Get Angry Like the Dalai Lama
There was a particular day over this long winter where I felt more down than I had in quite some time.
It had been a long and confusing fall, and the winter’s grey and mopey gloom had done nothing to help lift me from my funk.
I had been through a lot. I had put myself through a lot. And I wanted to blame someone as much as I wanted to be reassured and comforted.
On the day in question, I was sitting on a friends couch looking at my phone, my eyes completely obscured by a thick pool of tears. I had been feeling increasingly disconnected and isolated, and the text that I had just read made me feel like crawling into myself and never coming out.
I hate when that happens.
My friend looked at me, big brandy-colored eyes full of concern, but cautiously treading the fine line between probing for more and respecting my need for space. We’re friends who love each other, but were new enough in each other’s circles that we’re not really sure where to push and pull.
I summoned the inner strength of the martyr - one of my favorite costumes - got in my car, cried my mascara off, went to the creepy corner store where they have the rice chips my friend likes, dramatically got two bags, brought them back to her saying, “It’s not you, ok?”
She hugged me for a really long time, which - between us gals - felt amazing. Not because #rainbows, but because it’s easy to forget that a fifteen-second hug releases oxytocin, and if you haven’t been hugged in a while, it can change everything.
Then I went and took a nap.
I love a nap. Emotion of any kind leaves me physically exhausted. If I get angry or sad or feel lonely or afraid...or hungry, or a strong breeze blows...the best thing I can do is take a nap. It’s also a slippery slope, and it’s important that I balance it with knowing that sequestering myself leads to a feeling of despair and a hopeless aloneness.
Self-awareness is a real bitch sometimes.
But on that day, I remember when my friend asked me what was wrong saying, “I’m exhausted.”
For months I found that “exhausted” was the only word I had to describe how I felt. And I meant every possible available connotation of that word.
The reserve of energy built by the work I’ve done on myself over the last few years was no longer available for some reason - it had actually been exhausted. It had been used, and used up - which are two different things altogether as it turns out.
I was worn out and weary. The tread on me was gone. I was threadbare.
I felt breathless and bankrupt.
That day, I remember thinking that I didn’t feel fulfilled and recharged like I used to when I was with people...my people. That’s new, and sort of disconcerting considering connection is the main thing that got me out of my own way in the first place.
It’s just that I didn’t feel like I was being invested in by anymore any more. I didn’t feel like anyone was even trying to give back.
It feels hard to maintain relationships when you spend most of your mornings planning how to make someone’s day...that makes me angry and resentful. It simultaneously makes me feel selfish and self-serving, and like my love is conditional.
But sometimes you just want people to show up for you, you know? Even when they’re tired and don’t feel like it.
I mean, I’m the one who gets the cards and writes the notes. I send emails and texts and slide into all the DMs with something intentional. I get treats and make care packages. I sometimes spring for DeFazio’s. I buy drinks and I sit and listen.
Well I used to. I do a lot more talking now, I guess.
I just get tired of being tired, and tired of being let down, and tired being frustrated all the time. Being angry gets really old. And I just wish I could be a better person.
And that’s when an old memory came to me: The Dalai Lama gets angry.
I wish I could say that it was that same day on that friend’s couch where I remembered this, but it took months of getting in my own way, and breaking my own heart, and hosting my own pity party before I remembered that.
The calmest, wisest, most enlightened person on the earth gets pissed.
Why is that so encouraging?
What else does he feel?
Before, when I first started all of this “work” on myself, it was inspiring and almost exhilarating. I would tell my little story and let everyone marvel in the awesomeness that oozed from my humble pores. I had gone through the hard stuff, survived, and was able to look back in my wise, grandmotherly way, and try to lead people on to the promised land.
I was inspired by myself because I am truly my biggest fan.
[Related aside: there is an unsubscribe button somewhere on this page. No hard feelings.]
Or maybe it was my belief that people thought I was inspiring that kept my spirits buoyed. There had been a slow leak for a while, and I wondered why I didn’t feel like bailing the boat.
I just didn’t know exactly how long I had been so full of shit, nor did I know where the hole in my soul was or how to plug it.
I was in a funk, man. That, and a lot of it swirls around being newishly gay. Newishly realized gay. I was always gay. Maybe it’s like, born again Gaystian. Gayhovah Witness? Presbygayrian?
Being gayer than Rosie O’Donnell in the women’s American Gladiator locker room is only part of who I am, but it happens to be the loudest part of my brain at the moment, so it takes up a lot of my bandwidth. Plus, I’m very much on an island alone as I try to figure this out, and, frankly I’m going stir crazy.
Well, it’s significantly better now, but it wasn’t pretty for a few months.
I have a worry about myself sometimes: Am I working so hard to get my okay-ness from other people? Worse, oh God, am I giving all of myself hoping that other people will get their okay-ness from me?
