Shortly after my father died in January, after his memorial arrangements had been finalized, I shared the information on Facebook along with his obituary as is fairly standard practice these days. I intended to let anyone who was interested in paying respects have the opportunity to do so.
Someone who I had reconnected with at a family event the prior summer chose to make a comment on the post, alongside rote condolences they pointed out what a shame it was that certain members of my family weren’t mentioned in the obituary. I froze up trying to comprehend why they felt it was appropriate to flippantly bring up such a deep, painful, and very private rift in my family, and to do so publicly. Never mind the fact that my Dad had been dead less than a week and here I was being blamed and shamed for something that wasn’t even my choice.
After the initial shock, I became furious. It’s worth mentioning here that they are not related nor do they have the full scope of information about the intricacies of this particular divide. I don’t even have that and I’m right in the middle of it all. I took a pause and wondered if my anger was misdirected, perhaps grief was clouding my judgment, because I really, really wanted to give them a piece of my mind and it was not a nice piece.
I checked in with a trusted friend who echoed my sentiments and then I let it rip. I was careful not to attack them, but I wrote a brief response and sent it privately, pointing out that I could not let what they had said and their delivery remain unaddressed. I was as clear and honest as I could be, I didn’t even swear. While I hoped to simply receive an apology and move on, my larger goal was to illuminate that times like these were good times to mind your fucking business and apply what we all learned in kindergarten: if you don’t have anything nice (or helpful, kind, etc) to say, don’t say anything at all.
I suppose it was naive to expect my thoughts to be received and not just reacted to, given the behavior that started this whole exchange in the first place. They proceeded to press their self-appointed role as the advocate because, and I quote, “just because they won’t say something someone should.” This was followed by an expression of woe over having to be the one to do it.
I was no longer cautious and restrained in my reply, but again I was sincere, truthful and not unkind.
The kicker was that I agree with what they said. We had even discussed what they were making reference to in their initial comment months earlier. Point in fact, I am literally the only person who is still on speaking terms with everyone involved, the only person who has taken any steps to maintain or repair relationships. I maintain that it is not my job to fix the way other people relate to one another, I can only work on myself.
It is a common trait in my family to hold on to grudges, it’s precisely why this rift exists and persists. It’s a tendency I’m well aware of within myself, one that I have to regularly check in with. I’ve historically been very good at removing myself from people / situations and quietly letting what caused me to walk away fester and remain unspoken, thinking “This’ll teach em.” And really, who suffered?
Anger can never serve its purpose as a force of transformation if it is left unexpressed. I don’t mean we should rage and scream and break shit all the time, but anger is a fire that will burn all-consumingly if not used for constructive purposes.
Nearly six months later, I find myself returning to this exchange in my mind from time to time. I was fully prepared to receive a ranting reply I would never read or respond to, feeling no need to have the last word (I know, how very un-Aries like of me), it was theirs for the taking. I did not hear back. I made the choice to remove them from my friend list the next day.
I return to this exchange in my mind (and sit here having written nearly 1,000 words about it) not because I’m still pissed off, I said everything I need to say, but because I wonder if I’m reverting to behavior I actively work to transmute. Am I holding a grudge? I cut electronic ties (though did not block them) and plan to offer nothing but a cordial greeting should we meet face to face in the future.
It doesn’t feel like a grudge, but more like an honest to goodness boundary, something I am deeply unpracticed at laying. I do not feel any anger toward this person, I bear them no ill will. The boundary between us is soft and passable, just not by me. As someone with very limited energy just as part of my deal, I need to know that the energy I put into tending relationships is well spent. I don’t have any to spare. What I need to demonstrate that a relationship with this person is worth what little energy I have is an apology without defense of their actions, nothing more, nothing less.
Whether I receive this or not is irrelevant, either way I know I will have done right by myself, the ultimate power of consciously invoking a boundary.