Monday, March 2, 2009

Them's Fightin' Words!!!

You know those days you are going along, minding your own, happy as a clam and then out of nowhere, you hear something. Could be from a spouse, child (usually), or even just from a friend, but all of a sudden--yep sure enough, here comes a tizzy, and I'm about to be worked up into it!!! Oh, no! Instantly frustrated.
Whether we admit it or not, I'm convinced everybody has instant triggers, or fighting words, virtually guaranteed to impact your mood, even if only briefly. These are the phrases or comments that you hear so often, or in such a way, that they go straight for the jugular. You swear they only exist to annoy you. The trick to these things is that they are so superficially innocent, the people that say them may not even realize they are grating your mood like a cheese grater, but it bugs you nonetheless. I am not talking about things that are meant to be hurtful ("Gee, you've gotten fat!") but just ordinary phrases that people say every day and 99 people out of 100 might hear them and think nothing of it (or even use them), but to you, AUGH! Have you ever accidentally mixed up Bruce Wayne and Bruce Banner in front of a comic book fan--I'm convinced there is still a guy out in the Universe lecturing me on that one, I've never regretted a mistake so much, if only because the consequenses were so long and boring. I clearly touched a nerve. Lately, I've taken this theory to the road to find out if it pans out, and sure enough, when people actually think about it, they usually can come up with something that drives them crazy in two seconds or less.
It's harder than you think, because you may not realize that is what triggers the bad mood until you really analyze it--what do you know, I am always crabby on days my kid asks why we're not having pancakes for breakfast, I just thought it was them being extra annoying that day! There's no right or wrong to this, you may be completely rational by your triggers, or you may be way off in left field, but the point is, as long as you don't actually throw anything or act on it, it is okay to feel that way from time to time. Maybe you don't realize how deep it goes in your psyche, someone is innocently making conversation, and you assume it's a slight to your cleaning skills because deep down, you know you're not a clean person (see below).
Admitting it is the first step, so here are some examples to help you get thinking about what drives you into a tizzy. It may even make you a better parent/coworker/friend to realize that sometimes, it truly isn't them, it's you. Dang it.

In the name of fairness, I'll go first. Every single time I tell Daniel about a major mess in the house, he always asks "Did you clean it up?" AUGH! Drives me up the wall! I just want to say (and sometimes do, because he loves me for who I am) "No. I put a velvet rope around it and am charging two bits a gander." Seriously, never once in our marriage has he come home to a mess I knew about and just left there. Ever. I always want to blame him when I'm in a bad mood after that, but deep down, I know it's the way I automatically react to his automatic response. He's just talking out loud, and I can't help but take the bait as if it's a personal insult to my cleaning ability. Instant frustration. Now it's become so common at our house it's turned into a running comedy bit, where I try to fire back with new and clever things to tell him I did with the mess other than clean it up, and he knows I did really clean it up, like any sane person would.

One man's instant trigger is when his wife is going to try on clothes and says, "Watch my purse!" Innocent enough, right? Not to him. This drives him crazy because they've been married over 30 years and "does she really think that if she doesn't say that, I will stand there and watch some guy run off with her purse? I would never just do that, she doesn't have to remind me not to let someone steal our credit cards. " He says he always has her back and she doesn't need to ask or remind him to take care of her. I had never thought about asking someone to watch your purse rather than assuming they are at your beck and call as rude, but to him, them's fightin' words. His frustration comes from a sweet place, he wants his wife to always trust him, but in the meantime, she's driving him nuts.

A mother of teenagers says her instant trigger is "Whatever." In all it's forms. Enough said--who doesn't understand how that can sound like a total blow off?

I've heard several people mention they hate when the kids ask "Why can't we have that/buy that/do that?" They know the kids aren't doing it on purpose, but hate the fact that their tough financial situation is being brought to mind by someone who thinks a dollar is a fortune. Like it's not bad enough to feel broke, they have to explain to their kids that they can't afford something...even though the kids don't really care what that means, and need to learn that they can't have everything, it's good for them, etc, etc, they still find it irritating or embarrassing.

A final example. One wife gets a little nuts when her husband opens up the cupboards full of groceries and says "There's nothing to eat..." Okay, I'm totally guilty of that one, but as the grocery shopper in the house, I feel entitled to whine, since I'm not critiquing anyone else. I completely understand the feeling of frustration when she carefully shops, sticks to a budget, and provides food for her family, only to be told that there's "nothing" in there. It is truly a mark of her infinite patience that she hasn't once yelled "If there's nothing you like in there, here's the car keys, head to the store! Oh, and by the way, we've maxed out our grocery budget for the month, so whatever you buy better be free...and you're taking all the kids with you!!!" Seriously, she's a saint not to snap back.

So, now that you've seen what I mean, think about it yourself! If you want, add a comment and let us know we're not alone! It will make you feel less crazy to explain what makes you crazy! You can even change names to protect the frustrating--"I really hate it when home from work late and asks what time dinner is."
Darn dog, even though we know he doesn't mean it. We hear you, and we get it, even if we don't actually feel that way ourselves.

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