Something not a lot of people know about me is that sometimes I get rage-induced nosebleeds. Conditions have to be right: fairly dry weather, and I have to be sitting still so that the spike in my blood pressure is a substantial difference, and I have to be really enraged. But it’s happened, a couple of times. I get headaches, too. More frequently, I’ll burst into tears when I’m really frustrated.

None of these circumstances are great for making an argument, which goes kind of counter to my burning and vicious desire to get the last word.

One of the things I was told when I was bullied as a kid was to just walk away. This was not helpful advice, as kids are, by and large, sociopathic and predatory, and pounce on weakness. Turning your back and trying to ‘be the bigger person’ like adults advised was not a functional solution, and sometimes made things worse.

The good news about kids being awful is that they grow up!

As an adult, arguments that degenerate to shrieking that someone else is a poopy-head . . . are not productive, and for me the stakes no longer involve social ostracism. The stakes different, a lot of the structure of disagreement is different, and usually the premise of the disagreement is different (Russia should be sanctioned for human rights violations vs. “you’re fat”). This means that a lot of the – really maladaptive! – strategies I developed as a kid are no longer functional.

Which brings us around to walking away. Because it’s a more tenable strategy now. I get to consider things like ‘will staying engaged in this conversation yield anything productive?’ and ‘is getting the last word now worth the headache I’ll have in an hour?’

And if the answer is no, I can walk away. I can physically remove myself or say ‘I’m done talking about this right now,’ or  ‘can we please be done with this,’ or block people on social media sites, and I’m not required to engage in things that harm me. Being an adult kicks ass.

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