May 4, 2017 by Gregory Josephs
Throwing Tantrums in my Head
How do you deal with frustration? Let’s be honest; it’s an inevitable part of being human. Whether you’re trying to assemble IKEA furniture, your day isn’t going the way you imagined, or someone is failing to understand your point in an argument, sources of frustration abound!
And frustration is. . . frustrating! The desire to start breathing fire and stomping around like Godzilla is totally natural. One way or another, we all need to blow off steam; bottling it up is unhealthy and way more volatile. So when I’m frustrated, I have a handy little technique I employ which you may not even notice.
I throw a tantrum in my brain. Let me give you a couple examples:
The Medicine Cabinet
Shortly after moving into our condo two years ago, my husband and I decided the medicine cabinet in the bathroom had to go. First of all, it was plastic—the kind that starts out white and then fades to a weird custard yellow. Second, the mirror was warped, and every time I looked at my reflection I felt like I was viewing a painting by Edvard Munch.
So we went to Home Depot and picked out a new one. I removed the old cabinet and started the laborious task of finding studs in the wall. Our condo is in a three-family home that was built in 1910, and not everything is as clean and standard as in modern construction, so this is always a challenge.
After a lot of detective work I used a pencil to make some long vertical lines where the studs were, held the cabinet against the wall and moved it up and down as my husband looked on.
“How’s this height?” I asked.
“Maybe up a little?” he replied.
I shrugged and marked the location. It looked pretty good to me, but how was I to know? I’d never installed a medicine cabinet before. Was there a standard? What was too high? What was too low? As I said, it looked fine, so I got the drill, and five minutes later our new medicine cabinet was hanging securely on the wall.
We filled the shelves, closed the cabinet door, and stepped back to look at our handiwork with pride. As we smiled at our un-warped reflections I thought maybe it’s a little high, but dismissed the thought.
In the mirror I watched as my husband’s smile turned to a frown. “I think it’s too high,” he said. “We’d better move it down. Imagine someone short washing their hands in the sink. They’d only see their reflection from the eyes up.”
A red mist came over my eyes, and I wanted to scream!
What do you mean it’s too high?! !@#$% Why didn’t you say something when I asked you if it was good?! !@#$% You really expect me to !@#$% empty the whole thing back out, plaster over the !@#$% holes that are going to show when we move it down, take it BACK OFF THE !@#$% WALL, and put it down a few more !@#$% inches?
I didn’t scream though. I said, “Hold on a second,” then walked out of the bathroom and took a seat on the couch.
With my eyes closed, I exhaled and let the bombs fly in my head. A million fireworks exploded, and I stomped my cerebral feet violently. Then, after a moment, I consulted reason.
It wasn’t my husband’s fault—we both agreed on the placement. I also thought it was too high, he was just the first one to voice it. Sure it was going to be a little work to redo it, but we were talking fifteen minutes max. I felt the steam coming out of my ears subside; it had to be done.
I got back up off the couch and returned to the bathroom where my husband waited with wide eyes and said, “Okay.” I smiled. “Let’s do it.”
Late Night Water Basketball
Much to my chagrin, one night a week a Water Basketball league uses the pool where I work. They’ve been coming for years, and in the beginning I thought it was kind of cool—something new and exciting to watch. I didn’t mind that they went right up to closing time, because the referee was a former coworker who understood how important it was to wrap things up in a timely manner. Games typically ended about fifteen-minutes before we closed, which gave me plenty of time to set the pool back up.
See, tearing down Water Basketball is labor intensive for pool staff; lane lines must be put back in the pool; the 150-pound water-filled hoops have to be pushed to the corners, out of the way. Meanwhile, the participants—high on the exhilaration of competition—linger in the water and congratulate one another, restricting the ability to get everything done in a timely manner.
But with fifteen minutes, it’s totally doable.
After a couple seasons, the referee changed, and games started going longer. Suddenly I had ten minutes to tear down. Then five. On several occasions, in spite of my stern looks and accusing eyes toward the ref, a game went right up to closing and I had to intervene and stop play. These nights in particular would set my blood boiling. Didn’t these people know I’d been here all day and I deserved to go home?
