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Our resentments are merely a reflection of our own expectations.

Bitterness.

Resentment.

Bitterness is a product of anger and disappointment, and resentment is often a result of unachieved expectation. Both take more energy than they are worth. And both give nothing back; they just drown us in our own poison.

About thirty years ago, two sisters went on a road trip together. Somewhere along the road there was a spat; an offhanded comment made by one pushed the button of the other. It wasn’t anything important, or earth shattering, but it opened a floodgate of meaningless resentments harboured since childhood, by one in particular, the other was a bit of a stoic who tried to control emotions.

They didn’t talk for a very long time. I know it hurt the older sister, she made comments from time to time. But she shared in the problem; she also wasn’t the type to confront a problem, and that can be misinterpreted as lack of caring. Differences in the way that we interact with the world around us can generate their own problems and can be difficult to overcome. And sometimes we don’t forget things that we should.

Silly childhood conflicts

YoungerShe jumped on the bed while I was under it!

Older: “Well SHE went under there!

Perceived teenage slights

Your mom wanted a car and when our parents said no, she sat on the front step crying. I went and sat beside her and tried to comfort her and she hurt me so badly when she just stood up and said ‘Oh, go away’.” 

Small things best never remembered, but which are remembered, 50 or more years later, and which colour the way we interact and see each other.

We expect things from other people, but if we never communicate those expectations……and sometimes our own expectations are unrealistic, and we sabotage ourselves, our relationships, and our happiness.

“The cause of intolerance and misunderstanding is that we judge ourselves by our ideals, and others by their deeds.”

– Dwight Morrow

They put their differences aside from time to time, but there was always tension. The elder sister always said she felt that she had to tread on eggshells for fear of unintentionally upsetting the younger. I can’t speak to the mindset of the younger sister.

Years later, the elder sister had a medical emergency and ended up in the hospital. When asked if there was anyone she wanted to see, when asked if she wanted to see her sister, she muttered sullenly “She’d never come…”. This was not the question that had been asked, so the question was posed again. The response was different he second time …”yes…”

The younger sister was reluctant, equally truculent, but when she heard that the request came from the older sister herself, and that things were uncertain, she came.

And she was by her sister’s side in the hospital when she passed away just days later.

I felt like I’d done something good when I orchestrated that final scenario. Clearly I was devastated to have not been with my mother when she died; it was unexpected, a complication that no one saw coming, and I was just going back to Vancouver to sort out some things before I headed back up to help her with her recovery. But that never happened and sepsis took her away from me; softly for her, cruelly for me. But I can find comfort in the knowledge that she wasn’t alone at the end, and I had brought the two of them together for a moment in time. I’d hoped I’d brought some measure of healing to the younger sister.

It helped me cope with the loss, even if just a little bit.

Before Christmas I put together a small parcel containing a childhood book that my aunt had expressed her fond memory of, a 1940’s copy of Anne of Greene Gables with my aunt’s name in the dust jacket, and a small piece of art – a framed print of a painting of a teapot. When I’d asked my aunt if there was anything of mom’s that she’d like to have, she initially said “I’d love a teapot, so I could have a cup of tea with Marg”.

She later recanted the request, claiming she didn’t have room for more “stuff”.

But Mom had a cute little picture of a teapot in her kitchen and I kept it to send to her sister at some later date, when I wasn’t so crippled by grief.

Before Christmas I contacted her daughter, my cousin, to obtain a mailing address and I finally managed to send it.

A few days ago an envelope was in my mail. No return address, but I recognized the handwriting since it is so similar to what Mom’s was.

I opened it and started to cry.

Her words were cold. She said that the picture was “..unnecessary because she would never have wanted me to have anything of hers, for sure. Thanks for trying however”.

The tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought how sad it is that she harbours a resentment so deep that death didn’t clear away the emotional cobwebs, and that I am the object of that resentment now; via transference.

The sins of the sister….the sins of the mother.

I don’t understand why some feelings can’t be relinquished. I find the energy necessary to hang on to anger and resentment too costly and, in all honesty, I usually forget what I was mad about before long. It takes a lot of concentration to stay angry.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

– Malachy McCourt

Grudges are just misunderstandings that weren’t talked through, occasions where someone assumes something about someone else and categorizes it as fact in their own mind. They hold onto it, and pass judgment based on it, and the next thing you know they find themselves wallowing in a pool of resentment. The longer they choose to stay in the pool, the more bitter and withered they become. There is no benefit to a grudge for anyone. Reaching conclusions and forming resentments based on perceptions is like locking yourself in prison for a crime you think someone else committed, and doing it before you’ve even investigated to know if a crime actually took place or not.

We never win by holding a grudge. All we end up doing is allowing the person who wronged us to fill our head space with negativity. Holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent free in your head.”  

– Unknown

Holding tightly to a grudge, even if, in the end, the facts prove that the other person deserves it, only ends in the grudge-holder being punished. Sure, the grudge-holder can injure the target of their resentment emotionally and cause them hurt, especially if the perceived culprit genuinely valued the relationship. But over time they can move past the hurt the grudge-holder is causing while the grudge-holder remains stuck in a vicious cycle of negativity and anger. Letting go of a grudge doesn’t mean that two people will (or can) ever become close again, but it does mean that they can hopefully move past the hurt and at least coexist without further injury.

For me, resentment tends to slip away and be replaced with ambivalence, my grudges are short-lived and I move on. I have better things to focus on than something I felt months or years ago. My emotional memory isn’t strong enough to carry a baggage like that for so long, so eventually I discard it and largely forget why I was so hurt at the time.  Hoarding emotions isn’t my strong suit, thankfully.

Where is the logic in carrying something for so long?

Where is there any benefit in carrying it around for so many years?

After so many years, how could it possibly even matter anymore?

Why let something from so long ago control you?

Why let it matter?

“We don’t see the things the way they are. We see things the way WE are.”

– The Talmud

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119 Photos in 2019 – 88. Seeing double Seeing Double