I watched the knife descend in slow motion. The blood that followed looked like an homage to a B-rated horror film.
And in that moment, I realized that I forgot. I forgot all that I had learned about anger and people. I forgot the moment, years ago, when I learned about the power of choice, and the ownership of rage.
I was a young teacher. Married, no children. And the principal where I worked said something outrageous, painful, horrible in a meeting. And I stewed over it for days. I stomped. I moaned. And I told my story over and over and over, each time stirring the pot, nurturing my anger, encouraging it to grow. I was self-righteous and I was pissed.
Then wisdom stepped in.
A senior member of the history department, who had taught for decades in Asia, pulled me aside. “Emily,” he said very gently. “There’s an old proverb that states those who anger you, control you.” Then he looked at me kindly. “You have been carrying this issue for days, and I can assure you that he hasn’t once thought about it since you left his office. It is time to put this down and take your power back.”
It was one of those moments. A marker in time that divides space into before and after.
So I practiced. Over and over. And over. I learned how to see my anger and how to put it down. This practice is now part of who I am. It is something I talk to clients about, something I model for my children.
But a few nights ago, I forgot. I forgot that a true practice must be well practiced.
Someone threw something at me passive-aggressively and instead of dodging it, I caught it. I reached out and trapped it to my chest. And held on. Tightly. I squeezed and squeezed and encouraged my anger to grow. I was self-righteous, and I was pissed.
And, I also happened to be slicing onions. You can guess what happened next.
Now it means I shower wearing a latex glove, rotate my wrist in odd ways while typing with only nine fingers, and swear more often under my breath.
And it means I am gently taught. Again.
It all seemed rather poetic that night as I lay with my arm propped up on pillows, my heartbeat throbbing in my fingertip. The places I lead my heart hinder or help me. It wasn’t the instigator who did harm, it was me. It was my choice to grab on when the better path was to step aside.
When we forget what we know it comes at a cost. Luckily, mine did not require stitches.
What have been those life-shifting moments for you? What did you learn in the turn of a single sentence? And when have you faltered? When has the knife-wielding ninja turned out to be you? Then once cut, how do you heal? I’d love to know. Keep me posted.