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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eye of a Hurricane

"Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn"
 - REM, It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine)

One of the things I get accused of (Or is that applauded for?  I forget, as both have about the same impact, at least in my head...) is that I am remarkably and consistently calm in the face of adversity.  In fact, barring only two examples in my whole life that I can think of...examples so personal and they aren't getting space here,'s actually a fairly accurate sentiment.  And one for which I am reasonably proud, to boot. 

I'll also note that this is a trait I tend to share with my older brother.  I have a younger brother who is just the opposite, but that's a different blog posting for a different day.  Actually that's already made it to a blog posting, so scratch that thought.

So the question is this:  Where does it all come from?  How come when the Huns are literally charging at figurative gate I am calmly figuring out how to figuratively shore up the front line in the most organized fashion possible?

Upon not too much reflection*, the answer is pretty darn simple:  Growing up I had to be.  Far from this noble character trait, it was survival tactic.  It was how I was able to navigate a childhood where my only parent could, at pretty much no notice, explode into rage.  Now I do give credit to my mother for never striking her children and for dealing with circumstances that most people these days couldn't, namely raising four boys on her own.  As the urban types say, "respect".  It's no surprise then that there was something of a give-back in all of that though, namely her inability to express emotions beyond a spectrum of "mildly annoyed" to "yelling rage monster".  There wasn't much else on the other side of the spectrum.

What did I learn from all of this?  Well I'm pretty sure that I learned that anger isn't a great thing.  This, by the way, actually is a great thing; misplaced anger is a useless trait.  Just Google "Trump" for an example.  Again, growing up, there wasn't a ton of support for things over and above mere compliance, so expressing emotions was kinda-sorta frowned upon.  All told, this has served me well in life.  Oh, and I am capable of anger, but I note with some pride that I can count on one hand the number of times I have been so angry at someone as to "tell them off"...or whatever the heck the appropriate terminology would be.  I'll note that the pride part I referenced isn't "pride at telling people off"; rather, it's "pride at only having done it about twice".

Another trait I learned growing up is the art of problem solving.  The problems were simple growing up, but the tools and tactics never the less were universally applicable.  The key tool is persistency.

Ah, persistency, my good friend.  Persistency and anger don't go well together.  Anger is like the rapid acceleration of a rocket as it blasts off, going high and fast, but burning off a ton of fuel in the effort.  Most people simply can't maintain a high degree of anger for extended periods of time.  Me?  Hardly ever.  Anyone that can maintain sustained anger for weeks, months and years probably has bigger issues to deal with in their life.  That's not to say that I forget charged emotions, but rather over time I learn to go beyond there mere fact of being angry.  On the flip side, persistency requires a steady, measured burn of mental and emotional fuel.  It also requires thinking for the longer term, something that anger...with it's desire to blow up bridges right and left...isn't particularly good at.

There is nothing in the above that I would change, by the way.  Well I caveat that a bit in the sense that it would have been nice to have had a bit more joy growing up, but in the grand card game that is life, the cards I was dealt weren't all that bad.  

(*) I'll note that I've written about this before, or at least I think I have.  Once you get over 1,000 postings there is automatic forgiveness for duplicity.  Who says so?  I do.

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