notquiteold

Gracefully Aging – With Resistance

Get Over It

All I have to do is mention Mrs. Sweeney and my husband starts to seethe.

Here’s the story (that I have heard about forty-six times):

Mrs. Sweeney was my husband’s first grade teacher. A few months into the year, his mother came to school for a parent-teacher conference. And as my future husband sat by his mother’s side, Mrs. Sweeney said to his mother:  “Your little boy is L-A-Z-Y.”

Well, my husband may have been only six, but he knew how to spell. And he was furious. And he still is. “I hate that vicious broad,” he said last month, when I said the word “lazy” in a whole different context. Mrs. Sweeney insulted him sixty-two years ago.

You could say that my husband can hold a grudge.

Which brings me to my point.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my frustrating but sort of hilarious interaction with online customer service as I tried to return a necklace. Many people were amazed that I was not irate.

Well, I was. For about five minutes.

One of my few talents is Getting Over It.  I am extremely good at letting go of anger.  I admit that it could be because I am L-A-Z-Y. I just don’t have the energy to stay mad.

But for those who may need a bit of help, I have devised a little chart.

You may have seen Quadrant Decision-Making if you’ve had any business management classes. I actually used a quadrant chart several years ago when I was deciding to quit my job. Surprisingly, it helped quite a bit. So I figured why not construct one for grudges.

I call it:  The Duration Of Mad.

duration of mad

On the horizontal axis is the continuum of your self-worth. Some transgressions against you attack your self-worth more than other transgressions. A bad break-up can really humiliate you. An argument with the returns clerk – not so much,

On the vertical axis is the measurement of cost:  financial, time, sleepless nights, etc.

So you can plot your anger on this chart:  Low Cost plus Low Impact on Self-Worth is the lower left quadrant, for example.  Like my email exchange with the returns clerk.  Fits easily in the lower left:

duration of mad1

Yeah, all those emails cost me some time and aggravation – but didn’t threaten my self-esteem. So clearly not worth staying mad more than a minute or two.

On the other hand, several years ago I was cheated out of a bonus that I really deserved. My boss just said, “Sorry. My Bad.” That anger lasted a bit longer. And deservedly so:

duration of mad2See how justified it is to stay mad for a few years, when it really costs you personally and financially?

Let’s say you got fired for something you didn’t do. It cost you your job, your financial security, and you feel like shit too. Feel free to block that in the space labeled:  Your Whole Life.

But on the other hand, say you get fired for doing something really stupid. That may hurt you financially, but in the long run may actually improve your self-esteem, as you grow up and act a lot wiser. Maybe that starts out in the Five Year category, but drops down under One Year – and stays there.

Easy right?

Now your turn:

Match the Anger to the X on the Duration Of Mad:

duration of mad4

A.  Someone dents your fender in the parking lot and takes off.

B.  Your boyfriend breaks up with you because he isn’t ready for a commitment, and then marries your friend six months later.

C.  You get charged for 3 pounds of bananas when you only bought 2 pounds.

D. Your spouse bought a new TV on a whim.

E. You got cancer and your insurance company won’t cover your treatment.

Brilliant, right?  I’ve taken the guesswork out of anger.  Thanks to me, you don’t have to stay mad unnecessarily. You just have to graph it out and schedule your resentment accordingly.

One very important aspect of this technique:  Notice that if your self-worth is not dramatically affected, you never need to be mad longer than one year, tops. Even if your first-grade teacher calls you L-A-Z-Y.

35 Comments

  1. Brilliant!

  2. I am so mad I didn’t think of this years ago. Mrs. Bagley (3rd grade) was a real B-I-T-C-H.

    • Yeah, my husband spells out that word too.

  3. Fabulous!!

  4. genius

  5. Al

    A brilliant and very useful chart. By the way,are you enjoying the new TV?

  6. I agree: brilliant! And I will definitely keep this in mind the next time I’m angry. My husband doesn’t stay angry, but he never forgets when someone does him wrong. And I’ve heard those stories so often, I can recite them word for word. Gotta love those men!

    • My husband has no sense of proportion at all. He prides himself on this.

      • Hahahaha! I have great affection for your husband based solely on your descriptions.

  7. What a brilliant way of “getting over it”.

  8. Excellent. You’ve explained this so well, I’ve decided to drop all my resentments. I have built a vault in my head, locked them in there and thrown away the key. that’s better. :-D

    • Old grudges do have a way of sneaking back in.

      • Only if reminders pop up. I am a Scorpio. Drat ‘nough said. I don’t hold grudges but I guess I do resentments for longer than a day. ;-)

  9. I am going to have to print that off and start pinning all my “mad” stuff to see if I am over them yet.

    • I think maybe the best result is that we see that lots of stuff that makes us mad doesn’t REALLY harm our own self-worth (or shouldn’t anyway).

  10. Great post, even if it gets us to be more conscious around our feelings of anger, it’s done a lot! Thanks.

    • In some ways, I meant this to be funny. But there is a serious side too, and I’m glad you saw it. We should remind ourselves of the expiration date of our anger.

      • Exactly! While also giving it the space or needs to dissipate. Balance.

  11. Laurie MacKellar

    Well written, great message – now if I could only get over it…

  12. More than 99% perfect. What to do with “what happened ?” yours or my self esteem is enhanced (we know exactly who we are) The fired for something we did not do gets close–
    Call it — incorrect information ruins years of a persons life and half million $ loss. Would you label that just simply off the chart?

    • I left ample room in my chart for plenty of stuff that we can be mad about the whole of our lives.

      • Thanks, “I’m working on it” Everyone should be able to find the relaxing beauty of moving on from whatever–
        Perspective of 95% + great teachers compared with that small portion I dumped into the “way past and not important anymore” can. :) I did not bother to check if the guy died a horrible death or if he pleasantly slipped away (example)
        What cool: the Great Teachers, I’ll remember them forever and have told their stories a hundred times.

  13. I had an equally terrible first grade teacher. She was the first and only teacher to make me stand out in the hall. I plot that experience in the whole life continuum.

    • I understand. To my husband, L.A.Z.Y. obviously affected him his whole life. (so far)

  14. Chris

    OMG – thank you! I also got cheated out of a bonus I deserved that had been vaguely promised to me. So, I know how that feels. I’ve been mad for 7 months now. 4 years and 5 months to go!

    • Yes, you should be very relieved to know that your anger will disappear in four years and 5 months.

  15. I am making one of these immediately, keeping it on my desktop and using it. I think it will help right now. You are brilliant and this is brilliant.

    • Thanks Valentine. although I meant this to be funny – there really is a serious side. We should put an expiration date on our anger. Anne Lamott said, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

      • You are right, sometimes it is so difficult to see through our anger at others to how it is affecting us. Letting go and moving on, that is important.

  16. when can we hope for the book?

  17. I love this! But Im getting to the age where getting angry doesnt mean a hill of beans in the long run. So i plan my anger accordingly.

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