When I was little, my father used to say I was “like a dog with a bone.” If a particular issue or argument bothered me, I could never let it go. Not wouldn’t – couldn’t.
This stubbornness has proved to be both useful and sometimes a Very Big Problem in my life.
In my work, persistence pays off, as does dogged discipline. I like to think I’ve done some good because I don’t just “let things go.”
“Let it slide…” “Go with the flow!” – these are not idioms that match my vocabulary or my personality. I find it fairly impossible to let anything go, particularly if it directly negates my view of how the world should be and particularly if the outcome effects my self esteem.
I have always been organised. I like making plans, and I like sticking to them. I like black and white situations and solutions.
But of course, often things don’t go to plan. This usually happens when there’s an element I cannot quantify – ie, another person. People are grey areas. I can’t plan their moves. I can’t force them to see or do things my way, no matter how much I try. And I really, really struggle with this.
Let’s say I’m a truck. (Bear with me). I’m a big silver truck, towing some trailers in a row. All my baggage has been painstakingly placed in each trailer, and every metal link is shining. I am driving on a carefully planned rout. I am proud. I might be a tiny bit wobbly here and there, but I’ve worked hard to ensure I’m headed in the right direction.
As I pass other trucks, I try to pretend that I don’t care what they think. But of course I do. I want them to see my even trailers all in a row. I want them to understand the work I’ve put in. I want them to appreciate how much I’m trying.
A new truck arrives in the lane alongside. It’s nice to have some company for the journey. It looks like we’re headed in a similar direction but I make sure the new truck knows that my trailers are full of delicate cargo, and I need to drive very carefully. I think he understands. His lights are focused ahead, but I think he sees.
But then he hits a bump, and he swerves for a second. He knocks against one of my trailers, just hard enough so that the cargo gets bruised. Because I’d told him about the cargo, and because it is so delicate – I react badly. Blindly, I bump him back.
You can tell how this story ends. My bumping was public. Other trucks could see. Things escalated. In the end, my carefully managed trailers were all over the road and the other truck refused to be found.
So how do I get my truck back on the road – and leave the other to his own journey?
I’m trying to be fair in my telling of this story, as being unfair due to my upset was what lead to here. What I wanted at this point, more than anything in the world, was to talk. I am a communicator – by education, by career, by blood. I had no way of doing this. So I just sat and gnawed and gnawed and gnawed at my bone, and refused to give it up even when it was clear there was nothing left and I was now chewing on my own leg.
Maybe this is too filled with metaphors to make sense. I didn’t handle being triggered very well, and I never got a chance to apologise or explain. Because of this, the other person involved thinks things about me that I can’t change.
I know what you’ll all say. I have many, many people who see me for who I am, and love me. But this is what I’m trying to describe: I have always had this problem. This inability to LET IT FUCKING GO, when so many others would have just shrugged and moved on ages ago. But the more I fight, the worse I make the situation.
I’ve been practicing acceptance a lot in the past year. Acceptance of my physical health and inability to do things like go to work or see my friends. Acceptance that the road to recovery is a long one and there will be good patches and bad patches. Acceptance that I’m going to need more help than I want to take.
Accepting that some people will not like you has also been a part of this learning. Writing a very public blog and being on Twitter has given me several opportunities to put the learning to work. I continue to find the lesson very hard.
But acceptance that someone really really thinks the worst of you, and there is nothing you can do to change their minds?
Yeah, that’s the toughest one yet.