Anger is a Splinter

When you think about emotions, what comes to mind? What does happy look like? Is it a group of friends laughing together? What does sadness look like? Is it raindrops running down a window? What does fear look like? Is it a dark room with a single door?

And what about anger? Is it more than the color red?

For me, anger is not an emotion in the traditional sense. It is a reflex in much the same way that someone may tap your knee, and it will respond with a kick. In simpler terms, you may notice that anger is first out of you when something bad happens, instead of an emotion like sadness, because you haven’t had time to rationalize or process your feelings yet. Once you have taken the time to think it through, you turn to another emotion to cater to your expressive needs.

On the other hand, sadness, happiness, and even fear are not reactive. They are the product of something, but only after you’ve had time to ruminate. Anger is somewhat pure in that it is not tainted by thought, and actually, it is so strong because it’s devoid of thought entirely.

But of course, anger is problematic as a result of its nature. You may find yourself lashing out because of not being able to form what it is that you want to convey, and so anger beats you literally and metaphorically to the punch.

This is why anger is like a splinter.

Splinters. You will notice when you get one…or at least you think it’s a splinter. It could be just a little bump of unusual pain in the middle of your hand. You don’t really know because you can’t see anything. All you know is that you are hurting and the sharp sting of the tweezers is not making it any better.

It’s the same thing with anger. You don’t really notice that anything has happened until you are crying and honking uncontrollably at the car that cut you off. You don’t really think that you are upset until you are eating your feelings and swaddling yourself into a snuggie. You don’t really know what’s come over you, but you would love to start a fight club right after your book club. Anger is also a generalized, unreachable pain.

Now the trick is to head off your anger. You have to identify the exact issue you are angry at, the exact position of the splinter. Because your pain and frustration radiates and poisons everything else if you don’t. It creates layers and layers and layers until you are shouting at a shadow when you should really be telling a loved one “I’m sorry.”

Simply remember that anger is a symptom like pain, and that it is does not represent the emotion that you are actually feeling. Rather, anger is a substitute, a filler, and until you can identify what you should be really feeling (frustration, grief, jealousy, confusion), you need to root around with your tweezers until you can find the right spot. Ask yourself: Okay, I know the barista getting my order wrong is not what I’m actually cheesed off about, but what is making me so upset? It may be momentarily painful for you, but it will save everyone around you their own anger.

And even more like splinters, remember that anger is pretty much unavoidable. It would be great if it never happened again, but since that is unlikely, it’s simply best if you kept a pair of emergency tweezers nearby. And of course, ask for help when you need it.

Standard

What I Learned from Hating Taylor Swift

That’s right. I consider myself one of the original Taylor Swift haters. I am sipping on that haterade when it comes to T Swift. I’m seeing red when it comes to “Red.” And before you jump down my throat and try to defend America’s sweetheart, I think you should listen to what I have to say. You might like it.

Well, first, let’s clear the air. I originally just disliked Taylor Swift’s music. Repetitive lyrics and annoying hooks just aren’t my cup of tea. But I could avoid it. I could change the channel on the radio station. I could coexist in a world who absolutely freakin’ adored her.

But then she started to show up on my television and in my social media. And she was making money off of being awkward and angry. (That’s me! I can be awkward and angry better than anyone! Why aren’t thousands of people following my Instagram account?) And don’t get me started about what she said about my girl Nicki Minaj recently. Let’s just say it wasn’t cool on any level.

But I have to admit, she has made it harder for me to hate her. I started to hear how much she appreciated her fans and how she would go out of her way to meet them. I thought that was more than great; I thought it was awesome. And then she came out with “Bad Blood,” and I became obsessed with my first Taylor Swift song. She’s a master of those anthems that you can sing along to in the car, speeding down the highway, with the windows down and your hair flying into your mouth.

At this point, I was completely confused. It felt like my reality was unravelling, and I was having an identity crisis. It was one of those things that I built the core of my being around: I love flannel shirts, I’ve never had my nails done, and I hate Taylor Swift.

