Yesterday, I got angry. Really, really angry.
I bet you’re wondering why.
I wish I had a good answer for you, but I don’t. To set the scene, I was 10 minutes into my cardio routine on the elliptical, listening to the Ellie Goulding station on Pandora and staring at my sweaty self in the mirror, wondering if my face was that red from the workout or if the gym lighting was bringing out a lingering sunburn from falling asleep in the hammock last Saturday. All was well and fine. I’d had the best mojo (moh۰ho) pork of my life at lunch. No work emergency had sent me running for cover beneath my desk. A good friend who I thought had forgotten about my existence texted while I was changing in the locker room. Even the annoying man who usually talks loudly in Spanish on his cell phone in our small office gym was nowhere to be seen. So how come, at minute 10, did I start sprouting green hands and feeling veins bulge from my forehead?
Save during third trimesters or extended periods of severe exhaustion, no one should feel rage bubble up from within out of nowhere. Ideally, the kind of anger that makes you incapable of drawing steady breaths should come as a very rare occurrence with extremely valid reasoning. [Acceptable triggers: Someone shoots your dog. The Uber driver never shows up. Your friends forget your birthday. The a-hole directly ahead of you at Chipotle orders 12 different meals off of a cell phone screen. Skateboarders.] People who are too easily angered are just exhausting to be around, plus they’re scary…like I was yesterday (internally).
Although I am not prone to regular fits of rage (us winos like to keep our heart rates impressively low with the help of Helen Keplinger and Robert Mondavi), I went from 0 to 60 yesterday in a matter of seconds. I had completed just over a mile on the elliptical with the incline at 10 and resistance at 9, which is generally the point when I mentally decide whether it is going to be a good workout day or a bad workout day (I was already starting to lean towards “bad”) when, all of a sudden, my Pandora station cut off in the middle of my favorite dubstep song (more on my workout music preferences another time). Like tumbling out of the East Australian Current and popping into the empty, quiet Coral Sea [Duuuuuuude. Mr. Turtle is my father.], I found myself abruptly thrust into an unmotivating white room, listening only to the loud screech of my under-oiled cardio machine.
The discombobulation rapidly turned to fury when I realized that my new phone case makes it impossible to easily mess with the volume buttons. Continuing to move my legs, I restart my lime green iPhone in hopes that Pandora will get its act together. Meanwhile, all I hear is “Screech…The Oklahoma City…screech…Thunder head coach…screech…was fired yesterday…screech.” I want to punch the TV and also yell at whoever ordered this piece of crap machine. The phone comes back on, but Pandora is loading like dial up internet from the 90s. I give up and get off the machine, heart pounding and fists curled. Right when my feet hit the ground, Pandora pops back on. Of course. I stand there for a few seconds, glaring into the ground, and remind myself that the bridesmaid dress I’m wearing in June won’t fit unless I lose six pounds. I climb back aboard the elliptical. It’s too late to press “Resume.” Ugh.
One minute back into the workout, I realize that Lorde is playing through my earbuds. I hate Lorde. Skip. An advertisement for a bridal shop blasts into my skull. If one more person gets engaged, I swear. The screech of the machine becomes audible through the commercial. Smoke begins billowing out of my ears. My face turns red because of neither fatigue or sunburn. I think of all the reasons I hate people on Facebook. I silently imagine telling off my ex. I wish death upon Kylie Jenner. I never want to speak to another human who isn’t my dad ever again.
Still weakly able to objectively assess the irrationality of my mental state, the little cherubim in white robes who lives inside of my left shoulder begged me to take control of the situation. Moved and impressed by his drowned-out plea, I bounded off of the screechy elliptical without bothering to wipe down the handles (no one was in the room to judge me) and jumped onto a treadmill. The screeching stopped. Natasha Bedingfield started to sing. My arms looked nice in the mirror. I felt the cheribum pry off the clamps around my heart. I ran the final 10 minutes of my workout at a pace .7 mph faster than normal, as if I was running away from whatever just happened in the last 20 minutes. Finally, 30 minutes after I started, the cardio portion of my workout was complete. It wasn’t pretty, but I’d made it.
Oddly enough, I felt proud. Proud because getting off of that maddening elliptical to finish up on the healthy-sounding treadmill meant that, amidst illogical fury, I was able to step back, change my course of action, and continue moving forward. That’s really all we can ask of ourselves in life. Sometimes, negative emotions and circumstances just happen. They creep up on us for no good reason, like fire ants on an innocent-looking stone bench. All of a sudden, we are consumed, unable to grasp rational thoughts. We can either let those emotions and surroundings get the best of us, giving the fire ants the chance to bite us to death (why did I choose this simile?), or we can step back and find the nearest body of water to drown the little suckers.
The important thing is not that you live a life void of mistakes which lead you to unhappy situations or that you never feel anything irrational, but rather that you learn to assess the problem and make things better. Don’t keep doing what you’re doing if it makes you miserable, anxious, or angry. Sometimes the solution is really tough to see through the mental storm clouds, but part of personal development is learning to change your course in order to see the light. Changing the course might feel uncomfortable or even risky (my feet have bad arches, so I’m not supposed to run on treadmills/streets very often), but reaching clarity, levelheadedness, and peace is worth the risk. So whether it’s regulating your emotions, upheaving daily habits, cutting the cord of a relationship, or veering onto a new career path, take control of the direction you’re headed and keep on moving towards the end goal– whatever that might mean for you.
This round of psychotherapy brought to you by EasyStrider 400 and Ravenswood Winery.