By Amy Shearn
There's plenty that can drop off your to-do list. Here is what cannot: letting go of unproductive anger.
Yvette, Of Yvette's
There is no rage like bad-haircut rage. You tried to be specific, you tried to be clear, but Yvette only snapped her gum and frowned at your request for "no color, no layers, no products... just a cut." And when the cut was revealed in the mirror... layers. Tons of layers. It's maddening to be ignored. It's frustrating to feel that money has not been well spent. But remember that you were able to fix the choppy Rachel-from-Friends atrocity yourself with the help of sharp scissors and a YouTube video; and that in a few weeks your hair looked fine. The pain was not a lasting one; Yvette wasn't trying to ruin your life. You do not need to flame her on Yelp; i.e., keep spreading the bad feeling around. You do need to find a new place to get your hair cut.
Your Privileged Friend
We all have that friend. You know the one. She didn't seem different when you two first met and hit it off. She didn't seem different when she was shopping for her first home and complaining about the high prices everywhere. Then she bought a house with a pool, in a gated community, and you thought, "Wait a minute here, but she's a yoga teacher... Ohhhhh, she is secretly rich." Oh sure, you could get all Occupy Friendship about it and nurture resentment about her lack of student loans, her all-family cruises, the way she drops your entire monthly entertainment budget on one night of drinks. And yet, it's not her fault that she was born into money while other people were not. Think about it: Is she an unbearable snob? Is she terribly superficial? Probably not, or you never would have become friends with her in the first place. Do her checks from Mom and Dad somehow siphon away your own savings? No, no they do not. You are allowed exactly 15 seconds of self-pity every time she announces some lavish expenditure she doesn't realize is a lavish expenditure. After that, your resentment is just impoverishing your friendship. And no one can afford to do that.
The Tomato Tyrant
Being part of a local organization like a PTA, neighborhood advisory board or community garden is a wonderful way to connect with your neighbors, acquire new skills and learn all about the many different and exciting ways there are to be eccentric. For example, the gardener who has been tilling the shared soil at the community garden since 1903 and has no time for newbies like yours truly. "Sure, put your pots over there in the sun," such a fellow grunted at me when I asked if a space was free. "They'll be dead by July, anyway." I felt like he'd reached out and pinched me. This person surely did not mean any harm. Of course, it never seems this way at the time, and I assumed he was simply being cruel. Writer and teacher Jennifer Pastiloff has a great post about taking things personally on her site, The Manifest-Station, in which she writes, "I want to have lived. Having said that, I want to decide what gets my goat. I want to decide what makes me fall on the floor in a heap and I'll be damned if it's going to be someone asking me if I am pregnant because I look fat in a photograph." People will say insensitive things every day of our lives. The good news is, we get to decide what we do and don't obsess over. PS: July came, eventually, and guess what? My pots resembled dioramas of the Sahara. The seasoned gardener had been right all along -- they were too much in the sun, literally -- only I was too touchy to take his comment in the manner it was intended.The poor seedlings might have flourished, over in the shady corner instead. Sigh. Tomato Tyrant, you are forgiven.
The Boss Who Should Have Been You
Oh, the new boss. You didn't love him when he was the new assistant. You didn't love him when he was your co-worker. And then he went and got the promotion you thought should have been yours. You have the right to be angry. But resenting him costs energy and won't make you feel better. Perhaps it's even more important to remember that he didn't promote himself. Maybe this is a wake-up call: The higher-ups don't appreciate you, and it's time to channel frustration about that into a job search.
Your Future Self
This one is the hardest of all: Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself not just for what has happened in the past, but for all the things that will happen in the year ahead. Look, unless you happen to be, say, Kate Middleton, it's likely that you haven't been perfect this year. You weren't patient every minute, you weren't generous at every chance, you were sometimes lacking in courage and occasionally, unkind. You haven't done everything you wanted to do. But that's okay. You are trying. And you will continue to make mistakes in the future. And that will be okay, too. So make an ambitious life list. Plan wonderful things. And preforgive yourself for the missteps you are bound to make, the times you will balk, the interactions in which you will be grumpy, the chances you may fail to take, the opportunities you will miss, the times you will fail spectacularly. The times you will fail mundanely. The frustrations you will take out on others, on yourself. Forgive yourself, so that you can try great new things. Make your own confidence possible.
Amy Shearn is the author of The Mermaid of Brooklyn: A Novel.
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