“We are all the heroes of our own stories, and on of the arts of perspective is to see yourself small on the stage of another’s story, to see the vast expanse of the world that is not about you, and to see your power, to make your life, to make others, or break them, to tell stories rather that be told by them.”Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
It’s been almost two months since my last post, and that just proves writing is challenging for me right now. There are many things that require reflection and thought, and my hollowed out self is busy restoring itself.
But something happened and I must address it, confront it, and name it, and that is the nature and narrative of betrayal. It’s about opportunities and unfairness, and how we little souls reconcile our sins.
Some of this might not strike the right tone. Another sin.
A brief history:
In first grade, in the spring, I was asked to be the lead in the spring concert/pageant. This is after a stunning performance as the Christmas Fairy for the Christmas pageant; I knew not only my lines but everyone else’s, and managed to be both stage manager, director, and star. That’s a lot for a 6 year old. I didn’t ask for greatness, it was thrusted upon me. So when I was tapped on the shoulder for the springtime theatrical extravaganza, I was in the middle of a painting, and I swear I asked them to wait until I finished, but the teacher only heard dismissal and disinterest. I remember lying in bed crying after the show telling my mom about the tragic misunderstanding.
Fast forward to seventh grade: I was new to the school, having moved from overseas, and it was MIDDLE SCHOOL. In my previous school, I had at least 3 boyfriends and was the siren of sixth grade: in my new school, not so much. But one boy did like me, Joel D. And one of my few girlfriends at the time (can’t remember her name…Ch**l?) confessed how much she liked him, too. Being a strong, albeit misplaced, feminist, I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ and compete for a boy’s affections, so I told Joel that C like him, too, and…you know what happened. It wasn’t a cute, romantic Austen-esque farce of undying romance and revealed truths: he hated me, she hated me, and my middle school life became one of shunning and treachery. No one wins. He never spoke to me again except to talk trash about me. (But that has more to do with toxic masculinity: hope he’s grown up since then.)
More seriously, in our professional lives, my husband: 1. Was unjustly fired from a company but his brother (whom he got on board) stayed on and went onto thrive 2. Hired one of his best friends at a company, and then the best friend was promoted over him (there is more to the story: the friendship survived because his friend is a mensch and so is my husband). 3. I was in a toxic work environment for about two years (yes, I need to write that novel) and long story short: felt completely betrayed (there’s that word again) by my friends and colleagues who continued to cuddle up with and embrace some, well, pretty yucky folks. Those folks almost cost us everything, but fortunately, I had some great champions in my corner, and moved on.
That was one truncated paragraph summarizing years of pain, disappointment, and coming to terms with my own failings, life isn’t fair, shit luck, and survival. And it takes time to heal, and there are scars. That’s it. When asking my husband for advice today, and recounting some of these memories he visibly shrank and his body language asked me to stop talking before he could get out the words. He then said he didn’t want to go through thinking about it again. (I am not being hyperbolic when I say: it was horrible.) Recounting past trauma of betrayal, redemption, forgiveness, and rebuilding takes…courage? Safety? I have no answers. I thought I was okay. I mean, between the pandemic, worrying about my students, their families, and the omnipresent existential crisis, and possible destruction of the US democracy, things were looking up, right?
Currently I am on the other side of this. I won’t go into the details. But it’s weird. When the catalyst occurred, my husband’s advice was ‘you don’t turn down opportunities, because they might not come your way again.’ It was the spring pageant all over again. This situation is fraught with another’s grief and tragedy. Nothing is equal. I can’t take my PTSD and experiences and say they are worth less or more than another’s. There is no value here. And the ethics are muddy.
Maybe that is truly the essence of equality: if opportunities and love are shared, are they provided for all?
I have been told by a friend I betrayed her. And I’m just going to have to sit with that for a while.
*just can’t find the right words