Get Over It
All I have to do is mention Mrs. Sweeney and my husband starts to seethe.
Here’s the story (that I have heard about forty-six times):
Mrs. Sweeney was my husband’s first grade teacher. A few months into the year, his mother came to school for a parent-teacher conference. And as my future husband sat by his mother’s side, Mrs. Sweeney said to his mother: “Your little boy is L-A-Z-Y.”
Well, my husband may have been only six, but he knew how to spell. And he was furious. And he still is. “I hate that vicious broad,” he said last month, when I said the word “lazy” in a whole different context. Mrs. Sweeney insulted him sixty-two years ago.
You could say that my husband can hold a grudge.
Which brings me to my point.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my frustrating but sort of hilarious interaction with online customer service as I tried to return a necklace. Many people were amazed that I was not irate.
Well, I was. For about five minutes.
One of my few talents is Getting Over It. I am extremely good at letting go of anger. I admit that it could be because I am L-A-Z-Y. I just don’t have the energy to stay mad.
But for those who may need a bit of help, I have devised a little chart.
You may have seen Quadrant Decision-Making if you’ve had any business management classes. I actually used a quadrant chart several years ago when I was deciding to quit my job. Surprisingly, it helped quite a bit. So I figured why not construct one for grudges.
I call it: The Duration Of Mad.
On the horizontal axis is the continuum of your self-worth. Some transgressions against you attack your self-worth more than other transgressions. A bad break-up can really humiliate you. An argument with the returns clerk – not so much,
On the vertical axis is the measurement of cost: financial, time, sleepless nights, etc.
So you can plot your anger on this chart: Low Cost plus Low Impact on Self-Worth is the lower left quadrant, for example. Like my email exchange with the returns clerk. Fits easily in the lower left:
Yeah, all those emails cost me some time and aggravation – but didn’t threaten my self-esteem. So clearly not worth staying mad more than a minute or two.
On the other hand, several years ago I was cheated out of a bonus that I really deserved. My boss just said, “Sorry. My Bad.” That anger lasted a bit longer. And deservedly so:
Let’s say you got fired for something you didn’t do. It cost you your job, your financial security, and you feel like shit too. Feel free to block that in the space labeled: Your Whole Life.
But on the other hand, say you get fired for doing something really stupid. That may hurt you financially, but in the long run may actually improve your self-esteem, as you grow up and act a lot wiser. Maybe that starts out in the Five Year category, but drops down under One Year – and stays there.
Now your turn:
Match the Anger to the X on the Duration Of Mad:
A. Someone dents your fender in the parking lot and takes off.
B. Your boyfriend breaks up with you because he isn’t ready for a commitment, and then marries your friend six months later.
C. You get charged for 3 pounds of bananas when you only bought 2 pounds.
D. Your spouse bought a new TV on a whim.
E. You got cancer and your insurance company won’t cover your treatment.
Brilliant, right? I’ve taken the guesswork out of anger. Thanks to me, you don’t have to stay mad unnecessarily. You just have to graph it out and schedule your resentment accordingly.
One very important aspect of this technique: Notice that if your self-worth is not dramatically affected, you never need to be mad longer than one year, tops. Even if your first-grade teacher calls you L-A-Z-Y.