Yet, the point is, I learned something really important about hating people by hating Taylor Swift. I learned that even if you don’t know them, even if they are strangers and you think that you couldn’t hate anyone more, the truth is, you probably could. Because there will always be some characteristic or trait that you do like about them. And so really, there isn’t any such thing as hate when it comes to people you don’t really know. There’s just…distaste until proven better.

Now, I’m not buying a T Swift t-shirt any time soon. I’m not even going to buy her album. But I no longer want to send her to live with the Mars colony. Unless she tries to “white feminist” her way out of anything again.

I guess me and T don’t have “bad blood” anymore. (Oh my god, forgive me. That was awful, but I had to.)

Standard

Completely Useless Trivia

Can someone please tell me what the evolutionary advantage is of knowing what a group of hummingbirds is called versus where I left my car keys? (It’s a “charm,” by the way.) And why is it that my brain would rather remind me that ducks have more neck bones than humans rather than remember when all of my friends’ birthdays are? And while we’re on the subject, is it necessary that I know that Tennessee Williams was born in Mississippi but not where my own grandparents were raised?

Yup. Just about everyone knows a little bit of useless trivia, tucked and filed away in the deep recesses of their brain. But why isn’t there enough room up there for important things, too?

I mean, it isn’t like we really get a chance to use any of these tidbits. That’s why it’s called “useless” trivia. I’m sorry to crush your hopes, but a criminal isn’t going to mug you and then say, “okay, if you call tell me all of the Jackson 5 members, I’ll give you back your wallet.” Unless you are dealing with the Sphinx, there isn’t a situation where any of this information is going to work in your favor.

So, why is it that we choose to remember useless things? Well, there’s the simple fact that they interest us. When we hear something we don’t know or when we learn something about our world, a neuron in our brain reaches out to touch another neuron. And that connection excites us. Our brains don’t care that we need to hold tight to that number for Chinese takeout. That’s practical and easy. Instead, our gray matter wants a challenge, a stimulant. That way, it can grow and better serve us.

But I think there’s an even less concrete reason, a less logical explanation, for why we retain useless facts way past their due date. For me, it simply comes down to sharing. I love being able to trade knowledge, and play “Did you know…?” with someone.  And it’s great to see someone else’s face light up with understanding and awareness about something new in their world. It’s a gift that you don’t have to pay for, and one that you’ll love to receive.

In the end, we all have to remember that life doesn’t have to have a deeper meaning. Sometimes, it is beautiful and exciting simply because it is there. I think this is the way that brains see the world when we find out a new fact: we are simply amazed that the knowledge exists and could care less about the “real world” application of it all.

So, keep learning and feed your head. Your facts may be useless, but they prove that you’ve been paying attention in a rather blissfully ignorant world.

