Beneath Anger

by | Apr 10, 2020

Barton Nature Area, Ann Arbor

I usually don’t waste my time getting angry at a virus, but I got angry at COVID-19 when I found out that one of my kids was infected.  I also got angry at the entire city of Chicago for not having a single bottle of Tylenol (or its generic equivalent) left on the shelves.  Fortunately, my heroic stepsister and her husband were able to drive in from the suburbs and leave a bottle of Tylenol, a thermometer, and other supplies at my son’s doorstep.  It felt like such a relief when they rescued me from my feelings of helplessness.  There is a Yiddish saying about how it is hard to feel happier than your unhappiest child.

As my anger subsided, I recalled my father’s temper, may he rest in peace.  He would have had no problem getting angry at a virus even if it didn’t infect one of his children.  He would have gotten angry at it for causing the price of his hand soap to go up.  He would have gotten angry at it for causing the price of his stocks to go down.  He would have accused it of being a thief and trying to steal money out of his pocket.  He would have wanted to fight the virus so it would feel more scared of him than he was of it.

If you find yourself losing your temper during this pandemic crisis, I would try to connect with the fear and helplessness that is beneath your anger.  See if you can sit with these feelings and hold them gently in your heart for a few minutes—before trying to let go of them one breath at a time.  That is so much better than lashing out and blaming the people you love.  It is a hard time for all of us with so many things feeling out of control.  It can be a challenge to go through a hard time without being hard on yourself or hard on the people you care about the most—but you have to believe that you are someone who can embrace difficult challenges.  That is what a survivor believes.  A survivor doesn’t wait for life to get easier.  A survivor grows stronger and keeps searching for new ways to use her strength.  It is pointless to use any kind of strength nowadays that is rigid and inflexible, since everything is changing day by day. Gentle strength allows you to flow with these changes and notice people who might need your help.  You don’t need to be a rock to get through these pandemic challenges.  You just need to be brave enough to take responsibility for what you can and let go of the rest.

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