Sometimes when I read a book, the most profound message I take from the author’s words is likely one that was never intended by the author. For me, My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picoult was one of those books.
What struck me wasn’t that Anna Fitzgerald struggled with balancing her needs against the needs of her very sick sister Kate. It was that Jodi Picoult wrote about the very real human emotions we, or at least I, struggle to bury every day while trying to be ‘good people’, because if an author understands that daily battle well enough to write about it, then surely people other than myself must face that struggle all the time.
At the time it was a revelation, something that said “okay, yeah you’re probably different from most people, but not completely alone”, because if she could write how I would think and feel in that situation, then other people must think and feel the way I do right? Still waters run deep and all that, so maybe other people are just better at hiding that part of themselves or perhaps they just don’t feel the need to lie awake at 3 am beating themselves up about it when they slip.
It’s human nature to toss out those little platitudes and quotes we all occasionally let drop from our mouths like dribbles from a cup we haven’t properly sealed our lip to. Ones about forgiving and forgetting and moving on. About being a happy successful adult who doesn’t hold a grudge. Hell you can’t go on the good ol’ Facebook without seeing a few of them written in a pretty font over top of a picture of some gorgeous woman that we all secretly want to be. Or is it just me that wants to be that beautiful woman with the lovely figure, because surely she’s got life figured out exactly right.
She probably isn’t holding a grudge about an office situation that happened at least five years ago or the ex that’s been an ex for long enough that he should only be a distant memory. She would probably only have fond memories of her time with that same ex because she’s got life down pat and she’s figured out the key to happiness ever after right? Obviously she must because a beautiful outside has never hidden a rotten core in the history of humanity.
Yet time and time again, no matter how many soothing layers I lay over my own toxic memories and past grudges, they come bubbling up and out of my mouth. Bitter words like acid that make me burn with shame. The type of words usually delivered with a smirk and a wink because the enemy of my enemy is obviously my friend, so ‘wink wink’ are you my friend?
In the dead of night, my conscience reminds me that those words that slipped past my lips said more about me than my former co-worker or past lover, and none of it was good. At 3 am it’s easy to pledge I’ll do better and be better while trying to lay down another layer of ‘good people don’t’ in hopes of containing the sludge I still struggle to neutralize. Yet somehow as soon as I’m around other people for longer than five minutes here it comes, spewing out like a soda belch that shatters any good impressions I might have made instead.
Someday I may get the hang of letting my grudges go, for now I would settle for getting better at keeping them hidden.