This morning when walking Charlie, I’d barely gotten out of the car and embarked on my usual loop trail in the community forest when I heard a woman shout at her (evidently not very obedient) dog. It was borderline scary, the way she was reprimanding it: „Sit. Sit, I said! Did you not hear me?! Sit!!!“, steadily getting louder, as if the dog were talking back, as if it were a person. Poor doggo, I thought, as I walked away, a bit shaken.
A little further into my walk, two cyclists emerged from one of the other trails, a woman and her young child, the latter screaming and screaming and screaming: „I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, aaaaaaahhhh!“, at the top of her lungs, pedaling madly, then jumping off the bike, throwing it into the bushes, still yelling! It had an unbridled, violent ferocity to it, and interestingly enough, I felt myself react to the kid’s vibe of aggression, feeling angry in return, even though none of it was any of my business.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the lady who had to deal with that meltdown. And then, I heard her firmly say in a charming Swiss accent: „That’s quite enough now, Matilda.“ And lo and behold, the screaming gradually turned into sobs, and when I turned around to look for Charlie who had chosen that place as perfect for taking a dump (which I removed of course, duh), I saw that the bikes were parked by the side of the trail, and the child was in the woman’s arms, quietly crying it out.
I can not even tell you how much I admired that woman this morning. What a healthy, peaceful approach to her daughter’s meltdown. I have not known to be that patient with my own daughter, back in the day, and often caught myself the very last second before raising my hand to her, and certainly not always before raising my voice. Kudos to you, lady at the forest this morning, and well done. Marshall Rosenberg would be proud.
As I sit at my laptop, translating a fun book for young and aspiring Makers, I can hear the neighbors, more than they probably realize. It’s in the thirties again, everybody has their windows open, it’s an old building … One of them is a father of three sons, and I’ve been exposed to his type of aggro potential more times than I’d like, second hand. His sons seem even more sullen than the average boy their age. But he must love them anyway, right??
During the lock-down, I heard him lose it on a regular basis. Never to the point of becoming physical, but still, no bueno! When it happened, it made me feel blessed every single time, for having a large enough apartment so that everybody could retreat into their own corner to do their work, for having work in the first place, also for having a sweet little reason for taking walks every single day, allowing me to take deep, cleansing breaths, and center myself with nature’s help.
On a bad day, all these wise reflections don’t amount to much, of course. I, too, have been known to rant, yell, nag, and be mean. When caught on the wrong foot in the wrong moment, God help the person who came at me… even if they’re cute and little. Smartass comments from my teenager „Just say no mom“, or „You’re all hangry. Go eat and stop yelling at people“, or „Well, sorry if doing my a, b or c seemed more important than doing my chores …“ only add to the negativity, and it’s not easy to de-escalate the situation sometimes.
A sense of humor helps. As does feeling secure in the knowledge of being loved. I’m intensely grateful to my parents both who implanted this deep, deep down in my soul. It’s more than many people have, this trusting in the fact that I deserve to be loved. Of course, there were also many other things implanted, like the constant fear that everything might disappear into thin air at any given time, the impostor syndrome, the fear people might become angry with me, I could go on and on. But the love thing keeps the neuroses in balance, most days anyway.
I know for a fact that each and every one of you deals with aggression, in yourself as well as in your environment, one way or the other. Please talk to me about how you cope with it, what your strategies are, what makes you simmer down (and flare up) – it’s an interesting phenomenon, and we can all benefit from understanding it better, I think.