Eventually I associated the league with unwanted stress, and began to dread their one night a week.
After years, the situation received a reprieve earlier this year when they changed their schedule to start and end a half hour earlier. Suddenly the stress was gone. If their games ran a little late, it didn’t matter, because I still had almost a half hour to wrap things up.
Then last week happened, leading to the mother of all internal tantrums. . .
We got the pool set up and the teams arrived as usual but. . . no referee. The teams got in and started playing around, and minutes ticked by with still no ref. Eventually, thirty five minutes late, a referee ambled onto the deck. This wasn’t the usual guy, who I’ve got a pretty good relationship with. He smiled at me and nodded his head like nothing was wrong, stuck a whistle in his mouth, and blew it to start the game.
Are you !@#$% kidding me? 35 minutes late and not even a !@#$% apology? He’d better not think they’re going to play the whole !@#$% time! Oh no, there are two games tonight, and I am NOT !@#$% staying after closing time. This is totally unacceptable. Who does this guy think he is?! Oh, I’m totally kicking them out when their scheduled reservation ends.
I said none of this of course. I did vent externally a little bit to our scheduling administrator, but I hid my frustration from the ref. I calmed down a little and decided to see where things went. Maybe he’d be sensitive to the situation we were in and adjust game times to still fit within his reservation window.
As the first half of the first game drew on, I was less hopeful.
I’ll give him until fifteen minutes before we close. Not a !@#$% minute longer. Not ONE minute!
Meanwhile, by this point the teams for the second game were on deck, scratching their heads as to why the first game wasn’t finished. The ref called half-time and I pounced.
“Hey,” I said, as politely as possible. “I just want you to know, I need you guys to stop by fifteen minutes before we close. That’s already after your scheduled time, but that’s the minimum I need to clean up.”
The referee blinked at me. “Yeah, we don’t need more than that.”
After doing some quick math in my head, I knew that wasn’t possible without adjusting game times. “Okay, well, you probably need to shorten this second half then.”
“No I don’t.”
At this point, one of the players from the next game walked up and joined the conversation. “Dude,” he said. “You’re going to have to adjust the times. Our game was supposed to start already. You need to shorten this one.”
“No. . . “
Time for my internal tantrum to erupt in all it’s glory. I’d made my point, so I walked slowly away, sat in my chair and exhaled. This was everything, everything I couldn’t stand about Water Basketball. Oh, the emails I was going to write tomorrow! I was angry and the whole damned world was going to know about it!
The referee started the second half.
I sat, fuming for a while, and then pesky old reason set in. I didn’t know why the referee was late, but being a fill-in, he didn’t know how things worked around here. Also, the players were on my side, and equally frustrated. In the end, it didn’t really matter if the second game ended a half hour before closing time or fifteen minutes before—it’s not like I could leave work early. As long as I had time to get done what I needed to. . .
And it seems keeping my cool paid dividends. The referee ended the first game before the full second-half was done, and the second game started immediately. Then to my further surprise, half an hour before closing the ref blew a long whistle to end the game.
The players all sighed in unison. The one who’d been privy to my conversation looked at me with pleading eyes and said “Didn’t you say we could go another fifteen minutes?”
Here I found myself in a difficult position. Do I use my authority for good or evil? Am I selfless or selfish? The thing is, while I don’t understand the allure of Water Basketball, the players that come week after week, year after year, are really into it! Should I punish them for the ref’s tardiness, or just hustle a little to get things done at the end of the night?
I smiled in spite of myself and nodded my head. “Yes. Keep going.”
Cheers erupted from the players, and even the referee grinned before he blew his whistle again.
The game ended fifteen minutes later, and several players helped to put things back together, perhaps permanently altering my perception of Water Basketball. . . for the better. I might even look forward to seeing them this week.
I wonder how things might have turned out if I’d had my tantrum externally.
See, there is a difference between bottling things up (super unhealthy) and waiting to react until I’ve had a chance to reason with myself. I’ll voice legitimate grievances, but for the minor stuff, I’d prefer to quietly let the steam out my ears than violently out. . . the other end.
What about you? How do you deal with frustration? Have you ever thrown a tantrum in your head? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks as always for reading,