Columns | Northwest Herald

Oliver: Angry, irritated and fuming is no way to go through life

The world today is often an angry place. Sometimes it’s bursts of anger at home. Or at the workplace.

Who hasn’t encountered an aggressive driver who makes one’s blood pressure rise?

Then there’s the stream of angry, aggressive political ads we’ve had to deal with for what seems to be months.

Add to all this the stress of everyday living, with inflation, the pandemic and any number of other stressors that affect each of us just a little differently.

It’s no wonder a lot of us find ourselves with hair-trigger responses to annoyances.

Still, I’m learning from the situation I find myself in that I just don’t have the energy for prolonged anger anymore.

Perhaps some of this has to do with seeing my beloved husband, Tony, who has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, get angry at a moment’s notice. Most of the time I honestly couldn’t tell you what sets him off. Usually it’s something simple, such as not liking that I touched his foot to try to guide it into his shoe.

That anger has the potential to derail my day if I’m not careful. When he first started this behavior, it was hard not to get angry back at him. How dare you get angry at me! I’m trying to help you!

Well, what I found is that my anger didn’t solve the problem. It just added fuel to the fire and then whatever task we were trying to do would take even longer to accomplish.

Not efficient. Not to mention that it would cause me to be irritated the rest of the day. Tony, on the other hand, forgets all about it by the time he’s ready for breakfast.

What a waste of energy for me. So I’ve been doing my best to not react to his nonsense. That seems to make his anger go away faster and helps me maintain my peace.

This strategy also helps when unexpected irritations come up in other parts of my life.

For instance, I recently was trying to put in an order for grocery delivery. I entered it in at the same time I’ve done it for months. Only this time, as I was checking out, I was told there was an error and a problem. Instead of being able to get the groceries on Monday, I would have to wait until Tuesday.

Then I received a series of text messages and emails that seemed to indicate that the order hadn’t gone through at all.

Frustrating? Absolutely. Enough so that it required a call to customer service to find out what in the world was going on.

Meanwhile, I had to scramble to figure out how I was going to work around not having necessary groceries when I usually get them.

By the time I made the call to customer service, I had a plan in place. Now all I really wanted was an explanation and to alert them to the problems I was having.

I’ve been in the position of handling angry calls for things that I have no control over, so I always approach these customer service interactions with a measure of empathy. I’ve also discovered that I’m not one of those people whose anger brings huge results.

When I got ahold of a customer service rep, I calmly explained my problem and asked what was going on. I was told that there was a computer issue, but that there also was a delivery driver shortage that they were working to address.

Is it what I wanted to hear? No. But it was enough of an explanation to satisfy me.

Would it get me my groceries any sooner? No.

Honestly, I don’t think getting all worked up would have made that happen, either.

That’s not to say that the situation didn’t cause me any irritation. The thing is, it didn’t make me stay that way.

Once I have my moment to experience the irritation, I try to move past it. I don’t think clearly when I’m seeing red. Once I simmer down, I’m more likely to make better decisions.

My energy is better spent in trying to make lemonade from lemons.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.