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Sunday, April 1, 2012

"There never was an angry man who thought his anger unjust." ~St. Francis de Sales

Today I saw the first leaves beginning on my rose bushes. After a very mild winter, spring has begun. It worries me a bit. Longer, more severe winters bring a great deal of moisture in their aftermath. I'm not looking forward to drought conditions again.

Last night I snapped at Tabitha over something minor. My displeasure toward her was undeserved. I have no excuse for my behavior. But I had had a very trying, long day, followed up by an unexpectedly nasty email. The sender, it seems, was trying to convey something nice, but spent two paragraphs outlining all my deficits and telling me he was angry about them, before following with a paragraph thanking me for some small things I had done for him. Each fault he mentioned managed to target every fear I have about having relationships with people I care about. He finished up his email by mentioning that, regardless of his minor gratitudes, he had no desire for an "active friendship" with me. I think that sentence actually startled me out of shock over the mean-spirited tone of his email, and made me laugh. While I love him and I probably always will, I've not considered him a friend for more than three years and I have no desire to change that, so at least we concur on one point.

However, the email caught me when I was tired and weak, and I was not unaffected. I suppose no one enjoys hearing all the reasons (true or not) someone has been angry with them, and I don't love it either. I stewed a bit, wondered why it bothered me when I really don't care what this person thinks of me, and finally called someone I could count on to take my side. I know--cowardly--but as I've mentioned, I was very weak.

The problem, I suppose, is that I don't understand this aspect of being human. If I'm angry with someone I do one of two things:
1. If the person is not someone who is close to me, and I don't have a great interest in a continued friendship with him or her, I usually say nothing, work through the emotion, learn from the experience and avoid placing myself in a position where the hurtful words or actions can be repeated.

2. If I care about the person and am interested in continuing our relationship, I tell them. My exact words are: "I'm angry with you." Then I follow up by telling them what has upset me. I do this not to spread the anger or cause defensiveness, but because I want to resolve the issue in such a way that both of us feel peace about it, and I'm very clear about that intent. I'm sure the process is unpleasant and probably the other person would rather not go through the emotional gymnastics necessary for me to feel safe with them again, but I'm careful to help them understand it's a necessary process for me if I plan to remain close with that person. They are also given the option to let me know how they feel, both about the words or actions which caused me pain, and about the continuation of our relationship.

So to receive an email where it's very clear that the sender is angry with me (because he says so) but neither of those conditions apply, is confusing to me. I don't understand why someone would go out of their way to do that. I'm not really important enough to warrant such time and effort. It seems mean-spirited and spiteful. Those are not qualities I would have attributed to the author of the email.

So today I will apologize to my sweet daughter and hope she will forgive my nastiness toward her. And I believe I will cling to the words spoken during yesterday's phone call by someone who truly knows me. And I will get some rest, as it seems I really need it.

In the meantime, should anyone who encounters this blog post feel rancor toward me for any reason, unless  you have an interest in resolving the issue with me so that we can be mature adults sharing a healthy friendship, please keep it to yourself for a month or two. When I'm no longer down, I field the spiteful kicks with much more grace and dignity.

Thanks.

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