Standard

Caffeine Apocalypse

Robert Frost was a bit conflicted about how the world would end. He wrote the following poem to express this sentiment:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
I agree with both of his visions of the end of everything. But I think he is missing something: it’s not going to be ice or fire, per se. It’s going to be iced or hot coffee. Yup, I am of the mind that this will be the true end of the world, with one last caffeinated gasp.
I mean, it’s no surprise that the world is truly addicted to their cup of coffee or tea in the morning. That’s easy to see on your commute, watching car after car pull through the drive-thru at Dunkin or Starbucks. But what’s really surprising to me is how much we crave that caffeine boost. It’s as if we can’t have a day where we aren’t completely productive from 9 to 5. It’s completely unacceptable to feel sleepy at any point of the day because we aren’t performing at our best.
And still, I didn’t realize this until I went off caffeine. And yes, that is how I refer to it, because it really is a drug. Okay, okay, there’s no caffeine pills in glassine baggies, and you won’t find some shady person creep out of an alley and ask if you want some of his/her freshest stock, but it’s completely and irrevocably addicting.
For example, when I went on a clean diet to determine my food allergy, I had to give up caffeine. I occasionally drank soda but I loved tea, so this was a huge undertaking. After a few days, it felt as if someone took an axe to my head, repeatedly. My body was not interested in withdrawal from caffeine, and it voiced its complaints in such a way that I couldn’t ignore. But, as with all wounds, I healed and as time went on, I found myself feeling better without caffeine. Sure, I was tired at about 3:00 PM, but I rebounded. And for awhile, things were good.
Enter a couple 12-hour days, and I realized that I would need help staying awake. So, I tried some coffee for the first time in my life. And I found with enough rice milk to drown a football field and enough sugar to fill a dump truck, I I loved coffee. And coffee loved me. I received a caffeine high that paled in comparison to that of my chai tea. I felt like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound (or at least stay awake for a long time) when I drank coffee.
The only problem is that I started to notice that coffee doesn’t actually keep you entirely awake. While your body is moving through the motions, your mind can still get tired. So, you stay up late at night, and your mind is tugging you along into dreamland but then your body wants to run a marathon. Really, it is the very definition of being a zombie. And if you think about how many people are drinking three or four cups a day, you could say that we have a zombie apocalypse on our hands. What’s to say that everyone won’t simply inject caffeine into their veins in a few years and our minds check out completely? What if caffeine actually robs us of sleep altogether, and we just keep moving and working without thought? Forget The Walking Dead. This is The Waking Dead.
In the end, I am here to say that it’s natural to be tired and to take a nap when necessary. But if you need caffeine, it’s possible you won’t sleep until your dead, and you may become undead in the process.
Let’s all try to moderate the apocalypse, shall we?
Standard

The Time-Traveler’s Dilemma

Any movie or book featuring time traveling can be summed up in three acts.

Act I: Wow, time traveling. We can go to any time! Any decade! Let’s go meet a famous person! (Which inevitably leads to…)

Act II: No, wait. We need to be smart about this. We need to go back in time and fix history so that we can have a totally awesome future. Nothing huge, just a small alteration…like, let’s kill hitler. Or better yet, why don’t we stop countries from ever being created in the first place? (And then…)

Act III: No! We wanted to stop a thing from happening, but it happened anyway! Somehow Hitler still found a way!

Fin. 

And although it is sad that I can predict the entire plot of a movie or book before seeing or reading it, this idea is sort of inspirational. It can be summed up into: “Maybe if we’re really meant to do something, it will happen, no matter what.”

Which sort of gets me thinking about the alternative: what if famous people in history didn’t do what they were on track to do? What if they failed or gave up? What if the time travelers succeeded and stopped them?

And sure, that would obviously be the best case scenario for WWII, but what would happen to the benevolent artists and creators in the world? What if J.R.R. Tolkien never wrote The Lord of the Rings? What if van Gogh died before “Starry Night”? What if Nabisco decided the world wasn’t ready for the oreo?

It’s frankly a scary thought. Because these things have changed lives, encouraged creative thought and late night snacking the world over. I, personally, wouldn’t be the woman I am today without many of the masterpieces I know and love (I would also be about 10-15 lbs lighter without oreos.) But really, what would happen if these people just decided to give up because the going got too tough? Sometimes you don’t need a time traveler to make you think that you may be making the wrong decision for your future. I’m sure at some point, famous earth-shakers had doubts.

But, you see, everything is a domino effect. There is no decision in the universe that stands on its own. It is because a star is twinkling in deep outer space that a poet dreams, and when a poet dreams, a high school lit teacher is inspired to teach his or her students, and a student suddenly wants to look up at the night sky. There will always be repercussions and consequences to every action, but there are some things that are too good to live without.

So, the next time you feel that it would be easier to give in and give up, think about the time traveler’s dilemma: if it is meant to happen, it will happen anyway, despite and because of yours, or anyone’s, best efforts. And you never know who you may inspire as a result of it all.

Standard

To Be Human

Here are some fun facts about animals:

A cheetah can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds.

