As a writer, I know it's good to write when you're upset. Otherwise, you will never again be able to capture that raw, fearless emotion that is often critical in a piece of writing.
It's also a great outlet for those emotions — certainly better than, say, kicking the cat.
I also know that the words thrown down, for the most part, never make it into a finished piece of writing, if one ever comes out of that situation. Your thoughts are jumbled, your point often is lost, and the urge to express emotion often trumps logic and sometimes even common decency.
But you write it anyway so when you've calmed down and taken a few (thousand) deep breaths, you can go back to those words and channel that raw, fearless emotion into something useful. Then it becomes the razor-sharp edge of a precision instrument rather than the weight behind a blunt object.
In short, you pour out your soul to the paper or the screen but are much more cautious, deliberate and analytical in what you reveal to the world.
This, of course, all comes to mind in the whirlwind of emotions following the U.S. House of Representatives' atrocity against its constituents in approving the American Health Care Act, which is neither American nor about health care.
"Oh, man!" I thought. "I cannot wait to shred them in this week's blog."
And then a quiet voice seemed to ask, "What would a nun do?"
Dang it all.
I know what a sister would do, because I've seen them doing it for the last three years. I've admired it, at times been astonished by it, and always remarked on its wisdom.
Call it contemplative dialogue, call it a thoughtful pause, call it time for reflection, call it whatever you want, but sisters in times like these act like great writers. They may indeed be venting privately, but their public response will be measured, thoughtful and precise.
It does not mean they don't feel those emotions. It doesn't mean they won't use them to focus their actions when the time is right. But the rash response in the world of women religious is definitely a rare response.
And so, following the sisters' example, I will pause. I will let the wild flames burn down to the focused, white-hot fire that can be used effectively. I will pray. A lot. Not all of my prayers will be saintly, but I know that the more I pray, the less they will be focused on me and my wants and desires and the more they will be focused on others' needs — and the less they will be me shouting and begging to God and the more they will be a conversation with God. I'm certain he has a bit to say about all this.
I also know that in times like these, when you're not sure whether to rip your hair out or rip into someone, research helps. I love reading old, inspiring speeches and finding those words that so perfectly crystalize the moment even decades or centuries after they were first spoken. I also love researching the facts on the present circumstances, so when it is time to express myself publicly, I can bring those facts to bear.
And so I will leave you with Michael Hiltzik's May 4 column for the Los Angeles Times, which is not raw emotion or knee-jerk reaction, but an objective, analytical look at the facts of what House Republicans voted for, such as the fact that a 2011 Department of Health and Human Services report estimated that when it comes to pre-existing conditions, up to 129 million Americans could be denied health insurance by companies anxious to avoid paying medical bills.
That includes more than 1 out of every 3 Americans between ages 18 and 24, and almost 9 out of every 10 between the ages of 55 and 64. All told, that's a worst-case scenario of 40 percent of Americans denied health insurance.
I'll just be over here, writing and praying.
Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.