Religion Magazine

The Value in a Good Vent

By Marilyngardner5 @marilyngard


The Value in a Good Vent by Robynn

There are times when I feel I might explode! I’m furious. I’m so mad I might just this once really lose it. I had one of those times a month or so ago. I was so angry I was spitting nails.

Just as quickly as the storm clouds gathered, and piled up on top of each other in varying shades of black and gray and green, and the lightning flashed three times, a blaze of fury across the sky, and the thunder cracked her whip across the elements. Just as quickly as all that my rage was over. My storm passed. The sun came out. The clouds cleared. My emotional barometer found its normal center and I was fine.

What changed? You might ask. Absolutely nothing! I found relief through the simple power of the vent.

On that particular weekend my sister-in-law hosted another garage sale. It’s the second one of the season. There’s been a lot of family treasures (read: “junk”) to sort through and find homes for (read: “get rid of ” or “trash”). Death and moving have a way of forcing those issues. My sister-in-law has taken a major lead in organizing the stuff, cleaning it, dragging it into town, pricing it and laying it out to sell. It’s a huge amount of work and I’m very grateful. My mother in law and I drove over to look through the stuff before it sold. Mom wanted to see if there was anything she actually wanted. I wanted to claim the canning jars.

The day before the sale mom informed me that she was actually thinking of selling the jars. I was a little taken aback. She had promised me those jars for months. I’m the only one in the family who still cans. I make jam. I can peaches, apples and pears. I really had my eye on those jars.
That little moment sent my blood pressure rising. It really wasn’t a big deal but in the moment I felt like it was. It’s not that I don’t already have a lot of jars–just ask Sarah and Jill who helped me pack them for the move. But I had been promised those jars and I wanted them. There’s been a lot of letting go of these things lately, a thousand little sacrifices. The canning jars represented something bigger, clearly, given my over-reaction to the possibility of not getting them.

Everything changed in a short little moment in the kitchen. Lowell, calm and collected, heard my outrage. Like a sponge he soaked it in as fast as I could pour it out. My angst and anger splashed all over him. He listened with sympathy. He didn’t offer any advice. He entered into my emotion without dismissing me. He quietly asked if there was anything I wanted him to do in response. There wasn’t. I just needed to vent.

And then it was essentially over! Speaking it out loud I realized it wasn’t a big deal at all. I saw my response from a healthy distance. I could see a way through and passed the jars.

There is great power in a simple short vent. Like a pressure cooker releases steam and pressure, the vent relieves emotional stream and pressure before it can buildup. You only have to have your pressure cooker blow up one time to know it’s not ideal to have boiling hot kidney beans, tomato sauce and onions coming out of a small space at high speeds from the stove and all over your kitchen ceiling and then down the walls and on to the floor. It’s worth avoiding at all costs. Venting prevents explosions.

Lowell has recently been training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the court system. At one of their last classes the instructor encouraged them to seek out their supervisor should they feel the need to vent. They might process generally and vaguely with their spouse but a nitty-gritty true vent should be reserved for the safe confidentiality preserving space a supervisor could provide. I was curious that they respected and saw the benefit and power of a vent.

If you feel it building inside you– if you feel cracks forming in your thinly veiled veneer–if you feel the pressure pounding inside your person–Seek out a safe person who will listen without judgment, someone who doesn’t fan the drama into higher flames, someone who doesn’t speak folly disguised as wisdom. If such a person doesn’t exist it doesn’t mean you don’t have venting options. Talk to your dog. Pour out your heart to your cat. Get a notebook, preferably spiral bound, that can take the beating, and write it down. Get it out. Set it down. Step back from it. Walk around it. See your angst from another angle.

There is great value in a veritable vent. Somehow, mysteriously, it changes the emotional barometer. Storms pass, winds change direction. Life calms. A level lived life resumes after the vent!

Do you find value in a good vent? Would love to hear from you in the comments! 

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