Thursday, October 03, 2013

Keeping my zen

I like to argue that I’ve gotten older, but not necessarily grown up. I think there’s ample proof of that if you walked into my geek den/man cave and saw a wall filled with comic book art, another with book cases filled with graphic novels and, the most recent addition, a quilt. Not any quilt, though; a quilt of Star Wars alphabet featuring artwork by a favourite of mine, Katie Cook.

No, I’m not kidding.

It’s not entirely true, however, the whole “I haven’t grown up that much” thing. I have moments where that hits home for me. Yesterday was one of them.

I had an…incident. I’m not going to go into the details, but let’s just say it happened and….it’s been awhile since I’ve been that mad. Understand, I’m not a get mad kind of guy. I get ranty occasionally, but seething rage, not so much. But earlier the week….I was that mad I could actually taste it. I assume in was adrenaline or something causing the reaction, but I could taste the hate I had going. It felt like it had been liquefied and was running through my veins. When I got back to my office I was physically vibrating to the point co-workers asked if I was all right.

Cathy, god love her, after saying a few consoling words, wisely gave me my space for a few hours. I went to the gym, worked out for about 90 minutes, burned out most of the hate, went back home and was fine. But man, that was an interesting few hours there.

So how is that a grown-up thing? Because my reaction 20 years or so ago would have been much different. When I was with the Muse at MUN, I was a source of amusement for my friends and the staff. I was very bitter, angry and ranty. In my prime, I could probably have given Rick Mercer a run for his money. It didn’t normally take much to set me off. A bloody student council meeting could get me going. The provincial government doing something stupid could get me going.

And once I got going, it was a thing then. I could stretch it out over days or weeks or longer (still not fond of a former MUN president for a number of reasons, so I guess you could argue decades, although it’s cooled from sincere and deep loathing to mild contempt at this point). If you had personally slighted me or someone I care about, then I would make your life miserable. I had the ability to be a particularly cutting bastard. If it was an organization I could write stuff that would make eyeballs bleed. My heroes were Hunter S. Thompson and V from the graphic novel V for Vendetta, just to give you an idea.

I considered this a good thing. My friends would laugh at my rants, which only encouraged me. I thought most of my best creative writing came out of being a proper bastard and ripping people and organizations in print. I actually won awards for it when I was a reporter with The Packet. I like to think I was a pretty good columnist back in the day. I was a bastard, but a bastard with a cause, which was all right in my mind.

Here’s the thing though. I don’t think you can do that forever. Well, you can, probably. I just don’t think you become a very nice person to be around as you get older. You burn so much energy with anger, hate and grudges that it becomes who you are. You have almost nothing else left for anything else. The people who were your friends when you were 22 are much less likely to find it amusing and charming at 42 (although Cathy tells me that some of them have said to her, privately, they do occasionally miss the snarky bastard version of me. I'm...touch?).

So that’s how I’ve grown up, I guess. I like to think I’m much calmer. My fuse is much slower to burn. Cathy gets deserves most of the credit for that. Maybe it makes me less entertaining, but I think it makes me a better person. But yesterday, oh yesterday for a few hours the 22-year-old version of myself was back. Oh yes. There would be fiery vengeance, my friends. I had creative uses for my new walking stick that involved bodily orifices, lighter fluid and matches planned out. I indulged in fantasies where I got to tell certain people, in graphic detail, exactly what I thought of them in ways that would have made their eyes bleed. It’s not that I was ready to burn bridges, you understand, for about three hours yesterday I was ready to burn cities, I was that mad.

It’s been awhile since I was like that. I concluded I didn’t like it. Didn’t like who it was turning me into. So after my workout, I drove home. Sat in the car before I went into the house. My iPod, which I am convinced is sentient, started playing the live version of Springsteen’s "Promised Land" which is one of my favourite songs. Took a deep breath. Realized it was in the past and that there are more important things to deal with. Got over it. Time to move on.

I guess that’s what you do when you’re a grown up. Probably less entertaining, but better for you in the long run.

Last Five
1. Radio Nowhere - Bruce Springsteen
2. You don't see me - Keane*
3. What if I can't see the stars, Mildred? - Matthew Good
4. Can't walk away - The Monday Nights
5. Living the dream - Sloan

1 comment:

John, Canberra AU said...

Being slower to anger makes you "less entertaining"? Entertainment via anger is slapstick, and you've read enough Gaiman to know there are other forms of entertainment. You're less slapstick-y, but more sophisticated. I'll bet that, overall, your entertainment value has increased since your younger days.

I may have mentioned this in another post, but Nature is lazy, the human brain being a good example. Our brains are onions of evolutionary history: the fear from fish, wrapped by anger from reptiles, then caring from mammals, topped off with human love. Nature kept those emotions there - why waste a perfectly good limbic system?

What you're experiencing is emotional (and evolutionary) maturity, as you spend less time living in fear like a fish, or in anger like a reptile. You're letting you higher brain functions make your decisions for you. Human communication and love make a difference now. You're not a fish or a snake anymore.

But you'll always have The Mascot. :)

I had to look up Rick Mercer. Given some of the details of his biography, I'd say he had a lot to be angry about in his younger days. I sure did.