Thursday, 29 January 2009

Language rage

Yes, I know I'm overreacting. So I know this is really about something else.

Today, after I'd restarted my computer as per Windows instructions, I lost my network connection. Tried it about three times. Nothing. Now, no biggie if my work didn't require me to be hooked into Oxford University Library Systems; if I were just on Word, Excel or whatever. For me, however, it meant I couldn't catalogue. For almost forty minutes.

I began to seethe after the first 10. I went up to my colleague, whom I love dearly, and asked:

"Is GeoCat working for you?"

Now, I don't know about *you*, but for me, that is a commonly used American AND English construction with the understood subtext of "Do you have GeoCat up, and if not, *could you please bring it up and see if it works for you*, so I can decide if it's the server or my computer?"

If someone came to me with that question and I didn't have GeoCat up, my response would be, "Hold up, let me check. I'm working on X right now, but let me bring up GeoCat and see."

Normal response and reading of subtext, right? Did I get that?

Did I, f***.

Instead I got, "I don't know. I'm working on this particular list."


I then asked him if he'd done the Windows restart, because it was after that I'd had the problem. He said he had.

So what do I get asked, not two minutes later? "Did you restart your computer when it told you to?"



So now I get the calm "So what do we do next" spiel. Yes, I was already there, ok? PLEASE JUST LET ME *VENT*.

So I went over to our computer officer, poked my head round the door and said, "Hon, I've restarted, but it won't connect - would you mind checking it out when you get a chance?"

"Two seconds - I'll be with you in two seconds."

"Fine, whenever, do what you need to do." And I meant that. It wasn't his fault, after all.

So then I come back down, grab what I need to grab and stride out in a huff to lunch, leaving my computer for our computer officer and telling my colleague that I was off to do something productive.

Posted some mail, banked some cheques, grabbed some lunch and came in to sit in the kitchen and eat. By the time I met another colleague coming up the walk, I was fine, and told her how I'd left in a huff. After I'd eaten? Absolutely fine.

Till I came in and heard him discussing it at top volume with a friend. And the shutters came down.

Then they tried to joke me out of it. I stayed calm and played along, but Aetna was seething again.

And it got worse when the CO came over and said, "I presume it's fine since you haven't come over and killed me yet."

WTF? I'd gone over to him and asked him to check on it in the *word for word exchange you see above* in my usual 'hey, do you mind' manner.

So how the HELL would he know how angry I was?

Only if my colleague had said, "*Sharp inhale* You'd better fix it, Irim's on the warpath."

Not CO's fault or problem, I honestly said to him, "I wasn't angry at you, just Bill Gates and the world at large."

I sensed what I refer to as "Oratory problem #3 - Dealing with anger, especially in women".

It was like being at the O, where a genuine vent turns into "you angry feminist" far too often; or someone tries to cajole me out of it; or dismiss it as trivial; or tries to turn it around, "Irim wants all men to be afraid of her."

Here's the response I should have given in the forecourt: "Look, instead of projecting them onto me, why don't you actually *deal* with your issues with women? Or your real issues with me?"

Now, clearly, this is a pattern *I'M* setting up. It is almost a carbon copy of how my emotions were dealt with in my household: dismissed unless they were the same as my parents'; ridiculed; trivialised; mocked; condescended to and cajoled.

Hmmmm. Sounds like I'm trying to play something out here, doesn't it? I'm playing this role over and over until I do something different enough that "Groundhog Day" is officially over.

So, what are the similarities?

Both places appear to be lacking anger/conflict on the surface - there seems to be a remarkable...not quite uniformity, but cohesion, and people seem lockstepped in their beliefs. There's a lot of agreement and nodding and kvetching about the other side. But something is missing. Real fire, passion. Real *emotion*. You hear a lot of tittering in the Oratory forecourt, but you don't hear real laughter. A vitality is missing in both places; a vitality that comes from the heat of anger and real engagement with conflict and strong emotions of every description.

However, dip beneath the surface, and the waters are roiling with anger and everything else that is being suppressed. As a child of the family I grew up with, that's an emotional temperature I'm going to express if no one else does. So already, because of the atmosphere of places I choose to be in, I'm more likely to *become* angry because of the undercurrents around me.

In both cases, I chose someone who is very uncomfortable with anger. The immoderately moderate one, I suspect, because he's afraid of how far he'll go if he gives into it. The other, I'm guessing, because he's not supposed to be angry, considering what he believes. So in both cases, I locked myself into confrontation with someone who would take my anger and magnify it or would try to defuse it in any way possible.

I set myself up to be disrespected, trivialised, ridiculed when I'm angry.


I need to think about that. But my initial impression is that there's something unresolved in this dance and that I'm choosing people who reflect back to me how *I* feel about my anger. I'M trivialising it; I'M dismissing it; I'M trying to cajole myself out of it. I'm the one who's ashamed of it.

That needs to end. And I think it's beginning to, with the advent of friends - including one at the O - who handle my need to vent/be angry with care and respect, letting me know that my feelings matter.

So, for myself and those who have to deal with me when I'm angry, here are a few tips:

1. Just hear me out. If I'm loud and armwaving, it's going to pass pretty quickly and I'm just venting. Once I'm done, I'm done. If I'm quiet and icy, buckle your seatbelt or be aware that someone/something has pushed me WAY too far. Just letting me go 'RAAAH!' is usually all it takes for me to settle down.

2. DO NOT tell anyone else to 'watch out, Irim's pissed off'. If I'm NOT already angry at you about something - like I was with my colleague earlier because I was feeling patronised - I'm not taking it out on you. I have NEVER been known to take my irritation out on waiters, salespeople, messengers, whatever. There was NO NEED for CO to even THINK I was coming after him. If I take it out on you, that's a pretty good sign you've pissed me off already and we probably need to have a chat.

3. DO NOT try to cajole me out of it, tell me it's not that big a deal, try to put me in a mood that makes YOU more comfortable. I probably already KNOW it's not a big deal, I just need to go off on it right now.

4. DO NOT label me as a man-hater, angry feminist, any other bs label that deprives me of the right to be a complex human being or pull the "Awwww, Iwim's angry" technique. That's just lazy stereotyping, lets you off the hook, and makes me want to push you up against a wall. Or, if you're a man who prides yourself on being a gentleman, it makes me want to pay you the ultimate insult from a woman: *slap* you.

5. If you think the anger is out of proportion - as today's was, no question - DO call me on it. Say, "Hey, [insert term of endearment here: you, babe, hon, chuck, doll - there is the odd favourite that will bring my bp right down], what's wrong? You seem really angry about something that wouldn't normally bother you so much. What's really bugging you?" That's different from trivialising because you're pointing out a delta, or a change, from my normal response, and asking about it. The question will get me thinking.

6. But most of all, whatever you do, treat it as valid, with respect and give me the support and space to work it through.

As I would hope to do with you - allowing for human imperfections, of course.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

3. I probably know it's not a great deal...

Actually, no! I think that looks as if you are already trying to dismiss the validity of your anger (and let's face it, some things really are big deals, even though others may not see them as such). And you are one of the most reasonable people whom I know. So hold on to your instincts - they are far more valid/vital, and paying them the attention they deserve is worth it. Let's face it - many people do trust you and rely on your judgments, and that's not just judgments decided in peace, but also those arising out of injustice perpetrated or anger. You had every right to react as you did, and if someone is as idiotic to call you a man-hater, then it's their stupidity or mental laziness that needs a kick up the proverbial!