Trigger Unhappy–Avoiding Anger and Embracing Patience

Roaring Tiger.jpgThere I was on the telephone with my county treasurer’s office, holding in my hand the threatening letter they’d sent because my annual application for a business license had been two days late, and, according to their records, my 10% fine had not yet been paid.

I had paid it, of course, immediately after receiving the notice.  In fact, by the time I made the call, I’d paid the county a whale of a lot of money, which my bank had verified in a phone call.  Every person I spoke to had admitted that checks took days and sometimes weeks to post, and mine could well be somewhere between the vendor who collects them and county accounts. Still, the letter had gone out, regardless. 

I don’t want to rail about being forced to buy a license to sit in my pajamas and stare out the window–all too often a day’s work for a writer.  I won’t even shout that I pay the same percentage rate for my license to daydream as hotels and real estate agencies pay to do business, and more than shopping centers and restaurants.  Or even to point out that when they “threatened” to seize my property, I invited them to help themselves to all my pencil stubs, half-used legal pads, even my dog-eared thesaurus.  (My imagination?  No, I’m keeping that, thanks.)

The license snafu has ended for the year.  During phone call number six I was told my check had arrived at last, dated just as I’d told them, and all was forgiven.

Except, apparently it hasn’t been forgiven, since the episode is still on my mind.

You see, I have “forgiven” the employees who were just doing their job, if not quite the elected officials who feel unjustified threats are a good way to keep business in our county.   But the person I’m having the most problem forgiving?  Me.

Sometimes my temper just gets the better of me.  I don’t walk around angry, thank goodness, although we all know people who do.  Many times I’m patient and forgiving.  But sometimes?  Not so much. 

We all have our triggers, even the calmest among us. Life’s full of reasons to get upset, and these days, the newspapers and televisions are filled with people shouting at each other, egged on by talk radio hosts, smirking politicians and every bystander who has a microphone thrust to his lips.  We’re so busy whipping each other to a frenzy that we forget we’re all in this thing called life together.

This morning I found some good advice on the Internet to help me stay calmer the next time I’m treated unfairly–a huge trigger for me–or when somebody doesn’t do his job the way he should to my detriment–another trigger.  Not surprisingly, the most important point for me is to recognize triggers for what they are, then avoid them.  In this case, I should have let someone else make those phone calls.  Or I should have put the facts on paper, then sent them to the appropriate person, after a calm, rational editing process, and avoided conversation altogether. 

Another good point?  Reminding myself that this, too, shall pass.  Most likely the source of my anger will disappear in the foreseeable future, and all the time and energy wasted fretting and fuming will sadly be gone, as well.  Instead of obsessing, I can picture myself on a sunny beach, a warm breeze wafting over me, a frosted lemonade in my hand.  Wouldn’t that be a whole lot more fun? 

And last for this blog?  Empathy.  A Leisure Arts executive  who worked on my Quilt Along With Emilie Richards books, always ended her emails with: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  And maybe, even if they aren’t fighting hard battles right at the moment, they will be soon, so they need a break.  Now is always a good time to be kind.

I think it’s important to stand up for what’s right.  My challenge is to do so gracefully and calmly, even when I’m fuming.

So bring it on

Umm. . . I don’t know, what do you think?  Maybe I still have a ways to go?


  1. Audrey Bonnell on April 10, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Emilie, I can sympathize with the triggers. I have a few of my own. When someone takes advantage of someone I love I would just JUMP right off the deep end. I am learning through my Christian friends to let God handle these problems as He does a much better job of it. When I don’t, I make a bigger mess and then He talks to me through one of my close friends. “Audrey that just wasn’t like you” “Audrey I really can’t believe that you said or did that” “It just isn’t the Christian I know you to be” That is when I know that I made a mess of things and just have to let go. It is still hard sometime my temper just takes over and then there I am again saying, “I am so sorry Lord, please forgive me” I am learning to just walk away from those triggers, but sometimes I tell myself it is righteous anger. We can do it though Emilie, I have faith in both of us.

  2. Sharon Setzer on April 11, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Emilie, I have been missing “talking with you”. My husband (and best friend) went to his doctor’s appointment on a Thursday in January and mentioned that he had been experiencing severe “charlie horses” in his leg. Excellent doctor that we have, examined the leg, took a sonnagram reading of it and found no blood sounds in the lower leg and cold to the touch. He sent him to the hospital and after catherization, stint implementation ect and sent home. Recovery was hindered by “garbage from blood clots” ended up in the left foot and to make a long dreary story short, 8 weeks later they have removed a little toe and he is home recovering. I am waiting for my life to return to normal. In all this, I have come to the conclusion that I have become a very controlling person, requiring everything to be done to my specifications and timeframe. So God took charge and said,”no, you need to let go and let ME be in charge and control. What a hard lesson to learn and I will try to use your new blog to remind me to step back, take a breath, and let Him be in control. Thanks for your timely blogs. They always seem to hit me right where I need it most.

  3. Emilie Richards on April 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Sharon, what an experience you’ve both gone through. I hope recovery is now swift. And yes, one of the hardest lessons we have to learn is that no matter how hard we work to control things, we have to let go sometimes and step back. But it’s never easy. Good for you that you see that’s what’s needed now. All my best wishes to you and your husband.

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