Thursday, August 16, 2012

Give me anger or give me death

What's that old saying? "Never go to bed angry," or something like that.

With a strict interpretation, we could say that we should literally never fall asleep feeling animosity, whether it be towards a person, place, thing, animal, vegetable, mineral, etc. etc., and so on and so forth. Just don't go to bed angry. If that was what I was addressing here, then we'd be done by now. I could let you go to bed instead of forcing you to sit there with your eyes only blinking half as much as they should while you power through another one of these blogs talking about feelings and all that stuff you never want to think about because sometimes it just hurts too much, or sometimes it's annoying. (You probably blinked 1/8 as much as you should because that was such an awful run-on sentence.)

But I'm here for those mushy pseudo-intellectual tirades on emotions. It's the kind of stuff that helps me deal with relapses, like the one I'm experiencing right now. I won't be telling you about that, but I will be telling you about some other stuff that's happened to me in the not-so-recent past...just for clarity's sake.

So for the purpose of this tirade, the interpretation of the aforementioned saying/cliché will not be to literally "not go to bed feeling angry," but to "not (figuratively) put something to bed ('rest' might actually be a better term) with anger." Is this an argument worth agreeing with? Yea or nay?

I used to always think life was made easier by leaving a situation in anger. Instead of confronting the problem (and myself) with calmness and openness, I thought it would be easier to plug my ears and scream "la la la" at the top of my lungs. The problem is that this is how a toddler deals with things, not a grown-up.

Sometimes I am very happily a toddler, though. I get along pretty well with my year-old niece. I watch Nick Junior more than most children a quarter of my age. I can be silly and ridiculous, and for those who know me well this is the norm.

But the single most stupid way of infantilizing oneself is when maturity is necessary. And a lot of the times "putting something to bed" is the time in which maturity is absolutely indispensible.

We could look at this problem on a small scale. Take the end of a television series. Not just the last episode, mind you, but the winding down of a franchise. Like Gilmore Girls, or to be even more palatable to a modern audience, The Office.

These were shows with strong fan bases. They went on for many many seasons, maintaining a steady viewership and carving out a niche audience for their respective networks. But within the last few years of their runs (if we're going to assume The Office will be ending relatively soon), public opinion became exceedingly negative.

Instead of embracing the characters and stories we've come to expect from these shows, we pick at their final seasons as if they're old friends who have somehow wronged us by unexpectedly changing after years of sameness, in the process becoming new enemies.

It makes letting go that much easier. If you hate something, you have no reason to mourn it. If necessary, it becomes possible to repress years of happiness simply to accept the prospect of letting go.

We could apply this to so many different things. To the loss of a loved one. To moving house. To graduating from college. The defense mechanism of anger is present in many of our decisions - what differs is how we project it.

The worst effort in this regard comes when you've just been rejected - in absolutely any form. I can see this in myself a few years ago when I received my first few rejection letters which came from, of all places, the public University of California schools at which I believed I was a shoe-in applicant.

In the depths of woe, it's a psychologically protective tactic to pursue the upperhand against whomever wronged you. Those schools are ranked lower than where I'm actually going to school, I'd say to myself after my collegiate rejection. Or That girl who did get into those schools was really dumb; the school's reputation is going downhill was another popular one.

Things become even worse when we feel we've been personally attacked. Being rejected from a college is different from being rejected by a person. We want nothing more than to feel searing anger at them, because that is the only way to avoid feeling the emptiness of losing them.

In the short term, these kinds of fixes feel like enough. You can alienate someone to the point of feeling no concern as to whether they live or die, and for a few hours, days, weeks, maybe even months, that's enough. What else is necessary but to pretend the person doesn't matter?

Here's where the saying comes into play.

Though on so many occasions I've chosen to force myself into a feeling of hatred as a replacement for feelings of longing, I've made relapses back and forth between stages, hurting myself more than whom/whatever is the object of my bipolarity.

Other than finding something new to long for, I've never been able to find a fix. It's like that quote from High Fidelity where Rob laments over being either "unhappy" or "ecstatically, head-over-heels happy," but never finding a place in between that's comfortable. For those who haven't read the book (probably most everyone), here's the full quote:

"It seems to me that if you place music (and books, probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the center of your being, then you can't afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. You've got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you're compelled to start all over again. Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship."
For Rob, the solution was to discover that the balance between unhappiness and ecstatic happiness was to be happy enough to stay put in a relationship - to prove he could be honest, true and stalwart.

That's not my answer. I only wish it were that easy. Because I'm rarely the one to let go of something. My curse is that I'm the one being run away from. The one being happily let go of.

Sometimes I just default to going to bed angry. And it goes against my better judgment. But what other choice do I have?

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