Thursday, February 17, 2011

You Are Not Alone in This: Overcoming Anger and Frustration

If you had known me when I was in college and witnessed me being angry, you might have feared me or my anger. I was, not merely a yeller, but a thrower, too. Push me too far and I would pick up the first thing I could wrap my hands around and hurl it at your head. Just ask the trashiest girl from my college class whom I found hanging out in my boyfriend's dorm room one afternoon. Or my friend J.'s boyfriend who provoked me to throw my shoe at his head because he thought it would be funny to hold me upside down over a stairwell.

Don't worry. Anger gives you bad aim and the sane can duck really well, apparently. I don't remember ever making contact with anyone's head.

Over the years, I've learned to control my anger. I breathe. I think about the consequences of how I express my anger. Sometimes I stifle. I still get mad about stuff most people would let roll of their backs.

I hate noise. I hate being disrespected or ignored. I hate it when people act superior. I get mad and I rant and I yell.

I'm not proud of any of this and I've worked really hard to change, but I fell the need to continue growing in this area. I'm pretty much to the point where I only yell when I feel like one of the boys isn't listening or doing as they are told. Which is pretty much every day.

Obviously, this technique isn't working. In the last few weeks, I have found myself pausing when I feel the rush and swell of emotion rising up from my gut to my chest, the muscles in my arms and hands clenching. I pause and I ask myself if the situation really warrants that level of anger. Then, I take a breath and move forward trying to correct the situation without yelling. Sometimes I find myself talking through clenched teeth, especially when trying to get homework done each day with a child who would rather be doing anything other than homework, but for the most part I am acting rationally. Still, at this point, it's an effort, not my natural reaction. But, it's forward progress and a long way from the days I would get so angry I ended up in tears.

In thinking about how to change some of my behaviors, I found this post by Shannon at The Discipline Project. I like her simple approach, but fear it won't be that effective on me. Sadly, I don't usually hesitate to yell at my kids in front of other parents. I am who I am. I could pretend my mother-in-law was here, though. That might actually work. I do think it's the kind of idea that is profound in its simplicity and might actually work. A twist on it for me is to think about what God would say to me about my behavior and if I could proudly stand before God after yelling at my kids.

Whatever works. I am thankful to Shannon for the inspiration. It's always good to know there are others walking the path with you, reaching out a hand of hope and that you can in turn do the same one day. And as I remind myself every morning... Today is a new day and new opportunity to be the woman I want to be.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

There I was, in the middle of my first Zumba class, surrounded mostly by strangers as I tripped over my own feet, trying to figure out what "one-two-double-double" meant. I watched the woman next to me, trying to figure it out since I couldn't see the instructor for the 6'3", middle-aged African-American man between me and her. He had some nice moves, but I don't trust men in exercise classes to follow along correctly. I don't know why, but I don't. Sue me.

Soon, I was too distracted by what a good dancer the woman beside me was to follow her footwork. She was too fast. And her booty shakin'... Well, let's just say there's a stripper-pole somewhere out there waiting for her talents. She was so good, that after just one song our instructor singled her out and asked her to come up to the front.  I never would have suspected it. I know her. She's just another member of the PTA at my son's school. A mom, just like me.

I gave up on her and started looking around. Eventually I maneuvered myself into a position so that I could actually see the instructor. She was good. Clearly, a professional dancer with all the grace and mad-dancing  skills of a Solid Gold dancer, but in workout instructor form. I tried to follow her, counting in my head, "one-two-three-four," and things were going pretty well and then she switched moves, just when I was getting the hang of it, and... Boom! There goes the dynamite. There I go crashing into the very tall lady next to me, moving right as she came left. 


We both laughed and I resisted the strong urge to beat myself up for being an uncoordinated dolt. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and just let my body feel the rhythm of the music for a moment. I looked up, found the instructor, and dove back in, doing my best to follow along and moving continuously, even if I didn't know how to move my feet exactly like hers. I just let the music get inside my body and let myself have fun with no worries of how stupid I looked or that I wasn't as good of a dancer as the other men and women in the class. I cha-cha-cha'd to fast-moving Latin grooves and shook my money-maker to T-Pain and the Black Eyed Peas. And it felt good. 

At the end of the class I felt good. I felt like I had a great workout. And I felt happy in a way I never could have 20 years ago when I would have left the class, tears of embarrassment burning behind my eyes, the first time I took a misstep. I would have been too wrapped up in what everyone else was thinking of me to let myself go and enjoy myself.

This was really a revelation to me and it got me thinking... I'd love to hear your thoughts:

Are there things you want to do but don't because you worry about how it will make you look or what others will think?

Have your inhibitions or self-restrictions lessened or increased with age?

If you loved yourself enough to do anything you wanted without regard to what others might think, what would you do?