationships where we are actually close to the person and not just wishing we were, this can last quite a long time. I dunno if I will ever not have a little bit of a crush on […], but it does seem to lessen with every year that I know him, probably because my “crushed identity” (I like the way you put it) has been growing bit by bit during that time.

As long as it leans toward idealization, it’s miserable but not as bad as it could be—because lately I think my crushed identity is trying to grow back a little, and it wants to achieve that with anger. Anger is so unacceptable, and so hard to control. She hasn’t done a thing to deserve it, and she always notices it. So then I turn it inward, and just get angry at myself — not a good option either.

Huh. Hm. Yes, I think I understand. You want to assert yourself, to show her that you’re not just some kind of imperfect copy of her but are your own self — but all she’s done to provoke this is to be her own self. Anger is really hard. I definitely get like this sometimes around one of my friends, and I think this is a helpful insight that you have. I guess the question is what would be a healthy way to focus that anger.

Recently we almost had a fight for the first time (this girl is one of my best friends.) She had talked to me less, being depressed herself. I reacted with hurt, and then with desperation, and then smothered her with attention and increasingly desperate and clumsy attempts to make her smile, which she (probably rightly) interpreted as anger, and stayed away from me. Eventually I did the grown-up thing and told her that I idealize her, etc, and she took it very well, told me there was no reason to be insecure, etc, and we are fine again.

Oh, well, good for you! I do recognize this situation, and you handled it considerably better than I did at your age.

But I don’t want it to happen again, and every day it’s close to spiraling out of control.

Is it possible to limit your contact with her for a while? I find that, with certain friends of mine, if I am making a point to see them all the time and going out of my way to talk to them, and things like that, these flare-ups take longer to die down. I don’t mean you actually have to avoid the person — and of course, since she’s your roommate, that would be impossible — I just mean making a positive effort to focus on the other people in your life for a while. If you do that, you could consider telling […] that that’s what you’re going to try to do, so she won’t think you’re mad at her — if you think that conversation would be okay to have. On the other hand, if that conversation sounds like a weird idea, then it probably is.

I know the feeling of not-wanting-it-to-happen-again. The truth is that it very well might happen again, but will probably be not as bad next time, because you will recognize it earlier and deal with it better. I say this because I find that thinking to myself “THIS MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN” puts me under a lot of stress and can make things worse — whereas saying, “Okay, this could happen again, but I’ll keep a watch on myself if I’m in a situation where it’s likely, and it probably won’t be as bad this time” can help me keep calm.

Anyway, help! I need to learn to separate my own identity from […]’s, I need to learn to let her alone a little bit, and not be so paranoid about her attentions, ultimately, not to care so much about what she thinks of me. It’s exhausting! And I need to keep anger out of the mix entirely.

Last part first — “keeping anger out of the mix entirely” is kind of the same thing as saying “this must never happen again”. If you think about it that way, it’ll be easier to freak out when you start to feel anger, because you’ll go “Oh no, HERE IT IS AGAIN!” So, I don’t think you can keep anger out entirely, or at least not right away. You can get better at recognizing what triggers the anger, and where it comes from, and who or what exactly you’re angry at, and that’ll help to diffuse the anger a lot.

About separating your own identity from […]’s — yeah, I understand what you mean. I think Other People can be the most helpful for this. In my life I have obsessions that come and go, but then I also have friends who are old standbys, who make me feel comfortable and at peace. Those friendships are easy to take for granted sometimes, because the obsessive friendships are more exciting and dramatic. But I find that when I spend time with those people, it re-centers me and reminds me, “Oh, I actually am somebody, with characteristics, and a way of speaking, and things that I like — all these things that have no reference at all to [the person I’m obsessed with].” That’s really, really helpful, and sometimes you need to make a positive effort to spend time with those people even when you aren’t really excited about doing so.

Is this the same exact problem I wrote to you about before? I forget. It seems new.

