For every action…

Happy new year, readers.

You see a lot of self-reflection this time of year – how you did in 2013, what you want to do better in 2014. Thankfulness for all of the good things in your life, because it’s the holidays, blah blah blah. Me? I’m just thankful I made it out of December alive.

I wasn’t feeling the holidays at all this year. I tried, I tried so hard. I put Christmas lights up on my balcony. I went to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. Hell, I watched Kelly Clarkson’s TV special. But truth be told, I spent most of December acting like the Grinch (in the first two-thirds of the movie, the short animated one, not the terrible Jim Carrey one) than Tiny Tim.

This year, I just felt off, and for no good reason. I have a job this year, which is an improvement over 2012. I had a nice break of five days back home with family. But little by little, my psyche started to fall apart. Plans with friends fell through. Despite my repeated complaints of being over-scheduled, I started to feel bored and anxious. All of this, on top of something that had been eating at me all week long – that my ex-husband would be at a party I’d been planning to attend.

I went to a small college, where I met my ex. We didn’t start to date until just before graduation, and for the four years prior, we shared a lot of mutual friends. This was fantastic, while we were together. Since then, it’s been miserable, because nearly all of those friends remained friends with both of us.

About 75% of the time, I choose to ignore this fact – I’m far enough away from most people to maintain a selective memory and simply pretend he doesn’t exist and have a mutual understanding with friends that we just don’t discuss him. The other 25% of the time, usually when I find myself back home and the potential to actually see him pops up, well… to be honest, I feel like shit. I try to understand why they still consider him a friend, when he has the capacity to hurt another friend so much. I try to put myself in their shoes, to empathize with the desire not to take sides or to concentrate on the person they became friends with, before everything happened. I try to psych myself up, to tell myself that I’m fabulous or sexy or brilliant and that I don’t need him and that he’ll see that and feel terrible in my presence. But time and again, when faced with the potential of ending up at the same place at the same time, I can’t bring myself to face him. I forgo seeing my friends, people who I adore and haven’t seen in years and desperately want to catch up with, because I can’t be in the same room as him without feeling like I’m going to cry or vomit or punch a wall at any moment. If I do manage to show up – usually to a large scale college event – I attack the bar with reckless abandon and make sure there is a nearly full glass of wine in my hands at all times, usually regretting it in the morning, while he shows up and acts like nothing bothers him.

Want to know one of the reasons I love sports so much? Because there are consequences for every action. You hold somebody’s jersey? You lose yards. You trip someone? Two minutes in the penalty box. You take a run at one of our guys? We’ll beat the shit out of you. And when you’re an idiot off the field, even if you maintain your career in the sport, you’re almost guaranteed to lose out on endorsements, costing you millions you could have made. The system isn’t perfect, but it’s almost as good as it could be. Only in the rarest of instances does something so egregious happen that isn’t rectified eventually. (Don’t ever ask a Sabres fan about Brett Hull.)

But the real world doesn’t work that way. You can tell me all you want about karma, but I don’t buy it anymore. Every single day, people do awful things and face absolutely no repercussions – CEOs increase their own salaries at the expense of the working class, politicians lie and cheat and then issue meaningless apologies as their wives stand next to them, teenagers bully other teens. And in western Pennsylvania, a guy who cheated on his wife gets to keep the friends she once had, leaving her to sit at home on a Friday night with her parents feeling terrible about her life.

I know this sounds like a first-world problem, but in my world, it fucking sucks. I hate that he gets invited to that party. I hate that he can show up at our college reunion like nothing ever happened, just walk up to one of my best friends – the maid of honor at our wedding – and strike up a conversation, and she won’t throw her drink at him and cause a scene no matter how badly I want her to, because she’s a normal, mature, classy woman. I hate that, rather than him being the one to sit at home because he feels embarrassed or uncomfortable, I’m the one who backs out because I still don’t have the strength to face him, even after four years.

I wish there was a referee who could call ten minutes and a game misconduct for being an asshole.

It’s been a week now. I probably won’t have to deal with this again for another year. Until then, I can continue merrily along, in my little bubble where he doesn’t exist, the ultimate consequence of messing with me. But next December, I’ll have to figure it all out again. I’ll need to play the sexy, brilliant, confident girl, even if I feel like hell, or I’ll need to accept that I have to let go of these friends and that part of my life, and I’m not quite ready for either option.

Because whatever I decide, it will still feel like I’m the one being penalized for doing nothing wrong.


2 thoughts on “For every action…

  1. Your writing is so incisive. I love this piece for its truthiness, but ache because you are suffering for your own good sportsmanship.

    There is a song by Guster, “Homecoming King”– do you know it? I love the line, “Who ya gonna wave to/now that you’re not Homecoming King?” I think it speaks accurately to what some of us experience when we are embraced by a community but then we are frozen there. We aren’t allowed to evolve. We are just the hero for a moment that crystallizes and then we can’t get past that typecasting.

    All that to say, I’d rather be allowed to be fluid and evolve and to be loved for those reasons, not in spite of them. How sad if your ex is only seen as the person he was in college. (Not a reflection on who *he* was specifically, but the person I was at 19? Whooodoggies. Please. No. Not that girl. To the left, to the left.) Friendships need to allow for growth–inward + outward. If yours can’t hang with the person you are right now, maybe it’s because they’ve got you frozen. They need to know that you’ve grown and changed. I hope for your sake that they embrace that person, because a courageous woman is a beautiful friend to have. Love and evolution to you this year, Brenna. Keep writing and sharing.

    • I love this comment so much, thank you! I don’t know that Guster song, but I will certainly be looking it up today.

      I think this issue definitely ties into something I always struggle with, which is trying to keep my friendships for as long as I can. Many friends from college have evolved with me, and we’re still very close. Others, these days, I basically only have in common that we went to the same school, but I am not one to let go of relationships easily. It’s a far bigger issue I need to work on.

      I love the idea of evolution in 2014. Best wishes to you as well!!

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