Thursday, November 10, 2005

Temper, Temper

It seems as if I have always had a temper. And by that I mean one that I lose on occasion, often explosively. Often to my profound regret.
It was a habit I didn't really have as a child or even as a teenager but one that developed as I grew out of my teens. I was a terror in my twenties, quite insufferable on a regular basis, even to myself. As I have aged, ie, grown old and more weary, I have mellowed somewhat, but am still surprised to find myself getting wound up for little or no apparent reason. And how un-self-aware is that? And when it begins to happen I find myself almost divorced from the process, like I am standing outside myself wondering what the hell I am doing, seemingly quite helpless to stop the escalation.

And I have never thought of myself as an overly angry person, although God knows I have a few issues. But when I have one of my fits I make everyone around me and myself in particular both miserable and uncomfortable. Some situations I have learned to avoid - traffic and rush hour being two - because I know that they will likely trigger me off but at other times it seems like my body has been taken over by aliens.

I finally had a Eureka! moment the other day when a friend observed that just prior to my "losing my temper" on one memorable occasion, I was increasingly anxious. I was on a deadline and events were conspiring all day long to push me further and further behind schedule. Now it is probably wise to insert at this point that I am something of a fanatic when it comes to punctuality. I mean, as in, down to seconds and minutes. Literally. I am not making this up. There should probably be a law against me wearing a watch.

I have probably had more temper tantrums in my life related to my being late or other people being late than any other single reason. And yes, of course watching the clock is all about the illusory sense of being in control of your life. It is a characteristic that is exceptionally difficult in personal relationships. There is no control and you have absolutely no control over the behavior and actions of others. I recognize this of course with a weary sense of doom. Up until the present, all the preceding has had a Kafkaesque air of a self-fulfilling prophesy, in particular when it comes to my relationships with women because it is another immutable law of the Universe that the more physically attractive a women is, the greater the likelihood that she will be late and keep you waiting....

I think Eistein noted this very fact just before he published E=MC2, which of course got all the press at the time.

(I do have to insert this note - being punctual also has to do with respecting your time and the time of others, but I digress)

As I recalled all the events that led up to and triggered me losing control of my composure on the day in question, I realized that what I was experiencing was more on the order of an anxiety attack than an expression of ill-temper, although I certainly sounded and acted like an asshole. And as I was throwing my little fit of pique I was powerless to divert it.

My friends comment about my anxiety was revelatory because I was very anxious child. I worried at home, I worried at school, in short I worried about EVERYTHING. I used to worry so much that I had terrible stomach cramps that left me unable to move. My situation at home was somewhat volatile in that I never knew, moment to moment, what the mood might be and as the eldest I was going to bear the brunt of any parental storm front. At school I was usually the newest kid on the block as we moved quite often when I was young, every few years, and I was physically on the small side. My greatest single memory of my childhood is that I lived in a perpetual state of uncertainty. I spent a lot of time worrrying about what was going to happen next...

Why all this psycho-babble in a fucking running blog you might ask, for Christsake!?! Good point. The thing about my running is that it is one of the few moments when I am not anxious. When I race or run on my own I am curiously content. Being a pace group leader has moments where I worry about the effects of the behavior of others on the group, my own included, but for the most part I am free of getting wound up. And trust me, I am endlessly tired of feeling increasingly compressed like an over-tightened watch spring until the moment when I come all undone. There does come a time when you and the others in your life get tired of watching you clean up in the aftermath of a natural disaster. It is exhausting work.

Control is of course an illusory state. The natural state of the universe is one of entropy, a gradual and inevitable decay into chaos. The great appeal of the marathon to me is a gut-level sense and aknowledgement that I can do all the training in the world and in the end, the results are pretty much out of my hands. I can do the best I can, prepare myself to the best of my ability but on the day of the race, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. To someone who goes around worrying all the time without even really being aware of it, that is oddly reassuring.

Who knows, if I run enough marathons, I may even begin to behave in a civilized manner...


Blogger Scooter said...

Well, Vince, based on this post, I feel compelled to tell you that when we meet up in Boston, unless something weird happens, I will be 10-15 minutes late. (I suppose that means I buy first.)

12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Ultraclyde said...

I just found your blog. Congrats on the big BQ last month in Kelowna. I just recently started blogging about my own attempt to BQ. Its really inspiring to see that you made it.

6:50:00 PM  
Blogger runninturnip said...

Running serves a similar purpose in my life. I too have a pretty good temper which after some investigating turned out to be due to anxiety disorder. I am told that excersize is one of the BEST things you can do and when I start getting anxious my husband always tells me - GO RUN. Even my parents noticed in high school a big difference in my temper when I was playing sports or not!

8:37:00 AM  

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