#38. Releasing resentment

I don’t know about you, but I can hold a grudge. I mean, I can hold the hell out of a grudge. I have a death-grip on resentments, some big, some small. Some weighing on me far more than others. And some, frankly, that I’ve just gotten entirely sick of packing up and carting around with me wherever I go. It’s enough to make a person wish there were some simple way to just rid herself of them. Like, if it were just as easy as making the decision to let them go. Just…got over them. Instantly, by sheer will. That’d be awesome, right? And such a time-saver! Talk about a change for the better! Are you with me? I said, ARE YOU WITH ME? That’s more like it!

Now, readers, I’m not naïve enough to think that these matters don’t require a certain amount of introspection and fancy footwork to overcome. It’s just that I’ve already done a lot of that stuff over the years, including looking closely and thoroughly at my own part in each of these relationships or situations. Yet there seem to be certain resentments that aren’t magically dissipating as a result of this legwork. Almost as though a person were refusing to let them go. Almost as though it were sheer will and stubbornness that stands in the way of freedom.

So consider this an experiment, if you will. Not of the usual variety. Seven days. Seven hand-picked resentments I’m sick and tired of having. And a conscious effort to let go of them, one by one.

Wait. What? What does it take to let go of these resentments, you ask? What is my process? That’s a damn good question. And the answer is: I have no idea. My approach varied depending on the resentment, but mostly it required a fair deal of thinking. Setting aside a good solid portion of time to walk through the resentment, almost like a farewell stroll. Then taking quiet time to breathe deeply and will myself to just let it go. Be done with it. It looked a lot like meditation, if a person were prone to that sort of thing.

Here’s a run down of what I tackled this week, along with a self-assessed score from 1-10, based on how well the resentment “felt” gone in the days that follow.

Day 1, Resentment 1: Anonymous Former Employer #1

I think I am being both completely fair and completely professional when I say that this guy was a douche. Now, yes, I was a terrible employee. It was, to put it mildly, not a good match. Still, the douche was so condescending to me, particularly about my writing skills and so narrow-minded in his focus that I felt about an inch tall by the time I crawled out of that place.

Douchey boss, I release you. I’m done with you. Your opinion matters not and I will not carry it with me anymore when I feel like I can’t write.

Score: 9. He had a really bad mustache. And who wants someone with a really bad mustache in your head? No one, that’s who.

Day 2, Resentment 2: Anonymous Former Employer #2

Hmmm. I might be starting to see a pattern here… But I swear, this boss was a banshee from hell. The kind of woman who gives all women bosses a bad name. A bad, four-letter name. She was controlling, manipulative, eviscerating with her criticism, completely untrusting of her entire staff. She bred an environment of fear and self-doubt. If I’d left the last job feeling incompetent, I had stumbled into a bigger quagmire. Two years I dealt with her vitriol, believing—as she implied regularly—that I was lucky to have any job at all.

Lady Bitch, I am grateful to you for one thing and one thing only: you taught me everything about how I don’t want to be in the workplace, how I don’t want to treat other people. I release you and all the memories that still make my tummy churn. I’m not that person anymore and, even if you are, I don’t need to hang on to it.

Score: 7. She still kinda makes my blood boil. But mostly I’m mad at myself for being a sucker and putting up with it for so long.

Day 3, Resentment 3: Crazy client #1

People said she was nuts. I didn’t listen, because I was new to freelancing and hungry, in particular, for more editing projects. When a she-bully tells you she knows what an editor is supposed to do and you don’t, it’s enough to make you question your own sanity. I did. A lot. I let her insane rants get under my skin. Needless to say, it ended badly. Badly, as in, she refused to pay me the agreed-upon sum and threatened to kick my ass. And, reader, she could have. She so could have.

I realize now that I did know exactly what I was talking about, and I hate that I was young enough and naïve enough to let the sheer force of someone else’s boorishness make me question myself. But there was certainly precedent for it. Blech. I don’t want to think about you and your craziness anymore. There’s no point in revisiting this situation. OUT!

Score: 9. Undeniable insanity apparently makes this easier to release…

Day 4, Resentment 4: Crazy client #2

I delivered apples, they saw oranges. They knew what they wanted, but as with a lot of clients, had no ability to explain what it was. They hated what I delivered them, which I understand happens sometimes to freelancers. But they refused to pay me. Since I’m a huge fan of Judge Judy, I sued ‘em in small claims court. They eventually sent payment—along with a scathing letter taking me to task for my lack of talent and lack of professionalism. Again with the tap-dancing on my self-doubt!

The longer I carry this around, the longer it continues to feed into that dark, moody voice that arises only in my deepest despair: Maybe they’re right. You do suck! Enough. I found the client tedious then and it has only multiplied over time. I don’t really have a lot of trouble seeing the reality of this situation clearly, so why on earth do I unpack it and look at it from time to time. No more.

Score: 7. But I can’t blame them entirely for my self-doubt. Much as I’d like to.

Day 5, Resentment 5: My mother

Ooooo, touchy subject. And vague! Does anyone ever finish the hard work of resenting the hell out of their parents? Here, I’m cutting off a small sliver. I’m talking, specifically, about my mother’s constant criticism of my body, my eating habits and my weight. I took those negative perspectives as gospel truth and I cannot tell you what I’ve shelled out in therapy bills just to make a dent in this one.

Unlike the resentments I’d tackled on previous days, I already knew this one would be the toughest to let go. But a girl’s gotta try, right? She’s gotta try, because she’s a grown up and she understands—begrudgingly—that her mother was just trying to help, but didn’t know how to do it constructively. She’s gotta try because her mother’s gone now and she doesn’t want to carry around any more anger and resentment towards her because it doesn’t change anything. It just stands in the way of seeing that good. And that’s what I want to carry forward: the good.

Score: 5. Progress made, but it’s still there. Man, is it still there.

Day 6, Resentment 6: The tenants from hell

I swear to God, just thinking about these people makes my blood boil. I can feel it, under my skin, steaming away. You could make tea with it. Gross tea, to be sure, but you get my point. Let me set the stage on this one: we were long-distance landlords, spoiled by a terrific first tenant. Then came the Frenchies. Entitled, awful people who treated our property like crap, who lied to the neighbors about our evicting them, who littered the lawn with cigarette butts and empty wine bottles, who stole from us when they moved out. Blech.

It’s been nearly two years since they moved out of our house. Now it’s time for them to move out of my head.

Score: 9.5. Turns out it’s far easier to let go of resentments when I can say, with a clear conscience, that I did not contribute to their terrible behavior or the circumstances that brought it about.

Day 7, Resentment 7: Me and my resentments

I did not see this one coming. I was digging around for a seventh resentment to round out the week with, something truly spectacular. And I was coming up dry. I was feeling somehow lighter, relieved. Except for a nagging sense of annoyance after looking at all of these circumstances. Annoyance with…something or someone I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Then it occurred to me. It was…me. I was embarrassed by and angry at myself for letting things get to me, for being vulnerable (read: human), for having reactions and for being the kind of person who lets these ridiculous things take up space in my head for so long. I realized that working on letting go of all these resentments had earned me a brand, spankin’ new one.

I tried to let it go. Tried to let myself off the hook. Breathed in, breathed out. Felt sheepish and insane. Breathed some more. Laughed at myself a little. Hit my head against the wall for an hour or two. Then, as quickly as it came, it went. I was too tired and bored by this level of self-indulgence. Done, new resentment. You’re fired.

Score: ? Let’s face it. This one’s new, and history suggests it could pop up again any time like a bad rash.

Too bad I’m not handing out points for trying.