I talked to a friend yesterday who told me that he ran into what I guess could be called a frenemy. Said frenemy is a woman that I worked with years ago– beautiful, intelligent, similar East Village history. It was not a great combo; I found her abrasive, unnecessarily defensive and territorial, overall a very difficult coworker. At the time I hated every second in her presence and I’m sure she didn’t adore me either. But I could see that she had some good qualities in dealing with other people, and I got over it with time. I thought she did too.
I liken this later time in my life to senior year in high school, when everyone has managed to get close to the finish line and the cliques don’t matter so much. There is a camaraderie of making it through together. It feels the same, for the most part, with all of those rivalries and beefs we had in our youth. The grudges have faded and we’ve matured enough to get past some of the issues that created them in the first place.
The last time I saw this woman was a couple of years ago at a memorial for another mutual friend. We had a nice conversation about what had been going on with us since that job, and I felt good about our interaction and was grateful and pleased that things were friendly. I thought we were great.
So friend who ran into said frenemy said that she told him that the last time she’d seen me I was crying in a dive bar. Now–the part about me crying in the bar is undoubtedly true. As mentioned many times here, I went through a very difficult period a few years ago, and I was drinking and crying all over the damn place. BUT, that was most definitely NOT the last time she saw me and she knows it. The last time she saw me I was not crying or intoxicated and, side note, was wearing really good shoes and an excellent dress.
I was at first confused, then irritated. I thought about sending her a message asking essentially, “Bitch, why??” Why must you perpetuate this ancient, dried brown bad blood by purposely talking shit? Why, whyyyyyyyyyy??? Then my second thought was that if I were to send a message then I too would be perpetuating and it would turn it into a “thing”. And I’m practicing not turning a thing into a thing or being a “right fighter” (thanks, Dr. Phil!), meaning that I understand that I don’t always have to have the last word, and that it’s not my job to harass people for not thinking I’m as awesome as I think they should.
So I let it be. But I like to fester on things for as long as humanly possible in order to maximize internal suffering. And as I was gloomily ruminating (gluminating!) over it, I happened to catch a woman on TV discussing a seemingly unrelated topic, specifically about how movies have often negatively shaped female comparisons and opinions about ourselves, that somehow felt related. Because I am guessing the answer to the why question is a lingering feeling of competition and a need to cut a competitor into more bite sized pieces. So it feels like I’m being nudged to work on this a bit.
The BLM movement has caused me to examine my own personal role in perpetuating racism and white privilege, and it’s been both eye-opening and saddening. I am sad that it’s taken 2/3 of my life to ingest this information, and to understand fully that I have to be proactive in all of my conversations, thoughts and encounters if I want to be a part of the solution.
So along with this I am now also realizing that I must do the same with women. It is imperative to change some ingrained, learned behavior if we are ever to disassemble another prejudicial system–the patriarchy.
This is more complicated for me. First, just typing the word feels yucky. Not because I don’t feel that it exists and needs to be dismantled, but because I don’t like winging it on subjects that feel too large for me. I like to stick to my own little dust-ups and the information I can glean from them.
But this is indeed a personal dust up, if only inside my head. It’s clear that for her there is some residual dislike. In my mind it’s unwarranted, but not unexpected, because women are always suspicious of one another, and often shitty as a result. We slice each other to ribbons with sharp little criticisms, bits of whispered disapproval. gossip that sometimes lies, often exaggerates or gets it at least partially wrong. We undermine our own personal integrity with publicly sanctioned, often whispered, sometimes funny abuse of each other, which rewards us with a temporary feeling of control or superiority.
I have always been a girl’s girl, but I can also act as insecure and mean as anyone else when feeling attacked or defensive. I love words, humor and getting into people’s heads, so I can easily tear someone up either to their face or behind their back with those three things. I want to do better, do the right thing, and I’m definitely closer to it. But I’m realizing that maybe just trying to be nice isn’t the point, isn’t as far as I need to take it.
So what does taking it further entail? I don’t want fake niceness with people I don’t like. It seems kinder to be honest with someone than string them along passive-aggressively. I believe that if I am speaking my truth that gives the other party the control and freedom to live their own truth. So even if it’s not enjoyable in the moment, it’s a cleaner way of living.
So maybe it’s the way we deliver that honesty? I don’t want to give up my dark sense of humor, it keeps me afloat. But what about all the tiny, unnecessary ways that we injure each other without self-awareness, often without the other person’s awareness, under the guise of humor, or even worse, faux concern? The way we judge someone we don’t know or don’t like by weight or appearance, the way we make some snide comment or joke that we quietly know is unfair or bending the truth. And even if it is the truth, couldn’t it be possible to convey that information with compassion and empathy instead of with a sting?
I’m still sorting it out. I feel much more of a kinship with Cersei Lannister than Gandhi. I would very much enjoy blowing up my enemies with green fire while sipping wine. I come up with terrible nicknames for people in my head that no one needs to hear. I tend to snicker when someone who has tormented me falls, probably because it puts scary things/people in a more manageable, less threatening box, which feels empowering in the moment. Winning a war is comforting.
But in the end it’s only a seductive illusion. At the end of the day it denigrates both parties energetically/vibrationally. So that means that in order to move forward I have to start viewing a person as a full entity rather than that quick, disdainful assessment and boxing up that keeps me feeling safe.
This is almost scary; it feels too vulnerable. I’m finding that the first step for me personally is just to keep my big mouth shut. Utilizing a filter is pretty new to me, but I’m guessing that if I get more adept at carefully choosing words, the thoughts might follow. So forgiveness in this case, I think, doesn’t mean pretending it didn’t happen, but it means I can let it die on the vine without retaliation or comment. And I’m grateful for the awareness that came with this little dig. I’m thinking about it, writing about it, and hopefully gaining knowledge from it.
I’m thinking that it could be possible to approach dislike with integrity. It isn’t about reaching for sainthood or trying to be liked by everyone, which can be a form of self-judgment anyway, like “I will try to be better, and then maybe I will deserve love, but I can never be perfect, therefore I can never be loved.” The snake eats its tail.
Any time someone decides that I am behaving in a way they dislike or disapprove, the first criticism leveled at me is always “For someone who spends so much time pretending to be spiritual, you sure are… [insert insult here].” Possibly. It seems strange to criticize someone for working to improve, but it’s an easy dig in my case. For me, any spiritual leanings are primarily about finding ways to live and think that remove pain and create joy, because I hate feeling bad and much prefer to feel happy. So the goal, whether you call it spiritual work or not, becomes simply about protecting one’s peace of mind: I don’t want to waste one more minute of my life dealing with competitive schism because it makes me feel bad.
And then if that feels palatable, we can move to the admittedly more global/spiritual level, and consider that if we shift our own personal consciousness to be happier, that in turn nudges the collective conscious closer to a world in which we don’t have to make a decision on whether to deal with bitchiness or not, because it no longer exists as a standard or readily acceptable means of relating to one another.
Women can do better, people can do better, and I think many of us are ready for it. I do believe that we are in the age of Aquarius and that a new world is slowly coming to fruition. But it’s at a glacial pace and I get disheartened sometimes when I look at things on the large scale. These little changes feel more doable. I can’t control the world but I can control my small piece of it, and maybe influence someone whose small piece is adjacent to mine, and then boom! Patriarchy dismantled, all animals and children are treated with respect and kindness, people notice my awesome shoes and forget they saw me crying in a bar in 2016.