To say that I have a bad temper would be like saying that the sky is blue, but what really is a bad temper? We all have bad tempers from time to time. I remember being scolded by a Tibetan Buddhist monk when I tripped backwards onto a ceremonial weaving that was placed on the floor outside a temple and thinking: ‘Gosh so cranky for all that meditation!’ and ‘What happened; did you miss Rinpoche’s teaching on compassion?’ The truth is that when we say that someone has a bad temper what we are really saying is that person demonstrates outwardly that they are miffed, Tibetan Buddhist monks included. This demonstration can be executed physically, verbally, or behaviorally. Now, I am not a violent person (normally), although I have thrown the odd tantrum after the age of two, but I am a very vocal person as evidenced the other week at our local bookstore when I went to buy a Birthday gift for a friend’s daughter.
Upon entering the bookstore which I enter very regularly being that it is my daughter’s favorite store, I could see that it was heaving with customers. Being a fembot (as someone once aptly referred to me) I paid no attention to the chaos around me, instead I ushered my daughter to the area where there were some appropriate toys to choose from. I immediately spied a little handbag with a set of permanent markers with which you colour designated parts of the purse. I knew in an instant that any little girl would love this (I mean, I wanted one) so I scooped it up in one hand and my daughter in the other and marched through the throngs to the till. I placed the bag upon the empty counter and started fishing in my handbag for my wallet. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a lone lady who had clearly been waiting for the cashier in what was now a disappeared queue. As soon as I realised my mistake I apologised to her and told her to go in front of me which she did. All of this was done in very polite Turkish between a pleasant woman and myself. I then turned to the till and was met with the imploring eyes of the young lady behind the counter who asked me if that was everything. Instead of answering her question, I told her that the lady standing beside me was first. She then did two things: 1) She told me that she had already put my purchase through the till and made it clear that she would not reverse her actions and, 2) She gave the waiting lady a look that I can only describe as: Hey, you want some of me? It was so brazen that I thought I had imagined it but the lady turned to look at me and I her and we silently acknowledged that we had just been put in our place by a shop girl who was supposed to be serving us, the customers who indirectly paid her salary.
It is hard to describe what happens when a bad temper envelopes me but let me try. Essentially, everything in the universe ceases to exist except the object of my anger. In that moment, in that bookstore, the sounds of the other shoppers disappeared, my vision became like a lioness’ hunting her prey, it was a pin prick of a visual field before my eyes and within that pin prick was the young contemptuous, disdainful girl who had caused my blood to boil. Before I even registered what I was doing, because in this state, I never do, my lips had formed a Turkish word I didn’t even realise I knew, and out of my mouth it flew: “Kaba”. Now kaba is an insult. It means uncouth, rude, coarse; it implies that the person you are applying it to is common. Once the word was uttered the shop girl looked at me and asked: “Kim kaba?” (“Who is rude?”) To which I replied: “You.”. Unfortunately, as I was not thinking straight, I used the familiar instead of the formal Turkish “you” which was a further insult as it implied that I considered her to be beneath me. All of a sudden it wasn’t just my blood boiling in that bookshop because she proceeded to have an explosion of language aimed directly at me, the just of which was a total denial or awareness of how she had behaved and a petulant rage directed at me. She just could not understand what I was accusing her of or why. This made me more incensed and I told her in English, my brain being too overheated to pull any foreign language out of it, that that was enough. I shoved my money at her which she took all the while still yelling. At this time my husband had come to the shop to meet me. He heard my voice from the pavement and just kept on walking, at the same time, I extracted the bill from her hands, left without my change and whilst doing so called her a bitch. I know, really classy.
As I walked out of the shop I noticed that every single person in it was silent; silent because they had all been looking and listening to my exchange with the store employee. This fact was confirmed by my husband when he all of a sudden appeared by my side and asked me: what are you doing yelling at people like that? Of course I was incredulous! I told him what had happened and how rude the girl was. I told him that, no, I shouldn’t have insulted her but at least I never hit her. This was a dig at my husband in direct reference to an incident two years ago when we got into a physical altercation with the President of the Bodrum Hotel Association. Yes, dear readers, it takes one to know one… On that occasion I was a couple of weeks away from giving birth to our daughter, so visibly very pregnant. My husband and I had just come home from shopping and were putting our purchases in the house. I came down to get the last of our things, so my husband told me to park his taxi a little tighter as our street is old and narrow and you need to park your car so close to the stone houses aligning it that you have to get out of the passenger door. I hoped in and started to basically redo his effort entirely when a school bus came down the lane. The driver was very impatient and was not going to wait for me to do my three-point-parking job so my husband called out to me from the balcony to just drive down the street and turn around again in order to let the fellow get on his way. I reluctantly agreed because I would be going the wrong way down a one-way street but the school bus was too so I figured that no one could argue with a taxi and a school bus. I was wrong. As I reached the end of the street where it forks into three directions, a black BMW came flying up from the main road. The driver stopped in front of me, so I motioned for him to reverse a bit so that I could get by (literally 5 feet would have done the trick) but he wouldn’t. Instead he got out of his car and started remonstrating with me. I looked at him and confidently said: “Tek yon” which means one way, forgetting that I was the one going the wrong way, which of course he immediately then pointed out in his shouty manner. I had actually been quite docile and calm at this point but then once again, I snapped. I just saw this little, beady-eyed man yelling at me in Turkish all because my husband was thinking about the school kids that would be a few minutes late for lunch if their school bus couldn’t get to school on time. I got out of the taxi, and told the man to just get back in his car and reverse it. I said this in English but I took him as an English speaker, unlike the shop employee. He was having none of it and by this time the bus driver was calling