In my last post I mentioned that my husband lost his job a few weeks back. I panicked and freaked out and wanted to drink that night…briefly. The desire to drink was really a fleeting feeling, it came and went and I didn’t act on it, thank God. The panic and freaking out lasted longer, evidenced by the red eyes and tears that I wore to work for the next couple of days. Once I calmed down and realized that everything would be ok and that we wouldn’t be destitute, living under a bridge, a different emotion set in. Anger. Lots of it.
I don’t know if you remember from earlier posts, but my husband and I worked together at a local vocational college. He was a teacher of general education classes for the Bachelor’s program and I am the registrar. I was thrilled when he got the job, as we would get to spend more time together, and it was something that I knew he would be good at and enjoy. And he was, and he did. The experience he had there was almost all positive, and nearly all of his students loved and admired him. So it was a shock to find out that because of a few lazy and manipulative students, he was let go from his position. (I want you to know that even though I am mostly over the anger now, it takes an enormous amount of restraint to only use the words lazy and manipulative. My head and heart feel that only much stronger, uglier words, are truly appropriate to describe the students who went on the warpath.)
I was so angry. I did, at first, have a resentment against my husband, if only for being naive and not getting how the corporate world works. He has spent the majority of his adult life as a minister, not working in the secular realm, and there is a big difference. He was simply not prepared for the bureaucracy that is involved in a for-profit college these days. And so he got canned. And I was angry at him. Not for long, though. I let that anger go quickly, almost without a second thought. I know my husband’s heart, and I know that for him, this was an extremely unfair decision. He was as devastated as I was.
The hardest part about this whole thing was that I had to go back to work the next day – at the same place, with the same boss, where my husband had just been treated unjustly. I need my job, I need health insurance, and I must have a paycheck. These are the thoughts that kept me going that first day back, but I was so very angry. I somehow made it through the day, not without tears though.
Now, I have made it through several weeks of work since my husband was let go. I have kept my head down, nose to the grindstone, and gotten my work done. I have gone from ignoring coworkers, to crying with coworkers, to acting like everything was completely normal. But I did all of those things with a huge amount of underlying anger, that I had yet to express. I was angry at my boss, and her boss, I was angry at the coworkers who said nothing in support of my husband, I was angry at the students who started this whole witch hunt. It was hard to go to work everyday, and it was hard to care about anything that I was doing there. And I thought maybe that this was just going to be the new normal.
After a while of that, though, I came to the realization that my anger was not serving me well. I was grouchy and lazy and I was taking it out on those closest to me. It wasn’t pretty. Here’s the thing though, even knowing all of the things that the program teaches about letting go of resentments, and having worked so hard on forgiveness of others in the past, I couldn’t seem to let it go, it felt like righteous, justified anger. When you take those feelings with the added feeling that if I were to let it go, I would somehow be betraying my husband, the task of giving up my anger seemed impossible. I knew intellectually that I was doing myself more harm than good by hanging onto it, but my heart wasn’t aligned with my head yet. I get the whole anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die thing, I get that resentments are the “number one” offender. I have heard those so many times in the program, and I know that they’re true. So why was it so hard for me to do what I knew I needed to do?
My nature is to be friendly, talkative, helpful, and caring at work. It took a lot of energy and negative thinking to keep myself in the state that I was while at work. I knew that I wasn’t exactly punishing anyone else, their lives went on as usual, even my boss treated me like nothing negative had happened. I also knew that it would be “easier” for me to go back to the way things were before. I could feel the talkative, friendly person I usually am trying to get through the surly grouch that I had become. I had to figure out how to let go of this anger and feel ok with doing so.
In the end, there were two things that helped me through the anger. One was talking to my husband about what I was feeling. I told him how I felt like it would be a betrayal against him to let it go. I admitted to him that I knew that staying angry was taking too much effort and having a negative impact on me. I was surprised to hear that he really didn’t want me to stat angry, and that he thought that it was best for me to let it go, that he already had! He would not feel like I wasn’t in his corner just because I could no longer hold the grudges I had been clinging to. What a relief! I thought that when I went to work the next day, things would be better…and they were, sort of. I still felt the anger well up though when I had to deal with my boss, or her boss. My anger, while lessened, still lingered.
The second thing that helped me happened the next week. I was approached by the “big boss” (my boss’ boss) for a chat. He clearly knew that I was angry and unhappy and he took the time to sit down with me and he allowed me to express my feelings about what happened. Admittedly, the first sit-down wasn’t exactly pleasant and I was still feeling righteous in my anger. I’m sure he picked up on that. But he came back, later in the day, and expressed how he felt about me as an employee and friend, and he said that he didn’t want to lose me, but that he would like the old Jami back. He left it at that.
I didn’t go home feeling light and full of peace and serenity. I wasn’t sure if I was being manipulated or if the sentiments that he expressed were genuine. I wanted to believe the latter…I needed to believe that. I talked again with my husband and he again encouraged me to trust that what I heard was true, and to let go of the anger. So I made a decision – just like that! – to let it go. It turns out that it doesn’t really matter what the truth was. I was headed in the direction of letting it go, and I think that I just needed a little bit more of a push to get past my last shreds of holding on. This was the nudge I needed. Work was much more pleasant in the days that followed, I wasn’t the grumpy, clock-watching, sour-puss that I had been, and it felt really good.
I guess the lesson to be learned here is that all of those trite, seemingly silly sayings that we hear in AA, are repeated and repeated for a reason. They are true. They work. I just hope that next time something like this happens, I realize that sooner.