18 || FRUSTRATION
Well fuck. How’s it going? You good? Honestly, I’m not. Not really. I mean I am, but… it’s complicated. I’ve been meaning to tell you I miss you. Weird, I know. But there’s this practice I’ve been doing – courtesy of our new therapist and a lot of self-help books (JFC there’s so many self-help books) – about getting back in touch with your younger self. Recognizing that your outbursts, your tantrums, your frustrations and anger, those are reactions to difficulty that have been picked up in childhood to deal with hard, and often painful, circumstances.
So when I get angry and sad or upset, I’m supposed to think about you. I’m supposed to think about you and tell you that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that all these years later, you’re still buried deep within me and you’re hurting. I’m supposed to tell you that I miss you and that I love you and that even though it feels as if your emotions are so often a secondary thought to others, they’re not. Then I’m supposed to give you a hug (a weird mental hug evidently).
These past three months have gone from sad, to heartbreaking, to annoying, to happy, to sad again, to irritating, to thoughtful with a hint of bitter. They’ve forced me into a lot of positions I don’t want to be in and I wish I could say I’ve handled it well, but the majority of it I haven’t. Because here’s the thing –
I have been goddamn frustrated.
And frustration doesn’t lend a hand to calm or reasonable behavior which sucks even more because as you very well know, our relationship with anger in the past has been far too intimate and people generally expect it of us now. And when people expect things from you, they tend find way to pull it out of you – even when you were so sure it was dead and buried and gone forever.
So I want to use this letter to talk to you about how to deal with frustration. There are a lot of lessons I have left to learn and even more I need to stop claiming I understand in their full clarity and instead put the effort into practicing. I figure writing this out might serve as a refresher for myself, as well as a necessary introduction for you. Frustration is a difficult emotion because it’s not quite anger, but it’s not quite not anger (as you can see eloquence in articulation remains our strong suit). It’s the step before you scream and yell when your face gets hot and you can feel a ball of tension rising in your chest. That point when you haven’t punched a wall yet, but it’s become tempting. Frustration is frustrating (give me the Pulitzer already, damn) because it’s overwhelming, but it is manageable.
Managing frustration comes down to one simple trick and by simple I mean complete and total pain in the ass. That trick – are you listening – is letting shit go.
Do you hate that? Yeah, me too. The number of times we’ve been facing a crisis and been told, “Oh my god, just let it go,” “It’s not important, let it go, “Eight bagillion years from now it won’t matter, just let it go," “Blah blah blah, something vaguely insightful, let it go,” is truly the most annoying. Like oh okay, I didn’t think of that, but now that’s you’ve said it I feel great. It’s like I’ve been reborn. Thank you, your undeniable mediocrity has lifted the weight of life from my shoulders.
I hate it, you get it.
But truthfully, letting go really is the only way to stop frustration in its tracks and learning to let go means learning to nip shit in the bud before it gets the best of you. You’ve always prided yourself on being this tough, strong-headed girl who moves past the bullshit, but in reality that’s not who you are at all and we both know it. Granted, if the bullshit is coming from someone you could care less about, it doesn’t usually faze you, but that’s because you’re actually semi-reasonable (big emphasis on semi). If it is coming from someone you know and it does directly affect you, well then you’re far from immune to going full asshole.
So how do you learn to let things go?
Not easily. Obviously.
But it’s here that I’ll quickly refer you to the serenity prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
Frustration ultimately comes from grasping for control over a circumstance that you don’t have control over. And we both know you love to control things, whether or not you’re aware that you’re doing it. The first key in fighting frustration is understanding the true nature of the predicament, meaning you must ask yourself, “Can I change this situation?”
Seems obvious, right? But it’s not. It’s not easy to answer that question. It may be different for others, but the reason it’s so difficult for you is that you have a tendency to fold yourself into a pretzel to give yourself the illusion of control.
A good example – you had a past boyfriend who kept pushing off the “moving in together” talk. It was something you were ready to do and something they weren’t. Instead of accepting that the two of you simply weren’t in the same headspace and letting it go, you convinced yourself that you too weren’t ready so that you could feel as though the state of the circumstance was your choice.
Unfortunately, that kind of behavior breeds a lot of resentment because your brain doesn’t take kindly to being lied to. Resentment leads to frustration, frustration to anger, yada yada yada, you know where this goes. Doesn’t wind up in a great place.
Your most recent run in with genuine frustration was one of the worst you’ve experienced in a while because there was no opportunity for self-pretzel-folding which is, obviously in retrospect, a good thing. But at the time it really challenged you. As it stands, the situation was complicated and valid on all sides and truth be told, I’m really fucking tired of talking about it and it just doesn’t matter anymore, so all I’m going to say is that it put you in a place where no matter how you twisted and turned yourself, you couldn’t gain even an ounce of control.
It was infuriating, but it was a good lesson in recognizing that there really will be moments where you have no outward power and you’re dependent on others to step in and deliver. And whatever they deliver, you have to accept that. And accepting that means unearthing some resilience within yourself to thoughtfully choose how you’re going to react. Which – actually – is kind of empowering in itself.
So I mean, here’s the deal, the universe is going to do whatever the hell it wants. I don’t mean that to say it controls all and you control nothing. But trying to fight back in those moments when the answer to, “Can I change this situation?” is “No, probably not,” is sort of equivalent to standing in the middle of a hurricane, summoning it to stop and then being upset when it doesn’t.
In an attempt to make you feel better about the string of frustrating circumstances that are going to blindside you over this series of months, people are going to reach out and try to soothe you by telling you what you need. They’ll do it for different reasons, some mildly annoying, but all well-intentioned. And though they’re well-intentioned I want you to remember something –
You are the only person who knows what you need.
So nod, say thank you or whatever other shit they need to hear, and then do what you were going to do anyway. Because no one else knows you better than you know yourself.
In short, I think the best way to handle frustration is reminding yourself that when something falls apart it’s because something bigger and better is on the horizon and the universe is just making room for you to get to it. Folding yourself into a pretzel for somebody else’s agenda will only postpone the frustration, but it won’t dispel it. Trying to change the unchangeable will just piss you off. But training yourself to let go of immutable frustrations because you know there is something greater for you out there really does help do the trick.
And I want you to remember something else, just as a side note – if someone won’t fight to keep you in their life, then they’re not worth fighting to keep in yours. As far as frustration goes, trust me, knowing that will save you a lot of grief and wasted time in the future. Though circumstance is often difficult and out of our control, I hope you’ll try to remember that things are really only as complicated as we choose to make them. So don’t let anyone make you feel like a complication.
Let go, do what’s best for you and fuck the rest. Life is really too short to make a mess of temporary difficulty.
Love you turd face,