Creating A “What Makes Me Angry” List


I had never really thought of myself as an angry person. I’m the nice guy, the “no problem” guy, or at least the mild-mannered “every man”. Yet as I stared at the gray block wall pounding out the sprint portion of my interval run on the treadmill I thought about something that made me angry. Part of me jumped in to say, “you shouldn’t be angry about that” and tried to drag the thought away. Yet another part of me dismissed the desire to suppress the thought. Then, like scared children cautiously emerging from the dark, suppressed angry thoughts entered my mind. Soon I was surrounded by many agitated thoughts needing examination.

I made a lunch appointment with myself to explore these thoughts no matter how disturbing they might seem or how bad I might feel for feeling what I felt. On a sheet of paper I began listing things that angered or aggravated me. I didn’t list general things that would make me mad (like child molesters or irresponsible government) but personal things for which I was carrying anger even though, until the treadmill, I was not aware of carrying them around.

As I quickly filled both sides of the paper with things that made me angry, I noticed some common themes. Just when I thought I had justification to be angry at people and situations in my life for these caged feelings, I realized I could ultimately only be angry at myself. It wasn’t what other people did, it was what I allowed to take place in my life. If I was angry about being a prisoner, then I had to see that I was the jailer and the key to the iron door was in my pocket. I was mad at myself for:

  • Things I said “yes” to when I should have said “no.”
  • Things I said “no” to when I should have said “yes.”
  • Things I didn’t say “yes” to because I was scared, self-conscious, or ignorant
  • Things I said “no” to because I was scared, self-conscious, or ignorant
  • Consequences from lack of discipline or assertiveness.
  • Decisions I made because I put too much trust in the opinions of others, whom I considered “experts”, when I was younger

Ironically, I’d read the book Boundaries several years ago on the need to define the borders defining our life and obligations and enforcing those boundaries to prevent others from trespassing within. Either I didn’t listen or I didn’t feel confident on enforcing my borders. I realized this must change. Realizing that other people’s problems and agendas are theirs and you have no obligation to make them yours is critical. You can empathize but you don’t have to take their problems. You can help them carry their burdens but don’t take their burdens from them.

Consider the entries from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long by Robert Heinlein:

“So learn to say no – and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you…This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.”

Carrying anger is unhealthy and burdensome. I’ve known bitter people who could not forgive ancient wrongs and slights thought they were only hurting themselves. They could list the sins of others that made them angry and, though their indignation may have been justified, it was useless to carry it around when the offenders moved on with their lives. They embodied the foolishness of such destructive thinking captured in the quote, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” They fail to see the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:9 that “anger lodges in the heart of fools.” Sometimes we are hesitant to forgive because we feel the other person doesn’t deserve it or they are getting away with something, but we fail to see that in forgiving others we free ourselves!

Reviewing the list brought peace. I knew what I had to change in my life to prevent the “Things That Make Me Angry” list from growing. I released others from blame for things that were my responsibility. I forgave others for what they did (or did not do). I gained understanding about myself and my need to make better decisions and enforce my borders.

When I’m tempted to direct my anger outward, I remember this wisdom from the late Jack Canfield:

  • You are the one who ate the junk food.
  • You are the one who didn’t say no!
  • You are the one who took the job.
  • You are the one who stayed in the job.
  • You are the one who chose to believe them.
  • You are the one who ignored your intuition.
  • You are the one who abandoned your dream.
  • You are the one who bought it.
  • You are the one who didn’t take care of it.
  • You are the one who decided you had to do it alone.
  • You are the one who trusted him.
  • You are the one who said yes to the dogs.

My Father’s Grave

I stand above my father’s grave,
and ponder the passing of life.
At five years old he left my side,me-and-dad
A man to figure out a man’s world alone.

His mind is now dust,
tormented no more by dark thoughts,
questions, doubting, and silent cries.
No pain to soothe. All is quiet.

I know his pain well,
for those dark figures also haunted me.
You fought as you knew best,
And taught me what weapons would harm me.

I lay upon my father’s grave,
my head upon his stone.
I know one day I’ll have such rest,
And my loved ones will journey on without me.

The sun warms my face but my soul is cold.
The end, the ground, the grave.
I fear that my stories and love will be buried,
I fear that I will die only when I learned to live.

I walk away from my father’s grave,
knowing that this day I am alive.
I can make memories and love,
and give life to all that is within me.

Why I Embraced Exercise After Age 45

  1. weightsHigh Blood Pressure, Triglycerides, and Diabetes (oh my!) The general “exercise is good for your health” admonition when you are young and energetic falls on deaf ears. When your doctor gives you scientific data on the deterioration of your body and risk factors at middle age, it can be a wake up call. Triglycerides levels are directly related to exercise and diet. Everything that is attacking or killing the people your age can be mitigated with a good diet, exercise, and smart health decisions. I’d really like to avoid stroke and heart attack. I don’t want diabetes. Period. Exercise and diet are no guarantees but I want to give my body a fighting chance.
  2. Fat Pictures No, these pants do not make me look fat. The extra 40 pounds on my frame make me look fat. Looking at my picture from the side I noticed jowls. I do not want jowls. The straight on mirror shot is not too bad and I can suck in my stomach for a quick fix but other views cannot hide the body only a desk job could love. Yes I am a bit vain about my appearance, though not obsessively so. I’d like carved abs instead of looking like a soon to be carved turkey so I crunch. I remember my beefcake pictures from the year of exercising faithfully and would like a repeat.
  3. Struggling Old People When I see an old person walking or standing up with great difficulty I think, “there but for the grace of God and some smart decisions go I.” There are no guarantees but if I exercise now I’ll build my bones and muscles instead of allowing them to deteriorate as they will do when not challenged. Of course disease or other factors could debilitate me and I’ll be pushing a walker but I’d rather be taken down by a cause than to be a weak old man because I didn’t get my tail off the couch and fight to keep the muscles. I hope to be one of those old people who still have a spring in their step and are able to walk, work, and enjoy life because they trained their body to be strong.
  4. Grandchildren To Be Named Later Since my oldest child is 18 years old, I hope it will be many years before I have grandchildren. But, if I am so blessed, I want to be able to walk and play with them as much as possible. Thinking about reason #1, I want to live to see them so I need to give my body the best odds of surviving until they arrive on the scene. I also want to be an energetic old grandfather who takes them to museums, playgrounds, and trips. In order to have that strong body, I need to start building today.
  5. A Happy and Prosperous New Me. Exercise helps reduce or remove depression without the unpleasant side effects of medication. I feel better about myself and have more positive energy when I’m active. This helps me perform better at work and helps me build confidence. I am able to deal with work pressures so much better, especially when I can exercise during the middle of the work day. In addition to a more positive attitude at work, a healthy life means more working years when I should have the experience and wisdom to be in better paying jobs within my industry. I want to minimize the chance of being taken out by injury and disability before the prime earning years. Economic stability also helps keep depression away.

Whatever motivates you to get in shape and stay in shape, embrace it. The motivation must come from within. No amount of preaching by your doctor or spouse will motivate you. You must find the reasons that you want to maximize your health and let it build a better you for tomorrow.