My ex-husband did a lot of little irritating things when we were married. He clinked his spoon loudly when eating yogurt, and whistled, much to my chagrin, when working in the room next door. He was miserly with money, and I didn't care for his choice of friends. But overall, we didn't argue often, and even if we bickered, I was rarely truly angry. At the most I would feel disappointed, annoyed, or sad. From time to time I felt mad, but I managed to keep my hostile thoughts to a minimum. Nothing prepared me for the fury I would feel when we began the process of divorce.
As I write this, I am attempting to calm myself from the intense level of anger I felt only just this morning. On this beautiful August day, I made arrangements with my ex to pick up our shared car. He left it parked on a street nearby, and I set out in the sunshine to take myself for what should have been a relaxing trip to explore a nearby village with antique stores and my favorite ice cream parlor. My optimism about the day disintegrated when I opened the driver's side door to discover the state of our already shabby PT Cruiser. Coffee mugs half full with stale liquid and partially curdled milk filled the cup holders. Drops of the putrefied beverage were splattered on the passenger side door and seat. Discarded water bottles and a woman's flip-flops (which smelled like old gym socks) were strewn about. My blood pressure shot through the roof. I immediately fired off a furious text message. And the state of the car was only the beginning.
A Red Curtain of Rage - When Anger Steals Your Day
In order to fully share my story, I need to take you back in time to Brooklyn, in 2008. That was the year my ex went to Norway, and in a state of worry, I opened his email account and read his private emails. Whether I should have done that or not is a matter of debate, but what's done is done. I didn't find much to vilify him, but I did come upon a single email that I will never forget. It was from an older woman he worked with, who suggested bluntly in her message that he should have an affair while he was away from me. I was furious of course, but because I knew who she was, all of my previous suspicions were confirmed. She was not a friend. I have not spoken to her since, but over the years she has made a habit of popping up in my life, unwelcome. Currently, she is dating my ex's best friend. She works as a stripper to make ends meet, and overall, let's just say I don't like her very much. Which is why the filth in the car had a deeper context for me today. The spilled coffee in a car that was half mine, the foul-smelling shoes left behind as though in a car that belonged to the person who left them – were hers.
Image Courtesy of Melissa Metz onFlckr
I tossed the stinky blue flip-flops in a dumpster nearby and poured out the remains of the cloudy mugs. I had to take slow, deep breaths before driving away. My day was ruined. A red curtain of rage had been lowered across the view of my bucolic drive in the country. Who does she think she is? And how could he throw this in my face? All the years of hurt and resentment came pouring forth. I took off down the highway at 85 miles an hour. I had road rage on an empty road! At 90, I threw the mirky coffee mugs out the window. The sound of breaking glass punctuated the otherwise silent air. The heat of summer paled in comparison to my own internal angry white hot temperature. I had been figuratively slapped in the face.
You’re Allowed to be Angry - But Check your Temper
I know that I have a type A personality, and while I don't anger easily, when I do get angry I am livid. I also know it isn't healthy to be angry, and for this reason I believe in long baths, red wine, exercise, and cats. But learning to keep things in perspective is an ongoing process, and in a volatile time like divorce, no one behaves rationally. It's important to let yourself experience your feelings, and if your ex does something that enrages you, go ahead and let yourself feel angry. Scream into a pillow if you have to. Throw something at the wall. Let it out, but do it alone. Whatever you do, do not text, email, or call under the influence of anger. It will only come back to haunt you later. Take my word for it, as a very volatile texter.
Do whatever you need to do to let the rage out of your system, but remember to cool off, too. In the end, no matter what harm has been done to you, you'll harm yourself far worse fuming for days. I woke up the day after my rant with what I thought was a fever. It turned out to be extremely high blood pressure, which is a dangerous situation. I was forced to calm myself down; my life depended on it. Over time, the stress and the hypertension will put you at a much higher risk of stroke and heart disease, and was that thing he said really worth your life? We must choose our battles wisely.
Being a person who is easily provoked myself, maybe I shouldn't be offering my advice about how to manage anger. But, even if you choose not to heed my warning about high blood pressure, and take my other words with a grain of salt - trust me about the texting.
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