One area of my life I have been trying to work on is my emotions. It’s been a long road. I’d like to say I experienced success overnight – no such luck. I have determined, though, that there are two ways that seem to get the issue at least in the forefront of my mind. One way is through something similar to “on the job training.” That is, I encounter a situation, and I attempt to get a handle on my feelings in order to understand what’s leading up to the dance I’m about to perform (for an explanation about this dance, see “Life as a Dance” post below) until I can make some sense of it and deal with it appropriately. This is no fun, because it’s not like I can predict when the opportunity to deal with my emotions is going to arise. I can’t schedule these wonderful occasions. It’s a SURPRISE! (My husband will tell you I’m not much for surprises.) What’s frustrating about this for me is that many times, I don’t get a chance to assess the situation because things can sometimes happen so quickly. Like an accident – you don’t expect them, but they can be very disruptive, if not devastating. So instead of just letting my emotions run wild in challenging situations with others (such as my husband or my daughter or my students for that matter), I am attempting to really think about what’s going on inside me before a terrible accident happens. This is a difficult task, but one I am willing to take on because I know it will result in a bit more peace inside.
The second way I can make this issue is a priority is to talk about it to my husband, a good friend, counselor, high school students…Yes, I said high school students. If you saw the “About Me” section to the right, you’ll notice that I am a teacher in a private, college-prep high school. It’s a great school – these kids are great thinkers who focus so tremendously on academics. It’s that type of school – ranked very highly in the Southeast U.S. Many of these kids get accepted in the top schools in the country.
Anyway, in one of my classes made up of seniors, we started talking about the Michael Richards incident in which in a public comedy performance, he was videotaped engaged in a hurtful tirade calling two Black men in the audience the “n” word and shouting expletives indicating what he really thought of African-Americans. As I explained to my students that he definitely didn’t know how to control his emotions (interestingly, it’s probably a good thing that he had the outburst, because if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t know how he really felt about African-Americans), they said, “Well, you can’t do that. There is no way to control your emotions.” Of course I said to them, “Oh, but yes you can,” and provided an example of a recent “opportunity” in which I tried to do just that. Now, mind you, the situation SURPRISED me! And I had an outburst. But the difference this time is that I was able to remove myself from the physical situation for a time by going to the bathroom, closing the door, turning out the lights, crying, and praying for discernment about what was going on inside me. The answer to that prayer is recounted in the “Life as a Dance” post below. It was the insecurity and defensiveness I harbor inside. Being able to write about it allowed me to decompress, and I was able to deal with it better the next day. Being able to talk about, even to my students, keeps it fresh. Being able to share it here forces me (in a good way) to continue to reflect on the process.
I’ve been attempting to do this type of “inner work” more and more as occasions present themselves. While I may not ever become an “expert” at it, I believe that with each “opportunity,” I get a chance to practice, and we all know the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” Except here, being “perfect” doesn’t imply never making a mistake. To look at it in a biblical sense, being “perfect” means being “mature.” So I look forward to a maturing in my ability to control my emotions, because in looking forward, I have hope. There is hope.