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Let it go

April 11th, 2017

“He was rude to me once, and I’ve never forgotten it.” That could be be my catch phrase.

I would like to believe that I am a tolerant person who can see both sides of the coin and the apple. In some ways this is true. I am quite good at forgiving and moving on. IF there is a conciliatory conversation.

For example, someone at work once spoke testily to me. I had done the wrong thing, but there was no need for him to question whether I could read. I was furious and determined to be frosty with him forever and ever. I arrived at work the next morning to a voicemail from him apologising for being stressed and rude. I called him back immediately. ‘Say no more, think no more about it, it was really all my fault, would you like to get a coffee? Of course I’ll look after your dog for the weekend!’ I said, and I meant it.

The problem comes when there is no conciliatory gestures or acknowledgement. Then things fester. Once at work some executives were rude to me. I was trying to get the glasses cleared from the boardroom so I could catch a train to visit my dying grandmother. They thought I was intruding, and I thought I was heroically doing my job under difficult circumstances. In any case, there was no need to say ‘When Penny finally leaves the room we can continue our discussion’ in that icy manner. Even as I’m typing a blog post about letting go, I feel angry recalling that day. They addressed me in the third person! How. Dare. Anyway, they never apologised and I never forgot.

So clearly, in practise I’m a great upholder of the right to bear grudges. Over the course of the past 35 years of living I have amassed a small concert hall’s worth of people who have pissed me off. This crowd needs to move to a bigger venue to add all the people who have gained my disdain by being mean to my friends or family. I will often keep them in the freezer long after the person who was actually wronged has moved on.

This has led to a situation where I’m having trouble keeping my indexing system up-to-date. With the passing years I’m struggling to remember who I’m supposed to hate and why. I sometimes ask my friends, ‘Why don’t we like him again?’ The other day I searched through my emails because I had a vague feeling I didn’t like someone, but had no idea why. When I found the reason, it really wasn’t the outrage I’d felt it to be at the time.

On this search I also came across some bizarrely cold emails I’d written to a very close friend. At first I couldn’t work out why I’d taken that tone. Doing some more research I found the reason. I had hurt feelings. And instead of saying ‘I’ve got hurt feelings’ and telling the friend how they could help, I’d let it leak and been hurtful in return. I have completely moved on with this friend, but with other people I never do, and years after the problematic incident I retain a kernel of hurt and mistrust. Occasionally something happens and I realise I’ve been petty in focusing on the one time they were rude or thoughtless rather than the many times they were kind.

There are some grudges worth keeping, and there are some incidents that beg for poetic justice. I make no judgement about anyone else’s grudge cupboard or revenge fantasy drawer. But I do know that some of mine are silly. (Note this does not include you Executives Who Address Assistants in the Third Person).

And yeah, I know I shoulda turned the phone around.

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