As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of writing an ebook about happiness. When one is writing an ebook about happiness, it is particularly annoying to find oneself frustrated, pissed off, or downright fuming over stupid stuff. I mean, I don’t expect to be happy all the time, but I would like to think that some guy at the gym couldn’t ruin my day. And yet, twice in the last 12 hours, I found myself struggling to control my feelings.
For the record, controlling your feelings is mostly unwise. I learned that in therapy. “The only thing you can do with feelings is feel them,” Jen would say. Sure, you want to have enough self mastery to be able to avoid a public meltdown, but there’s no reason to try and force yourself away from anger when you’re safe at home in your bed.
In spite of all that therapy and the practice I’ve done just feeling, last night and this morning I was incredibly annoyed with myself for what I was feeling. I didn’t want to be pissed off by something I saw on Twitter, because I wanted to be better than that. I didn’t want to be angry at the guy at the gym who does not understand the concept of a Circuit Training Only Area, because I wanted to be the boss of my mood.
I get tripped up a lot by trying to be too evolved.
But I know the signs now. I know when I can’t let something go it’s because I haven’t given it room to breathe yet. So I took a deep breath, both last night and this morning, and let myself feel the anger. I gave it space, and then I waited for it to go on its merry way. That’s usually how it works: once you let the feelings be felt, they dissipate mostly satisfied for having fulfilled their purpose.
That was not the case last night or this morning.
I let myself be angry, and the anger grew. It invited resentment and judgment to join in, and they brought spinning wheels and an inner monologue on a loop.
The inner monologue gave me my clue.
I was biting my tongue.
I hate confrontation. I like being responsible for my own happiness when it allows me to be autonomous: I do my thing and you do yours, and we’ll up for drinks afterwards to talk about it. I don’t like being responsible for my own happiness when it means having to stand up for myself, enforce my boundaries, or ask someone else to change their behavior. And so I bite my tongue, because I’m afraid of the potential fallout if I open my mouth.
I hate it when I give in to fear.
This morning, as I was finishing up my workout and coming to the realization that I was choosing internal turmoil over civil confrontation – and all because I was afraid – I resolved to be brave.
Before leaving the gym, I went to talk to the staff about my concerns. I asked if there was something they could do, or if it was my responsibility to speak up. I made a point to be calm and polite, and I felt better for having said something.
When I got home, I opened up Twitter and unfollowed the person who was constantly driving me nuts. It’s a voluntary freaking social media service, and I don’t have to let crappy behavior clutter up my stream – even if we do have friends in common. I didn’t speak up, because in this case I didn’t have to. All I had to do was take action and be willing to defend it if necessary.
There are times when biting my tongue is the key to happiness – like when I choose not to rush Jared along as he gets ready in the morning. But there are so many other times when I bite my tongue because I am simply afraid of dealing with the response. I’m afraid of someone getting mad, or maybe not liking me. I’m afraid of having to deal with the uncomfortableness that can come with speaking out.
Listening to fear will never get me to happiness.
When I’m afraid, or anxious, or cannot let something go, that’s when I know that I have to change course. That’s when I know that I have to be brave.
Today, that meant no longer biting my tongue.