Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm only stupid when I'm angry

Several years ago, Jack and I were both employed by a Houston-based GLBT publication: he was a sales executive, and I was a contributing writer. We had remarkably different experiences working for this magazine, mainly because of our respective supervisors. Mine, the editor-in-chief, was a very nice guy who thought I was funny and liked my writing style, whereas Jack's, the business manager, was an evil troglodyte.

Back in 2006, on what amounted to a delusional whim, the business manager fired his entire sales staff (Jack included), which, as a couple, financially crippled us. Not surprisingly, I did not handle this well, and ever since that day, the barest whisper of his name sends me into fits of blind rage. He's become the Full Moon to my inner werewolf.

On the other hand... and I'll never understand this... Jack still hangs out with him. They're friends. They do lunch.

Jack doesn't hold grudges. Resentment, heartache, betrayal, these are things to process and lay to rest. So when the troglodyte called this afternoon to invite us to the magazine's annual Christmas party, Jack happily accepted.

Understandably, I declined the invitation, asking Jack to give my regards to everyone... except him. Jack tentatively agreed, and, noting that I wasn't spitting or smashing things, decided it was probably safe to leave me home by myself. He gave me a quick hug and headed off to the festivities, while I grabbed the phone and called Sarah. She's about as fond of him as I am, so I figured she'd provide a sympathetic ear.

Now, I don't know whether to blame the weather (it's snowing), or that emotion-fueled, psychokinetic thing I do around electronics, but the line broke up every time I tried to explain the situation to her.

"Just e-mail me," she said, before disconnecting for the third time. So I sat down at my computer, only to discover that my Internet was down.

I'm sure it was just the weather.

Left to my thoughts, and free from contact with the outside world, I spent the rest of the evening envisioning elaborate revenge fantasies. Suppose, after downing a few Cape Cods or Mint Juleps or pints of heroin or whatever, he decided to borrow Jack's cell phone, give me a call and attempt to bury the hatchet once and for all:

"I'm so sorry you're not here!" he'd say.

"And I'm so sorry you were born, so I guess we're even," I'd reply.

Yeah, that would have been cool. But then I realized that I could have gone to the party with Jack and said something similar right to his face. A missed opportunity, I thought.

A missed opportunity. The words resonated uncomfortably in my head.

During the time I wrote for this magazine, a vast number of doors opened up for me. I had the chance to interview one of my literary idols; a local radio station brought me in as a guest speaker on two separate occasions, allowing me to promote myself as an up-and-coming spokenword poet; other regional publications, subsidiaries of national companies, liked what I was doing and started asking if I would write for them, too.

And I tossed it all away. Because one sad, spiteful little man made an ignorant decision--a decision which adversely affected my partner, whose happiness means far more to me than my own. With that in mind, I simply could not live with him in my immediate circle of colleagues.

Which is why it hurts on the molecular level when he and Jack do lunch.

My clenched, pent-up anger is a torch lit from a bonfire: Anyone who stands against it can either see the light or get burned. But sometimes, especially on a night like tonight, when Jack's out having fun and I'm alone, wrapped tightly in warm and familiar moral superiority, I wonder what could have happened. I wonder what could have happened if I'd held onto my contacts instead of my righteous indignation. I wonder what could have happened if I'd followed Jack down the professional high road. I wonder what could have happened if I'd not let one irrelevant, ugly individual dictate the course of my career.

Missed opportunities. Fun to ponder when your Internet's out and it's snowing.

Oh, and lest anyone think I'm having some kind of breakthrough, please understand that I still hate him with every fiber of my being, and will continue to do so until there's only one of us left on this planet. But I think, from now on, I'll pull a Hecate and carry two torches. One so that I can always keep an eye on those who belong behind and beneath me; but another to ensure that I keep to my path, and to prevent me from overlooking the opportunities in my future.


Pom said...

Evn, you sound a lot like me.

