I Hate Being That Person

by Judy Stone-Goldman on March 3, 2010

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This story happened a few weeks ago.  Although I wrote about what happened, I didn’t finish the piece.   I found the writing today and decided it was a good moment to write about imbalance and balance.

I came to Starbucks to write today, before an appointment in Bothell, north of Seattle.  I entered with pleasure, anticipating a quiet private time.  I shook the rain off my coat and took in the scene:  fireplace, people settled in, music (but not too loud).  How can this not be good?

I ordered chamomile tea–named “Calm” tea, put out by Tazo.  The barista said they had a new tea, a full-leaf tea, and maybe I wanted a larger cup because the new tea was stronger.  I didn’t really want a larger cup, and I didn’t particularly want a new tea, but what I really didn’t want was the new price.  Fifty cents more, and suddenly tea was costing over $2.00 a cup.

I got a rush of anger.  I made a comment about the higher price and said with self-important irritation, “Well, I won’t be coming here for tea any more.”  The barista made a brief attempt to convince me that this tea was better quality and people really liked it, but I wasn’t interested.  I had that ugly gut feeling of anger, coupled with a sense that the world had it out for me (fifty cents more!!!)

I hated everything about this exchange.  I hated that sudden onset of anger, and I hated its intensity–seriously disproportionate to the events.  I hated feeling overcome by the anger.  Even as I write this, I can remember that wave of emotion and how unbearably annoying the world seemed at that moment.  What I hated most of all was taking my feelings out on the woman interacting with me.  I hated being that person:  the person who flings anger at others who happen to be in the way.

I was at that moment horribly imbalanced:  wrought with emotion that altered me in my experiences with others. The emotion created a reality in me that then was painted onto my external real-world.  What had been a normal external reality just moments before was changed in tone and color, as if a sudden storm had blotted out the ordinary day’s sky in a flash.  Strong emotions are like that:  fast, unpredictable, threatening to derail your day.

As I reflect on this story, with the awareness that time and distance bring, I am reminded about the truth of these emotional moments:  how that wave of emotion that rises up, seemingly in an instant, is usually about something far removed from the immediate event.   The price of tea?  Not worth that kind of anger.  So what was the real story behind my anger?

The tea was a change I didn’t want, on a day when I was facing changes I didn’t want.  I was on my way to say good-bye to someone important, a mentor and guide who is now ill.  This was also a week of sitting with my aunt, who was dying.  Losses, big ones and irreversible ones, were pushing me to sad, deep life changes.  When the barista told me the new price of tea, she tapped into a sea of feeling, creating underground turmoil that burst to the surface.  The intensity of my anger was about what was inside of me but the available target was the tea.

As I sat there with my tea, I knew my anger about tea was rude and unfair.  I knew that if I let myself write without censor–or if I even just sat still for a period–I would be able to go beneath that rushing anger and find the deep sorrow that lay below, a pool just as deep, full of grief and a more true anger:  at loss, at life, at all the sadnesses we cannot control.

As I prepared to leave Starbucks, I apologized to the barista.  I said, “I’m sorry I got so angry about the tea.  I just had a moment.”  We all have a moment now and then.  We all have a moment when what is inside us, what is personal to our story and maybe not yet even in our consciousness rises up to color the world, to alter what we bring to others and what we perceive and how we respond.  That imbalance may feel like the truth in the moment, but it is not.  Only when we give ourselves the space to explore the imbalance and the feelings driving it do we discover the true feelings, the true story.  Then we can return to balance, even if sadder or angry in a different way.

I left Starbucks and said my good-byes to one of the most important people in my life.  The next day I sat for the last time with my aunt, who died less than 24 hours later.  I knew my sadness, and I didn’t fuss about the price of tea.

Interested in your own balance and imbalance?  Write.  Sit still.  Ask questions.  Write some more.  Tell your stories, and know that they hold the answers to questions you don’t yet know.  Imbalance is one kind of reality; trust that balance lies underneath it.

Questions for Reflection: What do you relate to in this story about tea?  Have you had “a moment” of overreacting to a situation or person?  How did that moment evolve?  What do imbalance and balance mean to you?

Writing Prompts: To me the feeling of imbalance is ___________ (then keep writing).  To me, the feeling of balance is _____________ (then keep writing).

Writing Prompts for Your Stories: I remember this time when [I overreacted/I reacted like a crazy person/I lost my cool] (choose one or fill in your own words). This is what happened:  ________  (tell the story in detail, whatever you can remember). When I think about that situation now, I realize _______________ (then keep writing).

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna A March 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I have had “moments” when I knew my emotions were manifesting as behaviors inconsistent with the degree of external irritation. The worst moments for me though are when I take those feelings “out to lunch” and sort of nurture them until they seem justified. Such a “yucky” feeling.
I hope the barista was gracious in accepting your apology.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
March 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm

She was, indeed. My guess is the baristas get pretty used to fielding all sorts of irrational moments of emotion, but that they don’t get too many apologies! So I think she appreciated it. You know, I can be in the middle of one of those moments and know how ridiculous and wrong it is but still ride it out. It has a life of its own. As for “nurturing” them, yes, I know that too! Part of the human condition, I think. We are not always our best selves.

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Gayle M March 3, 2010 at 7:57 pm

How perceptive and insightful – I appreciated your reflections on this event. And I feel sure the barista liked it that you took the time to rebalance her universe as well. In recent weeks I have been practicing keeping myself in a peaceful and happy state. To my surprise, it has reduced my stress quite a bit, particularly when I travel to appointments around the city where I live. I stay calm and move as quickly as I can, without concern for events I cannot control – the arrival of the next subway train, the pace at which the person in front of me climbs the stairs to the street.

One day recently I was on the receiving end of someone’s venom. Apparently I didn’t move with satisfactory speed into the subway car and was in the way of an exciting passenger. He offered up a hateful curse, but instead of letting it imprint on my brain, where in the past it would have festered for at least half a day, I found myself thinking, “Wow, that guy’s really having a bad day.” I didn’t respond to it as a personal attack, I just let it go. A fellow passenger was more miffed and offered his own opinion about how I’d been treated, but I took no part in it. I can’t even remember what was said. I was so happy to have maintained my balance!

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Gayle M March 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm

correction: an exiting passenger, not an exciting one!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
March 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Congratulations on holding onto your balance! If you have a subway, you must live in a reasonably large city–East coast? I used to ride the subway in New York. Lots of opportunity for imbalance, both literally and figuratively.

Thanks for leaving a comment. Hope to see you here again.

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Gayle M March 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Yes, Judy, I am in NYC, where the balance challenges are abundant. I’m a friend of Kayle’s.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
March 3, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Wonderful. (I think I found you on the Facebook page for The Reflective Writer.)

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Candice Caldwell March 4, 2010 at 11:33 am

This is an excellent post, Judy. Thank you for being so honest in sharing your “moment” and keying it into the realm of balance. Being aware of how other events effect our emotions is so important.

My condolences to you and your family. I’m sure your aunt was a great lady and lucky to have you with her.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
March 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Thank you, Candice, for reading, for responding, and for thinking of my aunt.

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