I don’t get mad very often, but I’ve been mad before – because, let’s face it – who hasn’t? I’m one extreme or the other, though, and I know that’s potentially unhealthy – but so far, I have not been extremely mad very often in my life.

The last time I was mad – extremely mad – I was walking on Old Orchard Beach here in Maine. I didn’t know what I was doing there, but I needed to get away from my house in Saco. My wife and I were separating, and being in the house and still living there while we sorted that out was one of the worst times of my life. Living there during that time was like living inside a casket with the corpse of our marriage decomposing all around me.

On the beach, I stalked the edge closer to the road, walking up and down the sand, my blood and brains boiling. I didn’t know what I was looking for until an SUV containing multiple men rolled slowly past me with the windows down. One of the guys in the passenger seat looked me in the eyes and shouted “LOOK AT THIS LITTLE FUCKIN’ BITCH.”

Without thinking, still looking at the guy, I shouted back “YOU’RE THE BITCH, COCKSUCKER.” I finally knew what I was looking for.

Mentally, I made a note. “Joe, it’s an SUV full of people who are presumably looking for a fight. How many are in the vehicle? Do they have weapons?

The SUV came to a dramatic stop, rocking forward as the brakes were suddenly applied. I calmly turned around to look at the back of the vehicle. I could hear their voices from within. Then, looking around for a second, I bent down to pick up a large, jagged rock in my hand.

I stood there, rock in hand, daring the men to come out of the vehicle. Eagerly, even. I was filled with fury and I intended on taking at least one of them to the hospital with me.

The SUV was silent and still. It waited there for a long time. I didn’t move. I just stared and fumed, trying to get the best grip on the rock as I could. Then, the SUV turned around the corner and was gone.

Sometimes, fighting back is stupid. Sometimes, It’ll get you more in trouble, and more hurt, than is necessary. But at what point do you allow yourself to be degraded before none of that matters? I’ve been degraded enough in my life already, by many different people. It’s not going to happen any more without me eventually fighting back. Yet, there is always the anger that you have to watch out for. Anger is what made me seek out a problem on that lonely stretch of road, Anger is what made me shout back at the men. It’s just up to us as individuals to try to separate that anger from our dignity and self respect and relegate it to a more useful place within ourselves.