Aren’t we a species meant to grow? Aren’t we born for evolution, after all? Weren’t we once hair-covered and simple, survival focused and little else? Weren’t we once swift to anger, to violence unchecked, weren’t we made to protect ourselves, those we love, those that grew from ourselves, the products of our procreation? Cave dwelling, ash painting on the walls we called home, weren’t we made with fuses as short as our memories? In so many ways, aren’t we still?
A few months ago, I opened up about how I want to try so much harder to be less angry, to feel less ire towards the world around me. I told you all, in a fit of vulnerability and honesty, that I am sick of carrying the weight of all this frustration, sick of the burden of hostility, and that I wanted to improve, to set it down, to breathe through it and heal. Truth is, I’ve come a long way in only a few months, and truth is, I’ve a long, long way to go. Through this time, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself, about anger, and about the importance of patience in every sense of the word. I’ll expound.
They say the first step in fixing a problem, is admitting you have one. I admitted it, freely and openly and the reception I received from all of you was nothing short of magic. You were so kind, empathetic, and what was more, you related in so many ways to the things I said. If anger is misery, well friends, this misery loved company, and that company was yours. Thank you, so immensely, for it. The conversations that started around that admission were eye-opening, and they were helpful, and they made me realize that this is a shared problem, especially in light of the things we’ve all endured the last few years. It showed me how much patience you all have for me, which made me understand that I need to have a lot more of it for myself. We are all products of what we’ve gone through, the way we were raised, but more, the inherent nature that is fundamental to who we are. I do believe, there’s a kernel of “us-ness” inside that is foundational to the people we are, and the people we become. I’m sure if any of you reading and listening to this are psychiatrists, you’re probably shaking your head in disagreement, and that’s just fine. My background is also in psychology, as well as criminology, and that education mixes like a cocktail with my own life experience to come up with this theory, and so I’m gonna keep it as my running hypothesis, and keep testing it. I think we’re a mixture of nature and nurture, and we’re all born with certain proclivities, certain leanings that pull like gravity in the decisions we make, the people we become. For me, a massive moon in my orbit, a celestial body that shapes me and controls my own gravity, is Autism, and I understand it more now than I ever have.
Autism, and my unique location on the rainbow spectrum that surrounds it, presents me with a strange smorgasbord of both benefits and challenges. It simultaneously gives, and it takes away. What I’ve come to learn, is that my Autism has given me a fuse that can lengthen and shorten drastically based on the situation I am in. Strangely, I am slower to fight, much more than you’d believe with how passionate I am, but when I do, when the threshold is broken, that fight is fierce. This has happened in my life, a time or two and I’ll leave it at that, and what I’ve found about myself is there are triggers that are inarguable and instant — come to me with racism, with sexism, with anything that will harm anyone I love and you will not know this man — and that I am constantly working on much smaller and more minor scales, against my Autism to breathe more, to be more patient (that word again, and more on that soon), and to allow more space for understanding. As I said, Autism is the thing that plants every single seed of creativity and art in me, it’s the thing that gives me more curiosity, empathy, and wonderment, but it’s also a constant struggle to balance the noise, the outward representations of my internal reactions, and so much more. Would I change anything? No. Never. Does it get exhausting sometimes? Yes, as this is a place of honest vulnerability, oh hell yes it gets exhausting. I’m doing the best I can, and I’m actually proud of the strides I’ve taken, the progress I’ve made.
Often, it seems that patience towards the outside factors must be manufactured from nothing at all. In this growth I’ve been practicing for, I’ve noticed that I have been building it, despite the lack of anything solid to use as a foundation, and more often than not I’m using breath as the building blocks, breath as the mortar, and breath as the insulation. I’m slowing, I’m breathing through it, and I’m forcing myself to wait before reacting. This is is hard. Very, very hard. Therein lies the need for patience of another type, the patience not for and towards the outward influences, but towards myself. I have been practicing, often forcing myself to aim some of that patience back at myself. I’m going to fail, I’m going to screw up, I’m going to lose my temper or feel bloated and bogged down with negativity and frustration from time to time, and this is ok. Hell, we’re living in the most divisive times anyone, anywhere, can remember, and we’re confronted on an hourly basis with about 3,000 reasons to get truly and justifiably pissed off. I feel this, then I breathe, then breathe again, and more often than not at the very least it takes the edge off that fire, makes it a simmering rather than a rolling boil, a lighter flame in the dark, not a bonfire. In short, breathing helps. It’s why I suggest it here, to you. When you’re feeling angry, when you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, terrified, anxious, or irate, BREATHE. Take a 5 second breath through your nose, hold it for 8 seconds, and then let it out for a 10 count through your mouth. Do this as many times as you need to do this to feel better, to feel ok, to feel the long fuse version of yourself once more.
I know there are about a million reasons to be angry lately, I know because I feel them too. What I’m saying here today is, you don’t have to let that anger cripple you, you don’t have to let it stunt your growth or revert you back to the cave snoozing stick of dynamite ready to explode at anyone that insults your cave drawing, or steals a bit of your wild boar from the spit on the fire. Focus on the breath my friends, and then focus on the progress, not the distance left to travel. Be proud of the growth in you, celebrate it, share it with those that support you. It’s worth it, I swear.
I’ve watched myself grow,
build patience out of nothing,
breathe before I act.