Lose the hate and laugh it off

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 7, 2016

Just a week ago, I wrote suggesting people “embrace the weird.” Now it’s time to learn to laugh things off and just be happy.

I recently had the weird flashed in my face in the form of a full moon in broad daylight.

Last Saturday night, I went out for a long, relaxing jog on rural road to unwind after a pretty stressful week. I was blasting a playlist of mostly ‘80s music and the opening guitar riff to “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince had just peaked when I turned to see a hayride passing me with a woman shouting and holding up a beer can. Right next to her was a man with his pants down. He was mooning me.

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The first, split-second twinge of response was anger and annoyance. How many laws had they just broken? Public indecency? Public intoxication? Open bottles? How many detectives will the police dedicate to investigating this case? (Spoiler alert: zero)

But I just laughed it off. A friend wisely pointed out that it made their night — it’s a story they’ll like share many times over a beer. And to the mooner’s credit, he went for it — it was a bold and full moon. His approach wasn’t half-a … Well, you get the point.

But I thought later about the knee-jerk reaction that crept up: anger, hatred, annoyance. I was on a mission with my run, and I was in the zone. I had tunes going, I had my pace down perfectly, and I was stretching for my longest run distance as my brother-in-law and I train for an October run. And then these chuckleheads come and threaten my rhythm — what a travesty.

But I realized at the end of the day, we were all out for the same purpose: to unwind on the weekend from our daily stressors. For me, that meant jogging to loud music. For them, it meant getting drunk and mooning me.

To each his own, as they say.

I’ll take the run. As a friend would say about alcohol: “Think of all the calories.”

I’ll pause a moment as you guffaw at people picking fewer calories over alcohol.

Feel better? See: It feels better to laugh than to hate. Let’s move on.

You could argue our country has a several problems problem right now, but the biggest is probably unchecked, undeserved anger. And the problem with anger is it’s blinding, it’s intoxicating and, frankly, it usually feels pretty darn good. And it’s quick and easy. You let it rage and go about your day. 
Problems are fickle and complex. Fixing them is rarely simple. In fact, it’s usually downright difficult or even impossible. So, we just get mad, even at things that could and should be easily shrugged or laughed away.

But anger is contagious and can spiral out of control fast.
And while we have countless forums for voicing our anger these days on social media, don’t try and argue this is anything new. I’ve been to Sunday coffee at my grandma’s before and know what goes on when other people get together over coffee: The complaints fly open and freely.

If you don’t think we have an anger problem, just look at the 2016 election. Enough said.

In June, Jeffrey Kluger wrote a great piece in TIME where the headline says it all: “America’s anger is out of control.”

“The easiest thing you’ll do all day is get ticked off at something,” he writes.

Kluger goes on to argue that there can be plausible times to use and harness that anger for a purpose, two examples being after national tragedies like Sept. 11, 2001, and Pearl Harbor.

Sure, we have our issues, but today’s world does not warrant the wide swatches of anger we’re painting. So let’s all take a collective breath and try laughing things off for once. As Kluger argued, we could pay a steep price for our unchecked anger if we’re not careful.

That brings me to another example:

A few months back, I nearly paid a small price after almost letting my anger get the best of me. Self-control prevailed, but the moment was telling nonetheless.

In early spring, I found myself waiting in line at a store as the clerk chatted a few feet away.

In the minute or two I waited, I reflected over the prior few hours: It’d been a day at the stress factory, and I’d just gotten off the phone talking about a serious medical situation happening several states away. As I stared at an empty register listening to the cashier chat and laugh, I felt the stress and nerves coiling together. 
A little voice whispered in the back of my head, “He’s making you wait. Get mad. Snot him off. Stand up for yourself. It’ll feel better, and you won’t see any consequences.”

The clerk ended the conversation, exchanging smiles with the people he’d been talking with and came back with a smile, an infectiously-pleasant attitude and an apology for the wait. 
“Oh, no problem,” I said as the unexpected flash of anger subsided. 
The cashier pointed out the window and suggested I go check out flashing police and ambulance lights across the street for a possible breaking news story.

Though I didn’t know him, he knew me — my picture is plastered online and runs here once a week — and an angry outburst wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. 
At first glance, this was a reminder to use caution since I work in a public job; but more importantly, it was more a reminder that we can be too quick with anger over petty, undeserving things.

I’ll leave you with the wise words of Kurt Vonnegut on anger from “If this isn’t Nice, What is?”

“As a member of a zippier generation, with sparkle in its eyes and a snap in its stride, let me tell you what kept us as high as kites a lot of the time: hatred,” Vonnegut once said in a graduation speech. “All my life I’ve had people to hate — from Hitler to Nixon, not that those two are at all comparable in their villainy. It is a tragedy, perhaps, that human beings can get so much energy and enthusiasm from hate. If you want to feel ten feet tall and as though you could run a hundred miles without stopping, hate beats pure cocaine any day. Hitler resurrected a beaten, bankrupt, half-starved nation with hatred and nothing more. Imagine that.”