I was in the post office yesterday. I had two parcels to pick up, and a bill to pay for my mother-in-law.
There was a long line.
I waited quite a while, until I was one back from being served. And then a postal lady stepped up to the counter and yelled out: Anyone with parcels to pick up?
So I stepped forward, grateful to be finally served, gave her my two slips for the parcels, and she went off to get them. She came back a short time later with my two parcels, which I duly signed for.
Then I said: And I have a bill to pay too.
Oh, I’m just doing parcels, she said. You’ll have to get back into the line to pay a bill.
You mean I have to go to the back of the line? I said.
That’s right, she said. I said “parcels only.”
Actually, I said, controlling my irritation, you didn’t say “parcels only,” you said “anyone with parcels.” There’s a difference.
I’m just doing parcels, the woman said crossly, and dismissed me to serve someone else.
I had to go to the back of the line, which had grown considerably longer.
I was furious.
Why was I furious?
Because the woman didn’t own up to her mistake. And it wouldn’t have taken her that much effort to process the bill then and there. And she could easily have said: No, you don’t have to go to the back of the line. You can be served next at the next counter.
Plus she didn’t apologise.
She then started calling out again: Anyone with parcels? Parcels only. Parcels only please.
I used to get angry. The things that angered me were:
- People who hide behind rules
- People who lack courage
- People who lack integrity
I got angry about social injustice. Racism. Political corruption. Blind and heartless bureaucracy.
I made films about these things. That helped purge a lot of my anger.
I used to think that anger was good. It motivated me to do things – to try to instigate change. I could use anger strategically. I never saw the fallout.
And there was fallout.
I failed to see that anger can be corrosive, destructive. That when you get angry, you lose control. You actually diminish your status. You think you gain power, but in fact the opposite happens. You lose power. And respect.
When I was younger, I would have kicked up a stink at that post office counter. I didn’t yesterday. I smiled and I got to the back of the line.
I think the Camino has helped me with all this.
I thought it was only in the US where everyday transactions at the Post Office cause anger and frustration. There must be a universal examination to insure potential employees possess just the proper amount of arrogance and a deficiency of compassion.
Here in Tucson, a trip to the Post Office usually will take 30 to 45 minutes to simply get to the counter, lines are ridiculously long and the agents are very slow.
I find myself using the UPS or FedEx service more frequently, and the bonus for parcels is the cost is less.
No doubt about it, Bill. Anger can wear a lot of faces. It can be a great motivator, say when you get angry about mans inhumanity and try to do something to change it. It can clear the air,but you have to be so careful because misdirected angr can really hurt others.There’s been a theory floating around the psychological world that depression is anger turned inward, unexpressed. It festers into major depression that is much harder to bear than the original anger would have been to express.Somehow we have to find a way to release anger appropriately, channel it creatively if you can. But ignored anger never, ever goes away -it just becomes something else -an ulcer, a heart attack even. If your Camino has found you a way to diffuse anger shrink it down,you’ve been blessed indeed.
My younger anger was largely directed towards social injustice and the institutions that protected or propagated it.
Racism and inequality have been big themes in some of my films – particularly my earlier work.
Anger and rage can change governments, can stop wars, can change the world for the better.
But yes, you have to be careful with anger. It’s like holding sticks of dynamite – it can move that mountain, but it can also blow up in your face!
I used to have the same problem, having little fits of anger at everything that went a way different than I wanted during my day. I am trying to let go of all of that because it never seems to impact the target of my anger, only me. So who loses?
My anger was usually about the trivial things in life, like electronics that don’t function, cars that don’t start, rude people in traffic, etc., etc. How about politicians that don’t represent the people’s wishes. That is a big one. I also had select strings of profanities that by the grace of God, I have not uttered, even under my breath, in quite a while. What’s the point? Now I just think something nice and go about what I have to do to fix it or forget it. Big problems I could handle, but damn, those little ones………..
Seems you thought about your anger and let it go. That is definitely a step in the right direction, because even if you don’t act it out, if you have it inside, it can still eat you alive. And it will rise to the surface, perhaps in some displaced or sideways reaction. Good on you as they say in Australia.
Sister, I have heard that depression is anger turned inside. I don’t accept that in all cases. I was depressed for several months after Jill and I separated, but I was never angry at her or angry about the circumstances. I was simply sad and let that sadness override my other emotions. In fact, I could not prevent it. But, I did have the presence to go to a shrink and get a mild anti- depressant and have a few sessions with a counselor to talk it out. Made a world of difference, that, and the fact that I wanted and needed to let it go and let God take over and follow the path he dictates. Wonder where he is leading me???????
Steve, I’m glad you had the presence of mind when you felt low to go and talk with someone and try medication for a while. I wouldn’t ever advocate that we should be tossing pills down our throats, but we’re so lucky to live in this time when so many treatment options are available – that it seems common sense to consider then when we’re not feeling right in our own skin. As for God’s plan -only He knows!All we can do is trust that he has what’s best for us in those plans, and He’ll give us any help we need as they unfold. Its all about faith.
Not to mention that anger is absolutely exhausting! I have benefited from using the time I spend standing in line as my quiet time just for me. Instead of being frustrating it is utter bliss.
Dear Julie – & Bill, I too have learnt to use time where you just have to be idle in a positive way; I love looking at the people around me and wondering, making stories in my head; just smiling to someone when you can almost see the steam come off them because of the situation they’re in, can possibly diffuse that situation a little; smiling and shrugging at someone who is cranky in traffic, rather than snarling at them through closed car windows. I now recognise if my gut gets twisted with anger and frustration and just let go; how important can it be if a lot of the time you just can’t change it anyway?! Getting my personal life together and yoga have helped me along that path to a form of serenity and I can see it at times in peoples eyes when they recognise that it’s just time to let go – a great feeling 🙂
I feel badly that you had to wait again in the line, but your attitude saved you. I feel pity for the lady at the Post. She obviously has bad juju and her Karma will lead her in other directions, you reap what you sow. There is a big difference between stuffing the anger and actually letting it go. I am a good stuffer, I like to be easy going and it seems I am, thats what I think I am doing. Yet sometimes, I am actually just burying the anger but it rises up and it surfaces at a later trigger. I am learning at this time of my life to actually release the anger and not carry it with me. Life just never stops teaching us things! It is a part of the everyday Camino we are all on, the one that isn’t in Spain. Its a wondrous thing!
I am travelling today and just stopped briefly for a yum cha – seen all these great comments.
When I get to our Sydney place I’ll respond – but just to say this blog continues to amaze me.
The ship can only go where the captain sets the course.
Aye aye Cap’n!