don’t get mad

i’m looking after my neighbour’s dog for the next four days and was given instructions on how to look after the dog yesterday. a cup of dog food in the morning, a cup at night. let him roam during the day and put him in the house at night if he wants in, or leave him outside if he prefers. pretty straightforward.

but today, another neighbour came over to ask if i was looking after the first neighbour’s dog. i said yup. this second neighbour said he could feed the dog tonight because it always gets fed at 5:30 pm. i thought, that’s weird. the dog’s owner didn’t mention a specific time. then this neighbour asked if i was going to lock the dog on the deck at night. i said i had been told to put him in at night if he wants, or leave him out. the non-owner said it was important to lock the dog on the deck so he didn’t wander at night. again, i thought, this is really odd. why is another neighbour, who does not own this dog, telling me how to look after it, and why is he telling me something different from what the owner said? then he told me that he would basically keep the dog with him at his place during the day.

i rolled with it though since he seemed eager — anxious, even — to look after the dog, and i was in a rush to leave for work. but almost as soon as he left, i began dwelling on the interaction. i didn’t like it at all. the dog’s owner asked me to look after the dog, not the nosy second neighbour, and i spent 15 minutes with him yesterday so he could show me how to do the job. why should i now do something differently because of a weird busy body?

on the drive to work, i felt myself getting really hot under the collar. i have this second neighbour’s phone number and thought i should call him as soon as i get to work and tell him to butt out. i started getting butterflies in my stomach, i was so pissed and looking forward to letting him have it.

and i thought, why does it feel so good to let yourself get angry?

to which i replied, it doesn’t feel good to let yourself get angry. it actually feels lousy. it’s just that it’s much easier than calming yourself and dealing with the stressor in a smarter, more productive way. the ease of letting yourself blow up is very seductive but i learned a long time ago that i feel better when i take some deep breaths, put the problem out of my mind for a bit, calm down, and come back to it later with a better attitude.

i will still probably have a conversation with this jackass neighbour and say basically the same things, but i will say them in a calmer, more controlled manner which will allow me to retain control of both myself and the overall interaction. that’s definitely not as seductive as letting myself fly off the handle and stick my finger in this guy’s chest while i tell him what’s what, but it will make me happier in the long run. and i feel good about striving to be a better person…

2a65fd6d67c8c65e7664c8a0c87a686c-yoga-man-yoga-for-men

…but i LOVE achieving the upper hand in social situations through careful self-awareness and self-control. that is the goal that seduces me.

images.duckduckgo.com

 

Advertisements

reacting to accidents with rage instead of concern

a while ago, i witnessed a minor car accident at a gas station. woman #1 was in an SUV parked at a pump. woman #2 was in a new-ish but beat up car that was backing in to the pump in front of the SUV, but wound up backing right into the SUV. woman #1 honked her horn at woman #2, who had her windows down and loudly responded, “fuck you!” and continued muttering other things i couldn’t make out. woman #1 got out of her SUV and approached the beat up car. she said to woman #2, whose windows were still down, “don’t tell me fuck you, you just backed into me. you just damaged my car.” despite her brazen tone before she was face to face with the owner of the SUV, woman #2 now refused to make eye contact and instead made herself busy rummaging about in her passenger seat while muttering things that seemed to further irritate woman #1. as i drove away, i could see that the scene continued on like this for a while, with woman #1 getting more and more angry at the insolence and lack of apology from woman #2. it was a depressing thing to witness.

it made me think about how people often react absurdly to bad things, like when my dad used to step on the cat’s tail in the kitchen. this happened frequently when i was a kid, and it always went like this:

    • dad accidentally stepped on the cat’s tail;
    • the cat howled in pain and ran away as fast as it could;
    • my dad stomped his feet and yelled, “well, don’t just sit there under my feet, for fuck’s sake!”

even as a kid, i thought that was a weird reaction. why was my dad freaking out? he wasn’t the tiny creature that just had an appendage crushed by a 220 lb pale, hairy ogre in his underwear. dad should have been concerned for the cat, sympathetic to it. even if he was annoyed by how frequently this dance occurred, he could have simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “i’m sorry but you should know better by now, even if you are just a dumb cat.”

i know i’m guilty of these kinds of reactions too, and that’s what i hate about it the most. when i see other people do it, i’m embarrassed for them but i’m also embarrassed for myself because i’m reminded that other people have surely seen me react to situations just as terribly. it’s a senseless, unattractive habit that lacks any grace whatsoever.

conversely, if woman #2 from my opening paragraph had got out of her car and approached woman #1, apologized for backing into her, and asked if woman #1 was alright, i would have thought, “that’s a strong, graceful person who is quick to admit their mistake, concerned for their fellow human, and wants to make the best out of that bad situation.”

and that’s the person i want to strive to become. i want kindness to be my default state so that no matter how awful or infuriating a situation may be, i can come out of it feeling good about the role i played in it.

now that i’ve written that, i just know one of my chickens is going to flap its wings in my face when i put them to bed tonight and really, really test me.