By Meggin Rutherford
I like to think of myself as a fairly even-tempered person. Perhaps even unflappable. I am so rarely bothered or worked up by something that others in the office will comment if I’m upset. But there are those times. We all have them. Someone has said or done something that just drives me up a wall. An opposing counsel is a jerk. A judge makes an unfair ruling. The people down the hall come and mess with our electricity. We all have those times.
I have flying, flaming, fingers when I type. And when I’m mad, those fingers can really get going. I have learned the hard way, both professionally and personally, that if I hit send on that email I will regret it. In my line of work (and maybe in your current life situation) the judge will sometimes even see it, that is the worst. So I have taken to giving myself a rule. If I type something out with high negative emotion (anger, frustration, hurt) then I save it in drafts and do not send. (If it’s high positive emotion (love, caring, etc) then send that puppy off right away! We need more happy feelings in the world.)
If I was just a bit ticked, I will go back at the end of the day, edit, and send. If I’m seriously pissed, then I will wait overnight. I will pull it back up when I’m in a calmer state, edit, and send it. Then it is far more professional, and I don’t say anything that I’m going to regret. Often once I’ve done that then I can let go of those thoughts and emotions and move on.
But there are those times where I just can’t. Where you mull on it, you dream about it, you’re just still simmering or anxious. Then I have found a great solution. Write it and burn it. Before you call me a pyro, hear me out.
There is a long history of burning for purification and emotional cleansing. Native American people have been smudging with sage long before written history. The Catholic church and other churches have burned incense for thousands of years to cleanse bad spirits and help in prayer. The revered Deepak Chopra suggests writing out emotions on paper and ritually burning them. Something about the sight of dancing flames, the crackle, the warmth, and the physical destruction of your written pain is very cathartic.
Here is my method: Write out whatever it is that is bothering me by hand. Maybe it’s several pages of thoughts and feelings. Maybe it’s just a single word on a scrap of paper. Maybe it’s a drawing, painting, whatever. Then, in a fire safe place, (I like to use our outdoor fire pit, or save it for a camping trip if you can) start a fire. Doesn’t have to be small. Take that time to be quiet and thoughtful. Be mindful about putting these thoughts where they are going away. You can use the paper as your kindling to get it started, or you can wait until it’s really going and put them in. Whatever feels best for you. And then watch it. Appreciate how the edges curl. See the words dissolve into black and then float away as embers into space. And then move on.
So before you send that mean spirited email, text, or call, stop. Take a minute or a day. Think about how it would affect your kids or your relationships. Try writing your thoughts by hand; sometimes that is enough. If you’re not a handwriting person, try typing it out and then deleting it. And if it’s something that’s really holding on, try to burn it. Hopefully physically releasing those words to the air will help you release the hurt from your heart.