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I read the lyrics from a Johnny Cash song, “The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars.” I can completely relate to this sentiment. I am pretty sure Johnny was referring to binge drinking/drug use or just partying too much on the road. While I don’t have those issues (we can only hope, maybe someday), I can relate.

About 2 years ago, I was driving to Seattle to visit some friends. It’s not a long drive from my house, only about 3 hours. But, when you consume the amount of water I do, road trips tend to take a bit longer considering the pit stops.

At one point, I pulled off the road and was sitting in a drive through coffee shop. It was one of the little stand-alone glorified garden sheds that serve overpriced hot drinks. Just before that, I had hit the drive through at Mickey D’s and purchased a happy meal for my daughter. As we waited in line for the coffee, my daughter was showing me her happy meal toy. My attention was distracted for maybe 10 or 12 seconds. The line had moved forward and I apparently wasn’t pulling forward fast enough for the guy behind me. So did he give me a small tap on the horn to catch my attention? No, he decided with his limited brain cells that the thing to do was squeeze between my car and the building and pull around me. I looked up when he came into my peripheral vision and was amazed at his attempt to move around me.

I was immediately enraged. The beast was out. I pulled up behind him, very close. He had rolled down his window to place his order. I rolled my window down and wanted to calmly explain my displeasure at his driving skills. What happened wasn’t exactly what I had intended. I leaned out and yelled, “HEY FUC*%R, what was that move all about, I will F*#K you up like cancer!” I was not sure why, but I went right to DEFCON 1. Thank god he did what he did, which was to place both his hands up, palms exposed, out of his window and say he was very sorry that he didn’t know what I was doing. I am so glad he didn’t get out of his car. At my level of rage, I am sure he would have been spitting out his teeth like so many bloody Chiclets . I don’t normally use language like that in public and especially not in front of my 7 year old daughter. I like to let her learn those words from watching Sopranos reruns on cable just like all her friends.

For the most part, I think I am a pretty calm, controlled person. My job deals with upset people on a consistent basis. In my previous jobs, I have repossessed cars and been a collector for collection agencies and finance companies. I never ever lost my cool like I did that day. I have had much bigger reasons than that to reach critical mass and it would have been justified. I never got mad at people that threatened my life, for crying out loud. But that day, it really felt like an out of body experience. I was watching myself lose my cool in the third person. I was amazed that my anger just boiled over. I am not sure that cutting line is a capitol offense. As soon as I pulled up to the cashier, I instantly felt bad. The barista was looking at me like I was standing there holding a pitchfork full of kittens.

When I got back to work, I was chatting with a friend of mine. I won’t name him because (while I would never admit it in front of him) I look up to him a bit. I would hate for him to get a swelled head. He inquired about my weekend. I relayed the story of the car episode back to him as one of the low lights of my trip. I told him I just didn’t understand where that anger was coming from. I told him lately I had been really quick tempered. He just started to laugh. He said, “Just think about it. You’ve been dieting for quite a while. Number one, that makes you cranky. Number two, that takes a great deal of control and effort. It only makes sense that you would lose it over something else.”

As soon as he said that, I knew he was right on the button. I instantly felt better. For some reason, just knowing where that anger was coming from was able to help me defuse it. I am not saying my temper hasn’t been short, but I no longer have this level of stress. Only occasionally do I want to go Norman Bates on someone for kicking the back of my chair at the theater. What can I say, you can take the boy out of the country…you know the rest.

I think this must be the same type of mental struggle that people quitting smoking go through. It’s some sort of growing pains. At the end of the day, being hungry sucks and it makes you cranky! Remember the first rule of dieting…no one talks about fight club.

Paul

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