Everyone is frustrated. We need to adjust for a while to a world where frustration, anger and resentment are seething. We also need to focus on helping people adapt and address root causes of frustration

And used it to write a word in the snow.
I wrote the word snow.

I can’t stand myself.

Brenda Shaughnessy, A Poet’s Poem

The Anger Around Us

Whatever your view of the public health response to the pandemic, it is fading away as restrictions are slowly being lifted. People have sacrificed a lot, waited a lot and put up with much inconvenience to benefit the community as a whole. Overall, the broad support for these measures was a demonstration of community spirit in adversity. However, in my daily experience as these measure are removed, people are not relieved, they are increasingly frustrated. These frustrations show up in small ways and large:

  • People are impatient pushing into traffic with their cars, honking horns more and crossing recklessly as pedestrians, as if they have waited enough.
  • In service environments, I find so much more sharpness, rudeness and conflict than I would expect.
  • So many friends, contacts and colleagues are expressing their frustrations from lack of energy, to a desire for major changes and even to throw everything in and start again
  • There is a volatility in discussion of political conflicts and perceptions that goes well beyond agreeing to disagree and now can be quite spiteful: and
  • People are still expressing their fatigue at the disruptions to normal patterns and their struggles in establishing new ‘normal’ routines.

These are markers but they reflect ongoing impacts of this long pandemic experience. We are still deep in all the feels.

How could anyone learn
their way out of such blunder,

how could any song be gathered
from those shards grating

like something lodged in a shoe.

Corey Marks, Broken Music

Adjusting for Frustrations

We can’t change the past. We can’t unwind or stop the losses. Grief will continue. Some of these frustrations are part of our experience of adjustment to the world after. However, we need to recognise that public expression of frustrations is likely to increase the frustrations of others. A problem shared may be a problem halved but shared frustrations multiply.

Around the world we see people seeking to mitigate and manage the frustrations they are experiencing. Signs announce that businesses are short of staff due to covid cases in their employees. Suppliers and logistics businesses are constantly apologetic about the delays and disruptions that they are experiencing. We need to recognise and plan for a world that is on edge. Getting in first and explaining a situation, helping others to understand and emphasise is a first step to better interactions for all. It also means time can be focused on what matters and what can be done, not listening to pointless outrage.

We can recognise our own frustrations too. We can pause and be present and let them slip away before we impose them on others. Problems that need solutions are rarely better managed in an environment of tension and anger. People experiencing frustrated outbursts rarely respond well. Making the effort to be constructive is a small contribution but it matters and it scales.

Having found it, you must trust it.
This is how you put aside anger:
pulling yourself up, hand over hand.

Stephen Dobyns, Song for putting aside Anger

Frustrations Pass

Most frustration is ephemeral. The anger and the pain passes and we wonder why we let it dominate our attention so strongly. Some frustrations are actually us expressing our disappointment in ourselves. We might even be embarrassed for our actions if we noted the influence of frustration on others.

The frustrations that remain are signals of the real changes we need to make. We have had a lot of time inside our own heads through this pandemic. There are real changes to be made to meet those insights and to address the wider community issues that have bubbled up into our attention in parallel. We don’t want to waste our influence and our agency on gut reactions and making the experience worse for others.

We must not waste this crisis in frustrations, in anger and in our own self-centredness. As a community we have real work to be done togeher. Lets focus on those shared frustrations and begin the process of making real change. That is a process that begins with each of us exercising our agency to make the world better, safer and a lot more human.

Thinking in this way, the old writer concludes that art must be a thing of vanity if fashions can change so quickly. Indeed, the work of these young people will be as ephemeral as his own—though this does not comfort him.

C P Cavafy, Reflections of an Old Man on Writing

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