to him out of his window, asking him to just get out of the way. I had my eyes on the bus driver when a tanned blur about 5 foot 9 and ¾ inches tall moved quickly across my sight of vision and when I turned back to the yelling man, he and the blur had disappeared. I looked over to the direction of his car and saw my husband leading him back to it…by his ear. The man was yelling in protest, which made my husband angrier and caused him to wheel the President of the Bodrum Hotel Association around…by his ear and punch him…a few times. Once the matter descended into violence the street was instantly filled with men trying to stop my husband from further maiming the man. The man was saying now in a victim-like voice: “Why are you doing this to me, I am just an old man”. Actually he looked not a day over 50, although I suspect he dyed his hair. My husband for his part was telling him that he wouldn’t be hitting him if he hadn’t yelled at his pregnant wife… Fair enough but far from being impressed that my husband was so defending my honor, I too was yelling at him to stop attacking the man. Within seconds, with the help of what seemed to be every man in the neighborhood, my husband ceased his attack and thinking the man had been put on the right course of action, we retreated to our car but no, now the man was explaining to the whole street what had happened. My husband, myself and the school bus driver who by this time was probably ruing his impatience and sexist belief that a pregnant woman can’t parallel park a taxi, were telling him to just get in his car and move it so that we could all just move on. There must have been about 20 people in the street yelling at each other, even a passing English woman who had witnessed part of the action decided to tell me off. Needless to say I told her where to get off. It was mayhem! The affronted man just would not let it go. He finally wandered over to where we were with the driver and went over the same facts, his same bug bear: we were going the wrong way down the street, so we should move. I blame my plummeting blood sugar and the summer heat but at that point, I got so mad that I ended up punching him in the arm and yelling at him to move his car now! This actually seemed to do the trick and he did. I can only imagine the absurdity of being punched by an Amazonian, nine months’ pregnant woman shocked him into submission. After cars were moved, driven off and parked my husband and I went back up to our flat. We each sat on a couch and said nothing. Out of a few minutes silence came my husband’s voice: Soooooooo, yeah, sorry about all that… We laughed and laughed our way out of our bad tempers then and we still laugh about it.
I am sure that you even-tempered, gentile, reserved readers are totally aghast that I am even admitting such behavior and that I can find such behavior comical, but the honest truth is: this is me. We did go to our Birthday party and my present was a hit with the Birthday girl. As we stood swaying on the boat out in the harbour with the lights of Bodrum Castle behind us. I apologised to my husband. Of course, I regret losing my temper at the young shop girl because spreading negativity into the universe is not a thing that I want to do, but whereas others do it with their internal thoughts, I seem very able to do it with my external mouth and this is why I end up doing it in the first place. I find that I pick up on the subtleties of people’s words, looks, even thoughts and I can tell what they are expressing however covert. I can tell when they are being contemptuous, judgmental, derisive, hateful, and just plain mean and often times I cannot help but call them on it. I am extremely blunt and unafraid to speak the truth. This is why people think that I can be mean but is calling other people on their bullshit mean? Why is it so wrong to tell other people off when they are acting inappropriately? Further, why do people think it is better to be horrible to others secretly in their own minds, as opposed to openly to their face? Not to sound like the witch I am, but thoughts are powerful and they are as equally harmful or helpful as are words. Isn’t it better to get it all out in the open, create an exchange of negative energy thus exercising it from your psyche and move on?
Do not think that I suggest this flippantly, because in the past I have resolved to keep my temper in check. To be a better person. To not worry about other’s thoughts, words or deeds, but to only concentrate on my own output into the collective unconsciousness. I have bit my tongue until I thought the tip would fall off, but here is the thing, I can’t do it. I am not going to change. I have read countless self-help, new-age, Zen Buddhist books promising to make me more emotionally intelligent, more calm through mindfulness, free of my past life karmic baggage, and on and on and you know what? None of them worked. I am not calm, peaceful or free of karmic baggage. I am unique, complicated, passionate, strong, out-spoken, direct, confident, slightly crazy and will pick a fight if my blood temperature reaches a certain point. My husband asked me: How can you ever go back into that store again? I laughed at his question. I have no problem going back into that store. Maybe I am a fembot who doesn’t feel fear, embarrassment, or shame. I feel regret that I might have upset people, but they need to take that upset and turn it into an opportunity to ask themselves why they found themselves in that situation in the first place. Where there is smoke there is fire. Analyse yourself honestly and get over it. This is how I operate. You can imagine that in certain environments, I am a supressed nightmare. For instance, working in an office environment is hell for me. All of the politics, gossip and underhanded dealings drive me crazy. The ego stroking and verbal manoeuvering that has to go on to keep employees at a business ticking along together, drives me to drink. A corporate office is a hot bed of repressed opinions and feelings. People feel that they have to act in a certain polite and restrained manner in order to keep the peace and keep their jobs. It goes without saying that I am wholly unsuccessful at doing so myself and I have been fired countless times because of it. I just think it is the height of cruelty to keep things unsaid. I would rather address things head on and get everything out into the open so that people can relate to each other in a raw, real manner, but this is not the norm. People seem to be more comfortable keeping things in secret compartments in their minds or covertly shared with other like-minded confidantes something I feel incapable of doing. A past colleague of mine summed me up perfectly when she said: Natalie, I do not always like you, but I always respect you. I admit to bristling a bit when she spoke those words but when I went off and thought about them I realised that she was actually seeing me for who I was and was respecting who I was. At the end of the day, I decided that I would rather be respected than liked. I would rather be an out spoken truth monger who sometimes creates a scene by calling people on their bullshit then a repressed, frustrated internalising coward. I might not always be liked but hopefully I can always be respected.