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AMY KIRK: The many faces of frustration

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Frustration is the No. 1 cause of farm and ranch men suffering from scraped knuckles, smashed fingers, dented machinery or tools lost in weeds (choose all that apply). Farm and ranch women are more likely to suffer from puffy eyes, red nose, a headache, no girlfriends home to call and share their frustration with and sometimes smeared mascara (all apply).

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There are a several ways to deal with frustration. You can get mad, throw a fit, yell, cuss, blame someone, become hostile with an inanimate object, or, you can cry about it.

When a frustrated woman reaches her breaking point, a common reaction is to cry and is socially accepted among other women as "crying," but men sometimes mistake it as being "too emotional." Women are led by their emotions, so our natural response to frustration is to cry when it overwhelms us. It can happen under certain circumstances (anytime), on particular days (just pick one at random), when sleep deprived or when we are clueless about how to handle the situation we're facing (take plumbing, for example).

If you're the indecisive type like me and don't know what you want -- a common trait among women -- you may choose to combine your reactions. A combo reaction is only doable with women though. The likelihood that men will cry or cry in conjunction with another reaction is very low because they are not experienced in multi-tasking their emotions, and they usually know the reaction they want to have -- get mad.

Anytime I am able to maintain confidence in my abilities to overcome or resolve my frustration (cows, inconveniences, setbacks, minor mechanical problems, fences, my family, etc.), I can dodge crying and pull off a man-style reaction. Testosterone-like conniption fits also apply to circumstances I'm capable of handling but the timing of the event is the cause of frustration.

If I feel at all incapable, then crying can happen as an old standby reaction if no one is around, but usually there are other factors that can bring on a tearful episode. It all depends on the status of my current mood swing and knowledge for handling the source of my frustration. Then there is the kind of frustration that I want to cry about, but get mad instead or vice versa. Such reactions belong in a category all their own.

Instances that could cause me to get teary would be if I couldn't get a new wire gate shut with my forcefulness -- and leaving it open was not an option if cows were too close to leave momentarily unattended to go get a gate-securing aid (baling wire). Another would be if the tracks on the sliding heavy barn door got stuck or hung up and wouldn't shut with livestock around (the barn being full of hay and bins full of feed). A livestock-related example would be while the hubs was gone, someone's yearlings mysteriously showed up while feeding cows or a cow prolapsed and he was still two hours from home.

Emotional outbursts, meltdowns, swearing and crying are natural human reactions to frustration. Or at least it's a normal part of life on a farm and ranch. Or maybe it's just ours. If there are people out there who react calmly to frustration, then they've never been to our place.

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