Electric eels can deliver up to 600 volts. That’s enough to kill an adult horse. 

Peregrine falcons can reach up to 200 MPH in a dive for prey.

Ostriches can kill a lion with a single kick. 

Elephants can smell water from miles away.

Honey badgers are well, honey badgers. But they can also crack a tortoise shell with their teeth.

Most animals are nothing short of amazing. Evolution has sharpened its knives and has carved most of them into efficient machines with powers to outlast their environment and their predators. They are stream-lined and made with progress in mind.

And humans?

Well…

We have the power to order high-priced coffee and remember embarrassing things that happened to us years ago.

So, okay. Maybe we are the species that evolution forgot. And maybe the cool stuff is coming in the next couple of centuries??? (Honestly, I could use a couple more arms. Or laser beams that come out of my eyes. Whichever comes first.)

But we have to remember that we already have our distinguishing factor. It’s not top speed, or powerful senses, or strong bodies. It’s our faults. It’s our flaws. It’s our mistakes.

I mean, think about it. If any other animal in the wild makes a mistake, slips up once, they could be a meal for another animal. But humans make mistakes all the time. In fact, we are defined by the flaws in our character and our behavior. We mess up, and we apologize, and we learn. It’s a constant cycle that we rely on to live, really. If we didn’t make mistakes and learn from them, we could never evolve. In fact, it is the only way that we can.

For example, our primal ancestors had to learn the hard way that sometimes a cave could act as a shelter for you, and sometimes it could act as a shelter for another predator. It probably didn’t take us long to realize that we weren’t always on top of the food chain, and it certainly took a couple of human lives to realize that some animals should be feared. But once we did, we learned how to avoid them or kill them for our own food. We made mistakes, and we learned without having to wait until evolution equipped us with something to protect ourselves. We made tools and weapons, and we fought back.

So, the next time you get frustrated with yourself for doing something incorrectly, remember that you are actually fulfilling your role as a human. Your flaws are only an indication of your species, as much as tigers have stripes and honey badgers have bad atttitudes.

Standard

Date with Death

I was actually typing up an entirely different blogpost when my computer’s battery percentage caught my eye. It’s nearly dead, and the icon is red, urging me to go get my charger, as if everything is so urgent. (It’s the same with the dashboard lights in your car. I swear the alarms go off when you are running low on window washer fluid.)

And so, I do what any lazy one of us does: I procrastinate. I let the battery run down to the wire, playing a terrible game with my valuables. Will I lose all of the words I have just typed out when the screen goes black, or will I get my charger in time to reboot it up quickly, leaving me where I left off?

I wonder all of this, and then I wonder, if somehow, the fact that my computer keeps track of when it is going to die somehow makes it worse.

I mean, what if people were notified in the same way about when they were going to die? Like a special watch or an egg timer that you kept in your pocket that incessantly clicked. Would you want that device? Or more to the point, would you want that knowledge?

Of course, some of us don’t get that choice; it is thrusted upon us. Terminal patients are given an estimate. Some exceed the limit, some don’t. But they are more or less told when their lives are going to end. And so, you have to decide what to do with your time left. You either make amends or you make memories. You do what you can with the best that you have.

But.

Isn’t that what we are all doing anyway? We may not know when we are going to die, but we know it will happen. This encourages us to make decisions and forego others. We’re all doing what we can with the best that we have, whether we know it or not.

And you may argue that people with terminal illnesses are different because they know the time they have, and it isn’t much. A sense of urgency is not lost on them like it is on the rest of us.

But I have to wonder if it actually is. If we’re all not procrastinating bigger decisions, just letting our batteries run out, no matter how long we have. Because even if we know when we’ll die, does it make it any easier to live right now? Shouldn’t we all be living like tomorrow is our last day?

The end of this story is that I eventually got up and grabbed my charger before it was too late.

I only want to make sure that it isn’t too late for you, either.

Standard