The older we get, the more we must learn to accept that we are who we are. (Am I paraphrasing Popeye?) Like it or not, our personalities were born the same day we were. The only real power we have is to make behavioral corrections to compensate for our shortcomings.
Here’s what convinced me of this. I recently made changes in my life to reduce my stress and make me a calmer, gentler person. I wanted to be a mother who was always patient and kind and willing to play—more like Mother Teresa and less like Mommie Dearest.
Lifestyle changes worked to some degree. I yell less and laugh more. But today my true colors showed (it was inevitable).
I woke up tired and cranky. I fought with my daughter and then snapped at my husband, who was trying to help. I vocally stressed because I hadn’t yet had time to write a nasty-gram to the dermatologist who owed me a refund and kept saying the check was in the mail. I left the house irritated and keyed up.
After school drop-off, I missed my turn for Starbucks, which annoyed me because I had started caffeine withdrawal and because I’m bad with directions and this flaw pisses me off. The long line followed by seeing a gigantic centipede scamper across the floor near my table, furthered my agitation and made me a feel a little nauseous.
In this increasingly anxious state, I began writing an article due at the end of the day. Surprisingly, it didn’t go well. I had only a few poorly written paragraphs done before I headed back to my daughter’s school to help corral 28 kids for lunch.
Toward the end of cafeteria chaos, I gave my daughter bad advice that led me to question my abilities as a mother. I then had a near breakdown when asked to take the 30 perfect hearts that another mother had cut out and make them smaller. The end result made me question my own need to return to kindergarten because surely the 5-year-olds in the class could have done a better job.
By the time I returned home shortly after noon, I was an emotional wasteland. Every one of my bad qualities was in full force—and I was beginning to think I might also be suffering from a hormonal surge (yes, PMS bitch, I’m pointing my finger at you!).
For two hours I struggled to focus (lucky for me my deadline was cancelled). Finally, despite the fact that I still had a pile of work and had just eaten a Boca burger that was churning in my stomach, I donned sneakers and headphones and headed out the door. When your sanity is at stake, you will risk missing deadlines and hurling a giant gray pile of soy mush onto the sidewalk.
One hour after my personal timeout, I was showered and refreshed. My headache was gone (thanks in part to the addition of medical intervention). I no longer felt that my brain would explode through my spine.
In addition, both my refund check and my period had arrived, which confirmed my suspicions that my pissy attitude wasn’t entirely my fault. (If that was too much information, you may want to question your own personality flaws. No one is forcing you to read this lunatic’s ranting.)
It was as if my timeout had turned me into a completely different person—but of course, it hadn’t. I am still the same high-anxiety, quick to yell, questionably crazy person I’ve always been. Still, even if I won't be competing for sainthood anytime soon, at least I'm a bit more livable.