No One’s Going to Throw You a Pity Party.
You probably deserve one, but it will just be you in attendance.
Last night, I left work on the verge of tears because I had just gotten out of a meeting in which my workload doubled under an already tight deadline. The leaders I worked with hadn’t been mean. Nothing was done intentionally to stress me out. But I was suddenly very anxious and there was little I could do about it. I just wanted to leave and get home as fast as I could.
But then I sat in rush hour traffic, got stuck behind someone who needlessly pumped their brakes, and lashed out at my husband once I walked in the door.
“I said that I didn’t, not that I did,” I replied shortly. He had repeated back my answer to one of his questions to make sure he understood, to which I got frustrated. And, of course, as I helped him put away dishes, a few of them clinked a little louder than they should have.
I walked into the bedroom, laid down on our bed, and cried out my frustrations. I just needed a moment.
I normally work from home on Thursdays and go into work a little later on the others to avoid rush hour traffic. For this Thursday, I had been looking forward to working from home all week. But I found out on Wednesday that I had to go in for a necessary meeting. And, this morning, I had to fight with rush hour traffic to get in early for another. These two things on top of a couple personal issues made me so over this week.
During my commute to work this morning, I was getting angry at how every little thing went this week. Every pump of the brakes from a car in front of me, every car that kicked up water on the road pouring down rain, every agitating conversation I replayed just brought me closer and closer to bitter, full-out anger. “This whole situation is unnecessary; this could have been avoided; it won’t happen this way next year; why are people like this? Who does that last minute?”
And then I got to work. I turned on my computer. My boss walked into our office.
“Good morning, early bird!” She said cheerfully.
“Hey,” I pushed out. And as I sat there, with my boss working across from me, I realized that even if she asked me how my morning had been, I wouldn’t have told her about the rain and the traffic and the dumb idiots hitting their brakes. I wouldn’t have told her I stayed up until 11:30 the night before finishing up the project that needed to be done for my morning meeting. I wouldn’t have told her about the crazy last hour of work yesterday or my horrible commute home. And even if I did, who actually cares? My previous, “stressful” few hours didn’t matter because I got the work done. And I got it done well.
When I went into my morning meeting, everything was fine. I had worked hard and that was all that mattered. To the leaders of my organization, I got shit done. That was the substance.
And if I had needed help? Support would have been waiting for me, no big deal. But no one was going to feel bad for me. They would maybe listen and try to empathize, but they would tell me the same thing: Get it together, pull yourself out of it, and just get done what you need to get done. This too shall pass.
And that’s it. If you need a moment, take a moment. Seek your support system and ask them if they can listen to what stressing you out. But don’t nastily complain, don’t just sit there and feel bad about your situation without doing anything to make it better. Because no one else can make your situation better except for you. And my note to myself this morning to clear the remaining funk? You’re alive. You’re functional. You can do and have done a lot more than other people even have the opportunity to do. Take a minute to be thankful for the life you have!
Getting mad at the obstacles life throws is like getting mad that you have homework while you’re in college. It’s inevitable. It’s part of the experience. You’ll get shitty situations that come at you. Sometimes those shitty situations are concentrated into a couple of days, sometimes they’re stretched out. How you handle them determines your strength.
My husband ended up coming into the bedroom while I was laying on the bed crying into my shirt sleeve. He laid down next to me, his arm draped across my torso, and asked me to talk. I sniffled a little bit, apologized for being mean, and slowly listed my frustrations from the day. Even as I spoke them out loud, I felt myself relax.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in talking about the negative things going on. I used to be a teacher, and when you get a group of teachers together, it’s all about one-upping each other on the worst experiences. But some people are like that about life, and attitudes like that get old fast. If you have a bad day, there’s nothing wrong with talking about it. You should! But if you’re wanting someone to drag down into your hole of despair just so you can sulk and feel bad about it? Maybe not the answer. Actually, it’s never the answer. So take a minute — deep breath in, deep breath out — and then make an action plan for how you’re going to go out, kick ass, and get shit done.