I forget too. And I forget whether I’m saying the exact same things. I don’t think it matters, either way. Occasionally I’ll have some fantabulous epiphany, and then find in my journal that I had the same exact epiphany six years ago. Oops. What most people need is to realize the same things over and over, until they really sink in.

Love and prayers,
Steve

“Oh, stop crying already.” It’s twenty years ago, but I remember the exact tone of my father’s voice, equal parts impatience and disgust. To me, crying is something that happens, not something I can decide to do or not do, so his command makes me burn with all the anger of which a nine-year-old is capable, which is a frightening amount. But there’s nobody I can tell about any of this.

It’s eighteen years ago. I am auditioning for a play that our church group is putting on. The woman in charge has me read a line or two in front of everyone. I’m profoundly self-conscious, but I do it anyway. She takes me aside later and asks if I’m okay. Even though she’s someone I know and like and trust, I can’t say something as simple as That was really hard for me, because as soon as I open my mouth, I feel the danger of tears — not just a trickle but an explosion. So I say, Yeah, it’s nothing.

When she goes away, I wonder for the first time: why is it that whenever I try to tell someone what’s wrong, the tears dam up in my head until it’s a choice between silence and total breakdown — even when it’s something small? What’s wrong with me?

It’s thirteen years ago, my first year of college. I’m standing alone in my dorm room and facing for the hundredth time the feeling of separateness: I don’t fit in here, don’t fit in anywhere, and it’s somehow all my fault. By now I should have learned the rules, but it’s too late to start.

I start to cry, and then, disgusted and impatient, I yell at myself: Stop it. Stop crying. I slap myself in the face two or three times, because sometimes that helps me stop. Soon I stop.

It’s nine years ago, my last year of college. I’m in Sal’s room, confessing to him how alone I am, how separate, what a fake and a poser and a general failure at being anything that anyone would recognize as a human being.

I hate the way my voice is starting to shake, I hate that the tears are coming. I must sound so pathetic. I can’t stand for him to watch me anymore, so I get up and run out. I catch a glimpse of his face, but I can’t look for too long. Nobody should see this.

It’s five years ago. I’ve gotten together the necessary money and resolve, and I find myself at a campground in rural Virginia, participating in the 27th Journey Into Manhood weekend — still in disbelief that I’ve subjected myself to such manifest kookery, still wildly expectant, still wondering how I’m going to explain this one to my friends.

I watch other men scream and howl, weep and claw at the ground, come face to face with the things they never let themselves feel before. When it’s my turn, I do it too.

The weekend is over, and I feel as empty and fresh as a new wineskin. For the next few weeks I keep bursting into tears at unpredictable moments. I don’t mind. It feels good to cry; it feels clean.

It’s nine months ago. I am on the porch, spilling my guts to my roommate S.: how living here with him and C. was supposed to was supposed to be my chance to finally be normal, and how it all went wrong instead. How I’ve got to move out because I can’t control my fears, my feelings of exclusion, my jealousy. I apologize for my tears, which are flowing freely now.

He looks at me and says, Hey, come on. It’s me.

So I blow my nose and we keep talking. Soon I’m feeling at peace, like the reservoir is drained, no more pressure left behind the dam. He gives me a hug and, because by this time it’s past two, I let the poor bastard get some sleep.

It’s three days ago. I am sitting around the kitchen table with two good friends. We’re drinking cheap beer and leftover wine. We all have to get up in the morning, but nobody feels like leaving.

It’s hard to believe how easy it is to talk with them, how much we have in common, even if the specifics differ. I tell them how it used to be for me; how it still is for so many men I know; how I would have once given anything for a night like this; how grateful I still am that such nights are not only possible now, but practically commonplace.

At one point I notice that I’m crying, but that’s okay — that is what people do when they are very happy or very sad.

Next moment we are all laughing again.

To my relief, I wake up too late for Mass this morning. More sleep means less surliness, and less effort spent ignoring my resentment at the priest who sings off-key and the parishioners who ad-lib the responses to make them just a little bit more feminist.

