We Embrace Anger When We Should Let Go
It was back in the early 2000s when I was coming up to about 20 years’ service on a national board of an actors/broadcasters union that my husband turned to me while I was doing dishes and said, “Do you realize you are angry most of the time now?”
I was taken aback and had to literally stop what I was doing and think. Was I angry all the time?
It was a time of turmoil in our various unions over many aspects of pay, health and retirement — I was also serving as a trustee on the health and retirement board — with a lot of infighting within the unions as well as our struggle with our employers.
I took a good hard look at my thoughts, words and deeds at that time and realized that yes, I was angry most of the time. It was affecting my auditions, my marriage, my union work and most likely my health. It had to stop.
That afternoon I called the president of the union and said, “I am withdrawing from running again for the board.” She was taken aback because it seemed to come out of nowhere, but after talking it through she wisely said, “Our marriages and our lives and our work come before our union work. It will all be fine. You’re right to stop if anger is the prevailing emotion.”
Going through life angry is not good for body, soul, family and health, and I fear that this is now an epidemic on par with COVID-19. The trickier bit is that there is no vaccine for anger. One must make the decision to step away from it, redefine how one thinks and reacts to facts, fantasy and even people.
I am concerned that we have, over several decades, become anger junkies. It seems to have reached new heights under President Trump because he seems to thrive on anger and I feel for him in this regard. It is a tough row to hoe being constantly upset, constantly ginning up outrage.
As we come into the religious holidays for many faiths that celebrate light and birth and reawakening of joy, it might be a good time to contemplate anger and its usefulness and its effect on our total lives.
Oh sure, you can feel let down by an election result; every election has a winner and a loser, but how long should we drag that piece of baggage? If our hands are filled with the baggage of anger, what good deeds do not get done because we have no free hands to pick up the plow handle or shake a hand or wrap a gift of a good act?
Anger in the moment of justified outrage is one thing, but anger for identity is a dangerous cancer of body and soul. I see it in the face of drivers doing 60 in a 45 mph zone who dog my back bumper because 45 is making them crazy. I see it on the faces of folks having to wait in a line, which we all do, to pick up food. Or going safely into a place with a certain number allowed — anger that life is different, which it surely is.
Life is a bit like the myth of Sisyphus, who was given the task/curse of moving a boulder up a mountain only to have it go back to the bottom of the hill daily. Life can seem like that no matter what you do, be it making dinner every single blessed night, driving the same route to work every single blessed day or pounding the pavement every blessed day in search of work. Anger will not move the stone one step. Anger will make the meal sour, the drive longer and the search bitter.
Life is full of days of frustration, but along come November and December to rescue us from anger and return us to love, contemplation and appreciation for all that we have and all the hope embodied in our lives here in this country and county.
My hope is that this season helps all of us reduce our commitment to anger and build up our commitment to being more alive to one another, to putting down our baggage of anger and reaching out to shake our neighbor’s hand. We get one shot to live our best life with those who are here now.
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.