What radical act of love or non-conformity did you embrace this year? How did performing this alchemy affect your ancestors and what is the gold waiting to be shared with future relations?
I am going to break the fourth wall here and tell you that these prompts are way outside of my comfort zone. I have been trying to bend/break them to my writing will, but writing about the alchemy affecting my ancestors, and the gold awaiting future relations makes me feel like I am writing about Leprechauns or Rumpelstiltskin.
I understand what this prompt is asking for: We are talking about why/how radical, non-conforming acts of love affect us not only now, but how they will affect us in the future. However, I feel like the Sister Grimm responding to this prompt – spinning Life Lesson flax into gold by branding my own foolishness as some kind of radically cool, non-conforming love-act.
This is not That, by the way. This is a story about beating dead horses.
I am the sort of person who talks too much. Not in the sense that I will talk over you, or blabber on and on and on. But I am the sort of woman to beat a dead horse.
I am not the sort of person who picks fights I cannot win, or makes arguments without facts. Even if an argument is hopelessly stupid, if I feel I have been wronged, I am likely to take up the case if I believe I can prove my side of it. Even if every single bone in my body tells me to shut my damn mouth and let something go, there is some part of me that simply…cannot. Perhaps this is why I became a lawyer. Or perhaps this is a result of being a lawyer. Or maybe that’s a chicken-and-egg sort of thing, and we may never know which came first.
So the other night, I was at a party for the release of my friend’s book. This was a mutual friend I shared with my ex-husband. My ex looms as this odd spectre that haunts my life, and probably always will. We work in the same industry; we share a few very close friends; we live mere blocks apart. But we never see each other; we do not talk. We are not friends on social media. In my mind, my ex plays a certain, specific, sometimes villainous role in my life, as I am sure I do in his – but in reality, he is just a downtown lawyer and an Upper East Side dad.
I walked into this party the other night and instantly saw my ex-husband across the room from me. I hadn’t seen him in…years.
Sidenote: We, as a species, are Unreliable Narrators. We embellish things, and accuse others of exaggerating THEIR stories, believing ourselves immune from doing the same. By way of example, I had been telling One Particular Story a certain way for years, painting myself as the hero/victim, and painting my ex as the aggressor. I have also kept a journal for about 25 years, where I have recorded my Life Events nearly contemporaneously, in efforts to remedy/mitigate the Unreliable Narrator problem. Needless to say, I truly, earnestly believed my version of the One Particular Story I was telling, because over the years, I had accepted my version as Truth, and had never bothered to check my facts because my version of the story rang so true to me – how could I be wrong about that?!
Over Thanksgiving Weekend, I was home, alone, with James Bond movies and a bottle of Hendrick’s. Eventually, this resulted in me re-reading old writing and journals, and I stumbled upon my contemporaneous account of what had happened with That One Story. To my horror, I discovered that my version of events was not what had happened at all. But I had wanted to believe myself so badly that, over the years, my embellishments had accreted into the Generally Accepted Version of the story, in which I was the victim.
What I am trying to say is: I spent 40 minutes talking with my ex-husband the other night. We are much older now than we were when we married. He asked me about my family, and I asked him about his, and I said: How old is your little sister now? And he told me she was 28, and I said, That makes me feel very old because when we first started dating, she wasn’t yet old enough to drive.
He introduced me to some of his university friends he’d been chatting with, who were also friends of our mutual friend. That we had once been together was not relevant to the conversation or introduction. And I realised that night that sometimes, you have to love yourself enough to know that you can be terribly wrong about things; and you can be wrong about yourself even, but that doesn’t mean the story you’ve been telling wasn’t worth getting out there in the first place.
What I am also saying is that, over these many years of story-telling, I have learned and am learning the radical art of shutting my mouth every now and again.