Does the Dalai Lama ever expect things from the people in his life just to see if they’ll do it to prove their love?
Weren’t things less painful when I was more self-serving? I may have been angry and sad, but at least I had realistic expectations without all of that faith in people. At least I wasn’t as naive.
God, what does even having that thought make me?
I have these really gross feelings sometimes, especially this winter, and they were very much in my face. I feel like my vision can become clouded by them, and they weigh me down to keep me from getting altitude for a breath of fresh air and a better view.
And when those feelings refuse to be evicted, they cling on tighter, and help me act like a total tool - teary and pathetic.
I want to be more like the Dalai Lama. And since that’s laughably impossible, how about more like….ummmm….Michelle Obama? Or like Ellen DeGeneres maybe? Like, kind and chill, but passionate and funny?
Do they get sad and pathetic when things get weird too? Did Ellen have six months of almost intolerable self-loathing and make her friends question her sanity when she was a Baby Gay?
Is self-awareness the first step to recovery?
Na, the problem with self awareness is that it doesn’t mean you actually change your behavior, it just means you are miserable as you watch yourself act like a petulant child. So you double down on the things that feel more like “you,” like doing nice things, or trying to be the best listener, or the best helper, or the best whatever-the-hell-someone-wants because even if you can’t be wholehearted in the other places, you can be amazing in the things they praise you on.
Does Ellen ever give gifts on her show and hope inside that she gets praised? How many charities do First Ladies give to just so they look good in the papers?
We all have funks, and we all do things for people from places that are less than wholehearted, but how do you get your head out of your ass, summon your patronus (mine is a can of Miller Lite) and let the light of who you really want to be shine through?
Maybe it’s setting boundaries.
I know how to set boundaries on the things I don’t want - easily. Like in my sleep. I have zero problem in saying “No” to things. Say, your great-aunt Gertrude’s 89th birthday on a Sunday afternoon when you know there won’t be an open bar. I have more self-care routines than Oprah on Super-Soul Sunday in every one of those circumstances.
But what about when there’s something you want, but it’s probably eroding all of your organs from the inside out to have it? How do you set boundaries for yourself then? What if the thing you want involves another person that you care about? What if your relationship is unhealthy, and you don’t know how to tell them? Do you set boundaries for them too? What if they don’t want the same boundaries? What if they don’t even know that the dynamic they have with you is toxic? What if they actually need you, but it’s pulling you under water?
What would the Dalai Lama do then?
Would he tell them over brunch? Would he try to set them up for success by telling them about a hundred times that something is important to him, and hope that they actually show up? Would he write them a blog?
Ellen would make a joke. Michelle would have them tried for treason.
What would Oprah do?
All of those people are happy, right? The must have it all together.
Which reminds me….I have two false beliefs: that having “happiness” is about having all of the right conditions in place; and that I can create those conditions.
Isn’t that what the Dalai Lama believes too? That he’s in control? He’s so important, seems like he would.
Does the Dalai Lama get tired when he’s emotionally spent? Does he nap like I do?
I actually wanted to know, so I Googled the dude.
He really does get angry. And he’s ok with it. Not only does he get angry, he gets angry with his staff when the let him down.
I’m in love.
The Dalai Lama gets let down by people too.
So, he wrote a book about these funky feelings, as one does, and said that the antidote is, “thoughts of patience and tolerance.”
Just thoughts in that general direction? That sounds an awful lot like meditation (she said, eyes squinting with skepticism…”)
Just making the assumption that someone is doing the best they can with what they have in a given moment, even if it’s a fleeting thought, can let out enough pressure to help the negative feeling keep moving through you, rather than sitting in your gut for 20 years.
In my case, I’ve had a rock of negative thoughts resting somewhere right below my xiphoid process since somewhere around mid-November, and I haven’t known how to show it patience or tolerance, and certainly don’t know how to let it move through me.
I need an emotional enema.
But you know what? Himself (His Holiness) isn’t wrong. We really can’t prevent negative thoughts...it’s just the way we’re designed. But if we look at it, give it a loving pat on the butt, and let it move on through us, things don’t feel quite so sticky.
In my case, I’ve let my own insecurities or maybe an acute feeling of aloneness make a home in me (and they’re terrible roommates by the way). And although I can’t imagine a day when I’ll be Dalai Lamichellellen enough to not cry on my friend’s couch, maybe I’ll find a quicker path to sit in a quiet space and really ask myself where it hurts.
Once I can dislodge it from planting a flag, that’s when I can gain some higher ground to really ask for what I need. Maybe it’ll be then that I stop building houses of false expectations and forcing my people to live in them, then being surprised when they all end up burned to the ground.
Maybe getting mad like the Dalai Lama is the way to go.