Is Everybody Totally Calm Without Me?
I have my suspicions.
Of the many things that ultimately convinced me to enter therapy in early 2021, the one I did not expect to occupy so much of my session time was my low frustration tolerance. If you’re not familiar with the term, allow me to set the stage: I’ll lose a pair of sunglasses, or forget to send an email, or drop a loose piece of banana on the floor as I make my morning smoothie, which subsequently sends me into 10-15 second rage cloud as I howl a handful of choice expletives. My cat hates it, my partner really hates it, and I can feel how utterly useless the whole exercise is as soon as it’s done.
Another term for low frustration tolerance is “short-term hedonism” which, TBH, would sound kinda cool if it wasn’t describing my inability to keep my shit together when teeny tiny things go wrong.
Interestingly enough, for a period of my life both as a teenager and a young adult, I worked in the service industry, where going on a mini rampage when something disrupts your flow is not only normal but expected. Ask anybody who’s been around a line cook when they’re asked to re-fire a steak when they’re in the weeds — they know what I’m talking about. Essentially, I spent years at perfect liberty to holler into an empty walk-in freezer or take a shot of 3am whiskey behind the bar while you flick off an annoying drunk customer, because venting your irritation was acceptable.
Anger, annoyance, frustration — these were all the expected by-products of work I was doing, but now my career is less about slinging drinks as fast as humanly possible and more about managing an inbox that some might describe as formidable. Except it’s not as if those kinds of emotions go anywhere just because you can’t spar with a burly tattooed chef when you’re pissed anymore (or some other satisfying physical means of expressing all those icky feels).
And for the vast majority of people in my close orbit, it’s the same deal: nestled behind a computer, keeping their mouth shut when this email or that meeting makes them grind their teeth into numbs (despite that very expensive night guard our dentists forced us all to buy). Since daily life has settled into some ever-evolving version of normal, it definitely seems like I’m not the only one with frustration bubbling up just the below the surface of their social mask. Given the state of the world over the last 2+ years, it’s not hard to see why.
New York especially has been a scary place lately, with the well-publicized shooting on the subway last week being just the latest in a string of gruesome attacks. That’s not to say that the city has ever been a beacon of safety — the stories from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and a good chunk of the ‘90s have solidified that fact in the minds of many. But it’s not hard to guess that the uptick in violence can, at least in some ways, be credited to these unprecedented times, when no one seems to know what the future holds. And as anyone who gets antsy when they don’t have a vague outline of *the plan* (be it a weekend with friends or the next 5-10 years of your life) knows, this unknowable period of time has been particularly agonizing. It’s enough to make even the most well-adjusted of us lose our well-rehearsed cool.
People are mad. The current political climate is a perfect reflection of that. But now it feels like this anger is seeping into even the tiniest moments of life when, say, a dropped banana is enough to send you over the edge. When the to-do list feels not only endless but perhaps the tiniest bit meaningless (because what good is it to remember to vacuum when the world feels like it’s crumbling around you?) any little disturbance gets amplified.
Irritation because something raw and unwieldy, capable of knocking your whole day, and your whole mood, off balance for an undeterminable amount of time. And I can tell you from experience, it’s not a pleasant lens through which to view your life.
So, what do I do now given all my subsequent therapy sessions? I’d love to say that I’ve conquered this particular demon; that I could drop an entire iced coffee on a pair of white linen pants and not even bat an eye. Alas, that is not the case. So I practice. I breathe a little deeper when I realize I forgot to pick up the toilet paper that I definitely went to the bodega to get in the first place (distracted by said iced coffee). I hold myself in the discomfort of knowing this or that thing got fucked up, acknowledging that it wasn’t what I wanted to have happen, and then try my best to let it go — because while we can’t change the past, we can try to improve our relationship to it.
I wish I could say it would be this (relatively) simple for humanity to raise our bar for frustration just a little. But things like Twitter and the 24-hour news cycles don’t even allow us a moment to step back from the fray and decompress — at least without feeling like you’re missing out on that next piece of horrible, sensational news. Maybe if we hold space for not only ourselves but our friends, loved ones, even acquaintances, to be honest about their fears and frustrations, then we can all collectively take a couple of breaths and move past these moments — that way it doesn’t feel like we’re caught in an endless loop of rage, rinse, repeat.
So, in the meantime, I’m raising a tall glass of #anxietybeer to all of us who are doing our best: to calm down, to be more patient, to remember that this annoyance too shall pass, because as frustrating as life can be sometimes, sometimes the best revenge is to enjoy yourself in spite of it.
retail < therapy
Dutchess Ales G.B. Pale Ale: When I’m in need of a really long walk, I’ll head over to St. Gambrinus Beer Shoppe in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn to check out some of their rotating beer selection. That’s how I found this new hybrid pale ale, which combines US and UK malts and hops for an absolutely delicious beer. Zesty, light, but full of flavor, the 4.8% ABV brew has quickly become one of my new favorites to stock in my fridge for a special occasion #anxietybeer. And, not for nothing, every single can has an extremely chic label. I’m a sucker for aesthetic branding.
Nili Lotan Luna Pant: There is a version of my life wherein I live in peaceful country cottage with my dogs and chickens (or a half dozen Sphynx cats, I can’t decide) and my wardrobe is nothing but breezy white linen. I’ve been searching, relentlessly, for the perfect pair of vintage cropped white linen trousers, but it’s getting dangerously close to summer and this Nili Lotan pair is peek tomboy chic — I might just cave and buy them instead. Bring it on, boiling NYC summer.
Essie “Yes I Canyon” Nail Polish: I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten to the place in my life and my career as a beauty editor that I can rattle off my top five polish shades as if they were lines in my address. And although I never thought of myself as a red polish person, this burnt orange-meets-red shade is utterly perfect in every way. It’s one of those enviable mid-century modern colors that wouldn’t look out of place on a tufted velvet couch. Every time I paint my nails (or hit up my local nail salon for some pampering) someone inevitably asks me for the name — and for $9, it’s the type of affordable luxury we all deserve.