I’ve lived long enough now to know what I have always suspected — most expected behaviors are not realistic. For example, if someone plays a trick on us, we are supposed to be good sports about it, to grin and bear it. Why? Why is it incumbent on us to smile when someone treats us badly? Why aren’t dirty tricks and dirty dealing frowned on?
When I was young, my best friend hid my school books, then she went inside her house, locked the door, and left me outside to search for my books. I couldn’t find them so I rang the door bell, knocked, and called to her. She didn’t respond, just left me standing there alone. I got scared. It was getting late, and I had to get home or else I’d be punished. When it started to rain. I grew frantic, thinking of having to explain those sodden books to my strict teachers and stricter parents. I couldn’t think of any way to get my friend’s attention, so I decided to play the baby. I sat on the porch and pretended to cry. She flounced out of her house, got the books, threw them at me and called me a crybaby and a bad sport.
I could see where maybe hiding the books for a few seconds might be fun. It might even have been funny. But to leave me searching for my books for at least fifteen minutes in the rain? That was cruel. When she grew up, she became a lawyer, and was never heard from again. I’m sure she forgot about the incident shortly after it happened, but I always felt guilty that I hadn’t been a good sport. And I still don’t know what I could have done differently. Well, that’s not true. I would have done one thing differently — I would have immediately dropped her as a friend.
I used to think friendship was the most important thing in the world, and since I didn’t make friends easily, I did everything I could to keep the ones I had. I might not have borne their disregard with a grin, but I did bear it.
Not any more.
When my life mate/soul mate died, I figured I had to let myself be vulnerable and get to know people (or rather let them get to know me), otherwise I’d end up friendless and alone. Opening up worked for a while, but for some reason recently (maybe my Karma coming back to run me over?), some of these friends and online aquaintances have decided to tell me all the things they dislike about me. If people don’t wish me well in my journey through life, they aren’t friends. And I see no point in being a good sport about their ill will. Nor do I grin and bear it. I simply say good-bye.
Oddly, I’m not as worried about being friendless and alone as I was at the beginning of my grief journey. If it happens, so be it, but there are billions of people in the world. Somewhere, I’ll meet people who appreciate my struggles to rebuild my life. In fact, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately, both on and offline. Now that’s a wonderful trick!
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.