Last week, my mom and I were on one of our regular “dates,” headed to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Discovery Times Square. Times Square is definitely an area of NYC that most New Yorkers try to avoid unless necessary — it’s overrun with tourists, who make it difficult to get to your destination. I figured I’d get over the annoyance, like I usually do. Boy was I wrong!
As we made our way across a busy and crowded 45th Street, a woman about my age shoved me out of her way. Without thinking, I shoved her back. And she shoved me again. At this point — and I’m assuming here, as I don’t remember consciously making any of the decisions that follow — I reached out for her with my right hand and began swinging my rather large and heavy handbag at her head. I don’t recall deciding to hit her with my bag; I just remember seeing my bag fly at her head and thinking: Oh, good idea!
The fight ended as quickly as it started. My mom had stepped between my adversary and I, and each time I swung she stopped the bag from making contact with its target. I have to thank my mom for jumping into conflict-controlling mode so quickly … especially since there was a group of police officers not too far from the altercation. As I started to pop off at the mouth, figuring if I couldn’t physically hurt Little Miss, then my words could sting her, my mom gave me a look I’ve seen countless times growing up that says: “Shut up or you’re going to be sorry!” She stopped Little Miss with same look and her boyfriend took the opportunity to pull her away from the situation.
As a reality TV fan, I’ve often found it perplexing how the various Housewives, for example, get into so many arguments and physical fights with each other. I mean, there comes a time when mature women sit down and talk about their issues. But here I was, pretty much ready to rumble in the middle of the most crowded area in NYC — and I was excited that I had the jump on her.
As the afternoon turned into evening, the event kept playing over in my head. I knew this hadn’t been the first time I was pushed while walking in the city, but why had I acted out of character this time? Some of the events of the week also came back to me. I remembered cursing out a man who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t give him the time while standing alone at a dark bus stop. Then there was the really annoying CD-selling guy. The former deserved the minor tongue lashing, in my opinion, but I could have simply walked away from the CD hawker like I should have done with LIttle Miss Disgruntled, who I now realize was just as annoyed by the Times Square tourists and as eager to get to her destination as I was.
It finally occurred to me that there is an anger festering inside of me. I have developed a tendency to take things really personally, especially when my personal space is invaded. When I feel disrespected, I feel a burning need to either stop the offending action or retaliate in some way. I often find that I say something passive aggressive before I’ve even thought about the situation — or that my “enemy” could be a crazy killer. It’s like I can’t get over the affront unless I’ve made them acknowledge their own wrongdoing. Yes, people can be assholes — but I automatically assume they’re just being an asshole to me, that it’s personal.
I can’t exactly pinpoint when I became more confrontational and angry, but I do know that 2011 was one of the worst years of my life — worse than the year I went through chemotherapy — and I thought that simply getting to 2012 and putting some changes in place would help me to get over the trauma of 2011. I’m not one of those people who holds everything in. I talk to my friends, my mom, and relatives easily, but sometimes it takes an independent, outsider’s perspective to really help someone sort things out.
Back in 2001, on the cusp of my 21st birthday, I felt I no longer needed therapy. With the help of my therapist, I weaned myself off the anti-depressant medication I had been taking, promising to use everything in my might to stay off them for good. And for about a decade, I was in touch with my mental and emotional well-being and was able to notice the signs of depression or anger before they really took hold.
However, my altercation in Times Square has made me quite aware that I am extremely angry and need to figure out both why and how I can control it — and I need help. I no longer want to feel hate towards a woman because she’s in my way on the street. I no longer want to be blinded by rage because the guy sitting across from me on the train has his legs spread wide. I just want to go back to letting miniascule offenses roll off my back. Because in the long run I’ll be a better person for it; I deserve to be happy — and so does any stranger who comes into contact with me — so … deep breath … I’m going back to therapy.