I’m trailing a cloud of melancholy from bad dreams: something to do with wounds, accusations, betrayal of trust. I know from long experience that the daily routine washes these things away. This was my salvation as a teacher: no matter how dark things were in the morning, five minutes into Algebra II and I’d forget whatever was gnawing at me, buoyed up by the energy flowing between me and my students, buoyed up also by the chapel that adjoined my morning classroom.

Some years ago, on New Year’s Day in Father T.’s private chapel, I asked the Lord how I could make things different this year, how I could keep from going round in endless circles, steer clear of the trap of quiet desperation that had always terrified me.

He told me to give him half an hour a day, which I have been doing — more or less — ever since.

At first that meant silent prayer, sitting in the dark in my bedroom at home, in an easy chair no less, trying to keep my mind clear and see where the Lord would take me: which resulted variously in tears, boredom, anger, joy, astonishment, emptiness, or just a solid half hour of trying not to think about sex too much.

Sometimes I’d spend the half hour before the Blessed Sacrament; one of my first tasks, whenever I’ve moved to a new town, has been to find an Adoration chapel.

I’ve made adjustments to our contract (covenant?) since then, but kept the basics. Silent prayer can be traded for daily Mass; and either, if I’m not feeling up to meeting the Lord’s gaze quite so directly, can be traded for spiritual reading, journaling — even sometimes blogging.

Missing Mass this morning meant making up for it this evening. I procrastinate a bit, pay some bills, and retire to my Writing Cave in the attic. I take out my Bible, my Josef Pieper, my journal.

My goodness, it’s the last page. I look at the first one: how old is this journal? How far have I come? The first entry is dated June 26, 2011. It’s too maudlin to reproduce here, but it’s full of a quiet complaint: I am lonely; I have been lonely so long; when will I stop being lonely? Are others so lonely? Is there something wrong with me, that I’m so lonely? Is there anything ahead but more loneliness?

I’m astonished to find that things are not like that now. I write in my journal a record of gratitude, looking around my mental landscape to see how many people I love, how many love me: Thank you, Lord, for J and B and A and B and M and J and C and N; Thank you for Father T; Thank you for my family.

Now my question is different. Do others have so many to love, so many who love them? Why have I been given so much? Why doesn’t everyone have a Father T, someone to call at any hour? Why doesn’t everyone have friends around them who surprise them with more welcome and understanding than they can believe?

I don’t understand my own heart. In the midst of gratitude I still feel the ache of the old grudge: if I’m done for the moment being angry at Him for seeming to abandon me, now I complain that He gives me too much, and not enough to the so-many others who need help so badly.

O Lord our God, says the antiphon from Monday’s Compline, Unwearied is your love for us.

It’s a good thing, too.

[The first of a proposed series.]

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.1

I was sixteen the first time I told anybody. I went to confession to Fr. T, who’s known our family for years. I don’t think I went in there planning to spill the beans, but it came out anyway: I’m gay. He said, Do you want to talk about it?

So we did, once every week or so over the next I-don’t-know-how-many years. I learned so much. I learned how angry I was, for one thing: so angry that I had no idea I was angry, like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet. Angry at God, at my father, at myself. I learned how hurt I was, too. Same deal there. Fr. T would ask me how I felt about something and I’d respond with some elaborate logical answer — not what he was asking. I think I still remember the first time I was able to say: fucking awful. It felt good to say.

Talking to Fr. T helped me learn that I could talk to other people, too. In college I learned to let down my guard a little bit, and opened up to a roommate about feeling lonely. I opened up to a couple of friends about my SSA, and then to my older brother. Eventually I was able to open up to the rest of my family.

The more you open up, the easier it is. The more times you experience the compassion and love of friends and family, the more possible it becomes to believe that there’s nothing inside you so shameful that someone won’t understand. Eventually you stop thinking about it as shameful at all.

You start to see yourself as your friends see you, and as God sees you: wounded and struggling, yes, but always beautiful, always worthwhile.

1 William Blake. The Poison Tree.