Everyone used to hit me with "do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" and, smug pain in the ass that I am, I thought I was happy in my rightness (the best of all worlds). I may have been right, but I alienated so many people that I became very lonely as a result. And so I'm trying to let go of my need to be right all of the time - especially if it means I may not be happy in the foreseeable future.

Jack sounds a lot like my husband and they can be baffling to those of us who suffer with righteous indignation - especially on their behalf!

Pom said...

*Though I envy them the ability to let things roll off of them like that!

Evn said...

And so I'm trying to let go of my need to be right all of the time - especially if it means I may not be happy in the foreseeable future.

Well said. I'm trying to do the same thing, even if my efforts are not always visible to the naked eye. But I'm definitely trying.

Though I envy them the ability to let things roll off of them like that!

It's a very admirable trait. Hopefully, I'll be able to develop this particular superpower as well.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hmmm. On the superpower, thing...

I don't know if you've read my account of wrestling quite literally for years to find a way to--and I'm a bit hesitant to even use the word, it's got so much baggage and crap tied to it--forgive a former coven-mate. But I remember being told by people who were terribly condescending that I needed to forgive (by which they meant forget, so they would not be uncomfortably reminded of my anger and hurt) this person.

And that was incredibly unhelpful. I stick to the sense that I had then that forgiveness-the real, true, actual letting go of the need to collect on a certain kind of debt--is much, much harder than it looks from the outside. (Especially true when the person hurt is one you love, not you yourself.) And also, nothing in the known universe stinks as bad as false forgiveness--a disgusting, noxious thing.

But. Having finally reached that place of letting go... Damn, it really is good.

So I'm going to proselytize a little here. On this one, the Quakers have it right: love must be our "first motion." No shit. Seriously. Finding a way to recognize that the Mother of the Universe is as fond of that weaseley little bastard as She is of you, that he was once a cuddly little baby, that his life is as sacred as that of a deer or a river or a mountain...

Well, it's a place not only worth getting to, but vital to get to.

Not laboring to reach that point really, truly, sincerly blocks your light and holds you back.

Pretending to have reached that point does the same thing, of course, and actually gives forgiveness a bad name into the bargain.

But, though it may be a multiple-lifetime project, and it may or may not be possible to get beyond the point of not rooting for this asshole to catch syphillis and die, it is important to develop this particular super power.


Sorry. But, well, there you go. Some things about life just flat out suck, don't they?

Wishing you well...

Evn said...

Some things about life just flat out suck, don't they?

They do indeed. But I appreciate you sharing your perspective and experiences with me, and I can definitely sympathize with what you went through. I'm not quite in a place where I'm ready to forgive, but I'm confident I'll get there eventually.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Well, do work toward it actively, 'cause, if it doesn't quite bestow superpowers, it does some other stuff that's in its own way even cooler than what comes from a radioactive spider bite.

Meantime, thanks for your candor, which is pretty powerful stuff, too, isn't it?

Evn said...

How do you treat a radioactive spider bite, anyway? Because my hand's glowing something fierce...

Anne Johnson said...

When I was right out of college, working as an intern in the sports department at a city newspaper, the editor there told me I had "no future" in sportswriting ... even though it was a time when women were breaking in everywhere. That dude just didn't like women encroaching on that particular bastion of journalism.

Without his recommendation, I couldn't get hired anywhere as a print journalist. Fortunately I got a job in a reference book company where gender was not an issue.

This is the weird thing. I kept running into this guy from time to time, and each time I'd run into him, he would say, "Do you forgive me?" or "Have you forgiven me yet?" You see, soon after giving me the heave-ho, he and his wife had a baby daughter. Changed his mind about things.

The dude dropped over dead from a heart attack while his little girl was still little and while I was still carrying a grudge. Now I realize that he actually did me a favor, that print journalism is a dying business, and I really didn't have what it takes to muscle my way into a lockerroom and deal with petulant linebackers.

