My morning did not begin well. More snow, more shoveling, not much plowing on Tyler and Birch, yet I made it to the EHall parking lot and found a nice, clean spot in the second row. Then I met up with a colleague who said he’d been trying to find me. So we walked into the building together, and he proceeded to berate me about the scheduling of classes–his classes. He wants to teach his online class every semester, including summer. Students need other options for their electives, so I told him we would be switching up who teaches it. By the time we got inside, he was cursing the university and swearing that I was privileging certain faculty members. Students walked to and fro as my colleague threw a fit first thing Monday morning. I informed him that I needed to go teach and let him go.
I let him go. And when I reached my office I did not disintegrate. I informed the office staff that he might show up and warned them that I had “unleashed the beast.” Well, I didn’t exactly unleash it–it unleashed on me. Anyway, I proceeded about my morning, only forgetting my reading glasses. When I stepped through the door to teach–only 1 minute late–I forgot all about the encounter and became absorbed with the ending of Huck Finn. I had let it go.
Now this may not seem like much of an accomplishment to most people, but to me, letting go represents a leap forward in my recovery. In the past, this encounter would have destroyed my entire day–perhaps even my whole week. But I was able to walk away from the misdirected anger and go about my work. The miracle is I haven’t been haunted by it at all. I attribute this ability to Al-Anon, which has taught me that someone else’s anger is not mine, is not about me, is not my responsibility to fix. I don’t need to engage in it. In fact, if I don’t engage in it–as I did today–then I don’t experience any of the resultant anguish, stress, etc. And I don’t have to make amends for anything later. Unlike my colleague, who at least realized that he had crossed a line and immediately sent me an apology:
I owe you an apology for my outburst this morning. I was completely out of line. I should never take my frustration out on a colleague. I should never let my frustration over a situation or over a philosophical issue flood over on you or anyone else. Again, not only was I completely out of line, I’m even more sorry if I have caused your morning to be disrupted in anyway. I hate going into a class with other things on my mind let alone a rant by an ornery old professor who misdirected being bummed out on you.
I would like to talk to you and better understand how classes are being assigned.
I hope you’ll forgive my boorishness this morning,
This would be a challenge for me. I get so upset over other people being upset. I can totally relate…that feeling of owning another person’s anger or disappointment.
This is very inspiring. Thanks Becky.
Thanks Mike. I’m learning. Slowly but surely. BTW, my dog eats poo too 😉 So annoying.
And see, I was attributing your awesome handling of this to your having an office next to me! Now I’m sad. 😉