Ruth: According to my friend Spike Gillespie — writer, indefatigable creator and free spirit — this is the second annual Drop a Grudge Day. Grudges are no good. We all know that, right? We should drop them all immediately.
Except. I’m working on a fresh one. I hesitate to even call it a grudge, since it’s so new. A grudge is something you cling to over months and years, long after the offending event has taken place. You nurse it, keep it going, to your own detriment.
I speak as an expert about this. Growing up in our family, we learned the fine art of sulking and tending to slights so they grew larger, more painful. We relived them again and again, even imagined scenarios that might happen in the future to make the slight even worse. “Why would you want to do that — knowing it makes you miserable?” a therapist once asked me. “Why would you want to do that?” It was one of those funny, defining moments about something that should be obvious to any thinking human being, but, to me, was a brilliant insight. Why the hell was I doing it? Why didn’t I stop immediately? And, for the most part, I have. I only miss the deliciously masochistic self-pity baths about once a year.
But back to the immediate dilemma. I worked on a big, ambitious project for more than a year, full time. I learned by accident that it had been nominated for several prestigious awards — but no one had bothered to notify me.
Maybe I should pause here. I still don’t know what the hell a blog really is — for me and my sister alone? No, obviously not. If it were for us alone, we could email back and forth. Instead, by going online, we have some expectation and hope that others will read it. Eventually. But right now, I don’t think anyone else knows it exists.
Even so, I feel embarrassed to bring up my hurt feelings (so egotistical! Who cares? Get over it! You’ve always been too sensitive/a big baby!). Especially on the above-noted Drop a Grudge Day.
But I do think there’s a deeper, more general point here. What do we do when we’ve been hurt? What the hell do we do with that pain?
Yeah, I know. I’m whining — and whining in semi-public, which makes it even worse — and know it all sounds pathetic, because I have very strong pathetic sensors. Especially for my owned damned patheticism, if there is such a word. But what do you do with an injury someone else has caused you? We’re always supposed to move on and get over it, but I’m convinced that that attitude can do a disservice to very real feelings. It’s like pretending it didn’t happen and that it doesn’t matter. When, in fact, it happened and it mattered. It’s just that, after acknowledging that, then what?
Here’s what I think. It’s too soon to call it a grudge. Grudges take time. I can’t drop it yet. All I can do is mull it over and figure out how to handle it in a reasonable, honest way. But before I get there, I simply have to feel bad. Have to feel rotten before I can get over it. Before it even merits being called a grudge. Maybe it’s this whole Protestant work ethic I was reared with: I always think you have to go through something before you can get over it.
God, sometimes I hate being a grownup. Being a sulky child was so much easier. I’m going to eat a pint of ice cream so I’ll feel better.
(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)