My philosophy is that, if you can't take the road you want to travel, you take another one -- and pretty soon you can't see the view from the other road. It might be worse than the road you're on. And the person who directed you to the road might have done you a favor.

This fabulous wisdom is offered free of charge.

Evn, if you want to leave a comment on my site, you can always do it at "Six Word Blog." Speaking of obnoxious "hims," I've had enough of Billy, the waste of skin.

Thalia Took said...

I don't know. I tend to very happily burn bridges, myself. There are plenty of people out there to whom I will not say one word, though we had been perfectly friendly before.

For me though, it's because they've done something, well, not unforgivable, but something that makes me decide I will not have anything to do with them ever again. Something that means they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. It's not even a matter of holding a grudge, I don't think; I mean I don't rant about them in my head, particularly. It's more that I have finally gotten to a point where I just say, no more.

It's probably mostly defensive with me. But I have never regretted doing so, either.

They have to cross a line that is for me a deal-breaker, though. Like being abusive, or manipulative, or not keeping their word in regards to something I think important (like breach of contract, that kind of thing).

I don't ever feel like I have a choice, though, when I get pushed to it. But once I've decided, that's it. I don't see the point of forgiving anyone.

Or maybe I do sort of automatically forgive them. I don't think I particularly blame them, I mean. To me it feels like just looking at them as a whole and saying no. Then I'm done with it.

I have no ideas what kind of opportunities I've missed because of this. I'm sure I've missed some.

But then for me the choice between the "professional high road" and the "moral high road" is so dead easy it's not even a choice. Perhaps this is one reason I'm a starving artist. Oh well, I'll take it.

Yewtree said...

I think the act of deciding not to have any more to do with someone is both separate from and compatible with forgiveness.

There is a list of people I no longer consider to be my friend because of a betrayal that crossed the line, but I still try to forgive them, even if I'm never going to see them again - because I don't want to hold onto the corrosive emotions associated with not forgiving them. And I agree with cat that forgiving is definitely not easy.

knottybynature said...

Some rise by sin, others by virtue fall.

You're not a scorpio, are you?

It depends on your beliefs and where your happiness falls, I think.

I have made many choices in my life doing what I felt was right, and those things have held me back financially. What is more important? Money or the sense of self? What is more important to you?

I have sacrificed so many opportunities trying to aid those I thought were friends, financially killing myself as I bend over backwards. It was more important to me to do what I believed was right than it was having money or material things. I'm still in that kind of situation. I think it's similar.

I never 'break bread' or drink with someone that I find is of questionable repute. I would no more work with someone who had no sense of ethics and personal responsibility than I willingly hurt a child.

Perhaps you don't have a sterling silver flatware set - but what's better? Having a formal dinner party with those you find reprehensible or pot-luck in the garage surrounded by people who love you and care about your well being?

belledame222 said...

Yeah, I think "forgive, for the motherfucker knew not what he did" and "letting go of the anger for the sake of my own health and career," while related, aren't probably the same.

And I mean--I don't know, I can definitely understand not wanting to go to -lunch- with the motherfucker who fired me, ever, at least. I don't know that it's necessary to go to that place if it isn't you.

Curious: where do you draw the line between "unforgivable" and "conflict I am willing/able to process with the other person?" I mean, what happens when you get into conflict with someone who you (personally) -do- want to preserve a relationship with, or at least don't want to totally write off, yet?

Evn said...

...what happens when you get into conflict with someone who you (personally) -do- want to preserve a relationship with, or at least don't want to totally write off, yet?

What's funny (not ha-ha funny, the other kind) is that I found myself in this very situation just moments ago. Let me think on it.

knottybynature said...

Funny ha-ha is a rubber chicken.

Funny weird is rubbing a chicken.

I'd be interested on what you came up with, Evn.

Evn said...

It's okay to love your pets... just don't love your pets.


Working on a post as we speak. Stay tuned!