The Two Simple (But Hard) Things You Must Do

Each July, right around its anniversary, I think about the time when my surgeon almost killed me.

I tried to put it out of my mind for the first couple of years. There was so much stuff to deal with then.

The fallout from his scalpel, he mistakenly and unknowingly cut open my esophagus and sent me home, was great. Incredible physical pain. Months of rehab. Lost my new job (the job I had just relocated across the country for).

Lost my health insurance. Experienced ageism for the first time as I searched for a new job. And everything else you can imagine that goes along with those losses.

But telling myself to “quit thinking about it” and “just let it go” didn’t work. Plus, I had a right to be angry. You’d be angry too.

So the thoughts kept creeping in, slowly but continually taking up space in my head.

When anger doesn’t work anymore

I decided to implement The Lemonade Effect, so named after a poster my mom had framed and hung in our kitchen when I was a surly teenager. A bright graphic of a bowl of lemons next to a sweating pitcher of lemonade captioned: when life gives you lemons.

I can make lemonade.

I created my signature talk called Process or Perish. It was geared toward small business owners. Here’s the crux of the speech: If you don’t follow and stick to a process, your business will perish. Just as my surgeon didn’t have a process to follow, and I (his customer/patient) almost died because of it. Click here for an article I wrote about it.

My signature talk succeeded — I gave it to several business groups. I met new people and even signed new clients for my business coaching practice.

But still, the anger was there. Simmering below the surface, but there nonetheless. I knew it was going to pop one day.

Talking with yourself

I used to think about what I would say (or do) if I ran into my surgeon at the grocery store or at a restaurant. I’d have these elaborate conversations in my head. I only wanted him to know how much he hurt me and my husband.

I know you’ve had those kind of conversations in your head too. Someone hurt you, and you imagine how you will get them back or let them know what they’ve done. You think of something pithy to say and put them in their place.

It can be a tough climb out of that hole.

It’s time to let go of anger

One year I finally realized that I had to move on. Say goodbye to the anger and resentment.

It’s what I’d tell anyone else to do.

I was being a jerk; I was only hurting myself.

There were ways to remember what happened and to honor the life that I have the privilege of continuing to live.

It all comes down to gratitude and consistency

Instead of thinking about all the losses — and there were many — I forced myself to think about what I still had.

Not to be confused with that crap about “everything happens for a reason,” but rather focus on the fact that I didn’t lose my life, my husband, my kitties, my friends, my intellect, or my humor.

Still, it wasn’t easy. Didn’t come naturally at first.

I kept at it and listed all the things I didn’t lose. All the wonderful things I have in my life. A gratitude list. Each July, around the anniversary of the first ER visit to save my life, I write the list again. The funny thing is it grows longer each year.

After writing the list the first year, I discovered my anger had subsided. How could I be angry when I had so much? I was feeling good!

There’s actual science behind all that gratitude:

Gratitude also has the capacity to increase important neurochemicals. When thinking shifts from negative to positive, there is a surging of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These all contribute to the feelings of closeness, connection and happiness that come with gratitude.

If you focus on what you have, there’s a greater chance your anger will dwindle away. You’ll be feeling so good you won’t have room for anger in your life.

Be consistent with your gratitude list. Review the list frequently or look at it daily, which is what I did when I first made it. You can add to the list every few days, which I also did.

There will be more anger

People will continue to hurt you. Business deals may go south. From time to time, your expectations will not be met. You’ll get mad.

That’s all part of life.

You don’t have to carry anger around with you

Two Simple Steps to ease your anger:

  1. Be certain of gratitude.
  2. Practice it often — daily even. Consistency is key.

Life is joyful without being consumed with anger and resentment. I hope you can find it.

Let me know how your gratitude list works for you.


Lisa Zuba

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