“Walk It Off”
July 18, 2013
What happens when our lives don’t have the Cinderella ending we thought they always would? How do we react when what we thought was the perfect relationship suddenly ends; we are passed by for that promotion because of our loyalty to a co-worker even though it costs us our job; we are asked to retire before we had expected, forcing us to live the rest of our lives on a diminished percentage of our pension; we invest in an education which cost us more in loans than we are able to earn after graduation; we find out a loved one has been given a short time to live?
The clinical responses are easy to identify: denial, guilt, depression. How do these responses manifest themselves in our lives, though? Bravado, cynicism, anger, self-destructive behavior, withdrawal?
“You need to learn how to work your register,” the angry customer repeated to the cashier. How often do we find ourselves reacting in what I call “kick-the-dog” way; we have a bad day at work, at home, at school, and we take it out on the weakest, most innocent victim we are able to find?
As I began to realize there was nothing left of my marriage—an early point six years into what turned out to be a twenty-year marriage—one day after school I had been particularly harsh to my daughter. I don’t even recall what she had done to incite my wrath. More than likely, I don’t recall because she really hadn’t done anything particularly egregious.
My ex and I had lain awake in bed well into the early hours in the morning, a habit he and I had slipped into months before, engaging in what we later jokingly identified as IRCs—Icky Relationship Conversations.
They are easy to recognize if you watch for them. Not just among couples whose relationships have soured, but among bosses and employees, co-workers, children and parents. The expression each participant wears is dark, bordering on a scowl, or worse yet, subtly angry. The body language is closed, and one or both are turned slightly away from the other.
The observer needn’t even hear the words to understand the basic content: the participants are disengaged from one another, and while the words may not necessarily be loud or angry, it is easy to identify the conversation isn’t going well.
As participant, though, sometimes it is more difficult to acknowledge that the relationship has somehow gone awry. All we know is afterward, things just don’t feel “right” any longer, and all too often, unless the problem is resolved, the conversations become more frequent, or, worse yet, they cease altogether because both parties realize there is no solution, and the outcome will eventually lead toward an irreconcilable difference.
The day I lashed out at my daughter, I vowed to avoid a repeated scenario, either with my children, my co-workers, an innocent cashier, or, for that matter, my dog.
“I’m sorry. I have just had a bad day.”
We often throw out those words, and it is at that moment that we must realize we are enacting the passive aggressive behavior of “kick the dog” syndrome.
“If you can’t say something nice,” a famous fuzzy Disney character once said, “don’t say nuthin at all.”
Everyone who has ever engaged in any sport has heard yet another trite saying, “Walk it off.” The wisdom transcends the sore muscles or minor injuries; it applies to everyday life as well.
In every class, as college instructor, I would point out to my students the value of physical exercise, noting how an increased heart rate through physical exertion releases the same endorphins as sexual climax, resulting in lower stress levels.
Laughter would ensue, and I knew I had won a small part of my athlete students’ hearts.
Yes, the trip has been good. Since I am now averaging 23 miles/day, towing approximately 150 pounds behind me, it has been very good.
Much better than yelling at a cashier or kicking the dog…