I’m not sure if I’ve shared this one with you before, but I am a rather bitter and angry person, and that that bitterness sometimes spills over in to abject contempt, either for myself or for you. And by you I mean people. You know, the living. I don’t much care for the dead: they’ve moved on from it.
It crossed my mind this morning a few of the petty grievances which burn in my gut, and I realised that I hadn’t vented about them before. I justified it to myself, saying that they fuelled me: they don’t fuel me; they hold me back. Perhaps getting them off my chest might exorcise a demon or two. If not, at least I’ll have filled a bit of space on the internet and continued massaging my ego.
The thought process started, as they so often do with me, as an imaginary conversation in which I was the hero, the protagonist and the winner (the same thing?) all rolled up in to one handsome, happy and wealthy package. I was talking to a friend from my university days, after I had just been interviewed by his local TV station, for some unknown reason. I had been explaining that I was happier than I had been in forty years, and that that was the only thing which mattered in life.
So far so fine, but I spotted in this conversation that I was saying it all a little too much, and that maybe it was hiding something deeper. I switched chairs so that I could ask my imaginary self a few tougher questions: “There’s still something which you’re hiding though, isn’t there?” Ooh, I like that.
And the problem is that there is. This good friend – the one who exists – is a very decent and hard-working bloke. His use of the English language may not always be the best in the world, but his heart is very much in the right place. And he didn’t invite me to his wedding. When he asked what I was hiding, I knew straight away that that was what my mind was reaching for. I found out much later.
I turned the conversation with him from the specific to the general: from any actual annoyance with him over a situation with no other possible resolution, to my attitudes towards my friendships. I have written on this very blog my attitudes about friendships before, so I’ll not go over it again. In short, I caused most of my friendships to wither and die. Part of that is because I went through a bad patch, emotionally; part of that is that I hated a great number of them; part of that is that I am lazy.
With this friend it was laziness, but with some of his wedding guests – people he had known a lot longer and who were not as lazy as I am – the relationships had turned to acrimony because I had deliberately cut them from my life. Great friendships had turned to ashes in all of our mouths.
I couldn’t blame him for not inviting me to his wedding; not in those circumstances. And they were not the only mutual friends it would have been awkward for. Instead I gave him some waffle about how I had to accept that I had destroyed many friendships; that it was where I had been deliberately left out that I felt bitter. I would have to accept that I had been deliberately left out on occasion as a consequence of my bridge burning tendencies. I was avoiding, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Instead I concocted an example – one where I felt that I had been left out because of my actions: some smoke and mirrors for what I really felt. I told him of the wedding of another friend of mine, and her hen party. When she announced her wedding she assured her male friends that they would be at her hen party – of course they would: why would she leave them out? We were never invited.
I tried to reach for some slight I had done against her husband, but I could not think of a single one.
In my imaginary conversation I was flapping and flustered, unable to get myself out of the dead end I now did not actually find myself in. I realised that I was still resentful about not being invited to the traditionally all-female celebration of a friend I had become partly estranged from. I know not why.
As this conversation had got under way I had seen myself in a more successful future life: one where all of the hard work has paid off and the kids are in a more self-sufficient (mutually supportive) mode of existence. I see my partner and I relaxing with a glass or two of wine, presiding over a life we have successfully built for ourselves. And yet, in this, I have never let go of my petty list of grievances.
For some reason I described my collection of grievances as “An Envelope” of bitterness. I am unsure of whether I like that description; I am even less sure whether it fits. It’s more like a suitcase of hate.
Other lumps of malevolence which sit in my haversack of bitterness and envy are the colleagues I have lost touch with; but mostly the ones who have lost touch with me. Names missing from lists. I look through my Facebook friendship list and I see names disappearing from it. Laziness on my part certainly contributes to this, but some of it is indicative of lives moving on, as they naturally will.
Some of my professional relationships ended in a bad way, and it caused a schism, at least in my mind: me on one side; everyone else, who was made redundant, on the other side. They do meet up for drinks occasionally, but I would be scared to go. That’s how friendships truly die: you stop being there, so they don’t expect you anymore. These are things which I have caused, and must accept.
The difficulty arises when you want to tell them something. Eight weeks ago our second child was born. One of my former colleagues bought our eldest her favourite toy, and I would have loved to have shared the news of a little sister. Instead I found a Facebook suggestion that I add her as a friend. I don’t want to be her friend, but I do want to share news which I know would bring her joy.
And, as all of this descends in to needlessly maudlin twaddle about how everyone is mean to me (they’re not), I’ll sign off. Yes, it’s been good to get this off my chest, but I’m now just rather sad.