"All the world's a stage and each must play his part."
How right he was! He knew, and tried to forewarn us, that the moment you step outside your front door you are on stage. No time for a dress rehearsal. Break a leg!
It matters little what transpired only moments before -- whether your long suffering spouse let it be known, once again, that they are less than satisfied with your conjugal performance, or the unwed apple of your eye just announced she is having twins; you cannot show any of this to the world. Why? Because you are and must be an actor. You must say, "Good morning," with a smile to the first person you encounter, no matter who it is.
"How are you today? What a wonderful morning."
Then you must be prepared to stand and listen if this person proceeds to bend your ear and assault your senses for perhaps, a half hour or more. You are (and have to be) two-faced. One you see when you look in the mirror, and the other you present to the external world. It must be this way, otherwise you are inviting trouble. Your day will go down and your blood pressure will go up from that very instant.
There is no doubt that you are going to meet nasty, aggressive individuals in the course of your day. You can't avoid them. It is, sadly, an inherent part of human nature. Sometimes it seems as if many of them actively seek you out. The only thing you can do is tailor your reactions to their actions. I was taught this early in life by my father, Mal, a past master. His method was simple.
"Bite your tongue," he would say under his breath.
He repeated this many times as I was growing up. Granted it sounds very simple, but I can assure you that with my Irish temperament, it takes years of practice. The biggest surprise to me after all of these years is that I actually have a tongue left to bite.
I can always judge my performance by counting the number of times during the day that I have bitten my tongue. In fact, I have become so adept that I start biting the moment I see certain individuals, even from afar. I have, on many occasions, clamped down tightly when just the mere thought of a certain person crosses my mind. Just to be on the safe side, I always bite my tongue before I step out of my front door. After a while it becomes part of the daily routine: Shower, breakfast, dress and bite.
This simple act sets the tone for the rest of day and serves as an important reminder. I have discovered that aggressive people feel justified only if they receive negative feedback. They seem to thrive on negativity, and only feel that their righteous indignation is warranted, if they get the anticipated reactions. What they really crave is a sparring partner.
Biting your tongue will give you breathing space and time to absorb the individual's verbal assault. You will notice that their voice often gets progressively louder and some may even become quite animated.
At this point, another bite may be necessary, maybe two. Do not, I repeat, do not be tempted to carelessly whistle during the encounter as this will only inflame the antagonist's passion. In some cases, it has been known to cause apoplexy. Eventually, this irate person runs out of steam and, with their blood pressure elevated, turns and storms off. At this point, in a low voice you calmly make the simple statement that resolves the issue. The practiced aggressive will always give you a final over the shoulder rejoinder, as if they were ending with an exclamation point!
Then, and only then, is it safe to stop biting.
From "Don't Die with Regrets: Ireland and the Lessons my Father Taught Me."
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Also for Sale:
The Journey: A Nomad Reflects.