There’s one film scene I think about a lot, more than any other. It’s a scene in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, towards the end where Michael Cera‘s Scott has some self-realisations about his life, how he views and treats those around him; as a result he levels up video-game style. Here’s the clip if want to watch it. I think about this scene so often as it brilliantly as it’s such a fantastic metaphor for life, those moments where you finally process or accept something and can feel that self-growth. That you’re becoming the person you’re meant to be, that you’ve learnt something about yourself and/or others and will be made all the better for it.
Usually I have these epiphanies in the shower or when I wake up around 3am, my brain having sifted through all the information within and finally struck gold. The level-up I had this week was actually the result of a conversation. Here’s the condensed version of that chat that ended up being deceptively cataclysmic.
Me: It just really annoys me you know, how they keep treating me this way and I how I keep on letting them.
Them: Are you sure though?
Me: Am I sure that I’m upset..?!?
Them: No, are you sure they are doing this intentionally? Are you sure they’re able to read these cues in the same way? Are you sure they’re processing this exactly the same way you are? That they may not understand the extent of their behaviour, or even know how to act in this situation? Haven’t you noticed they’re a bit – not the best word – but weird when it comes to interacting with people? That maybe you’ve each got different copies of the script?
Suffice to say, I hadn’t noticed this about the person in question. At all. Instantly, at great speed, my mind whizzed through all the interactions I’d had with this person. The interactions that filled me with quiet rage, seething at what I perceived to be slights and gutted by what I’d viewed as unjust injustices. I suddenly understood the person who had made me feel all these ways because I’d finally dared to take them off the pedestal and accept they were human. Not only that they were as fallible as the rest of us, that maybe they weren’t nearly as comfortable with the world as I’d always believed.
This doesn’t take the person in question off the hook. Not at all. There’s definitely many ways they could have done things better, there’s certainly a degree of intent in some of the behaviours and interactions. But as a result of this conversation I could finally see that I had been using my own impossible standards for myself against those around me, particularly those I care about.
I seem to have an extreme defence mechanism when it comes to processing the world around me. I can be the most open person in the world, ever-ready to offer help and support – usually by doing things. Acts of service are my way of showing love & admiration, and it’s the best way for me to understand that others feel the same – I can’t handle compliments at all, but if you help me with a task or do something for me without me asking or thinking about it – well, I’m putty in your hands. If you surprise me with a bar of my favourite chocolate (White chocolate, Cadbury’s Buttons or Whispa) on my desk, or offer to help me with a task I’ve been struggling with or worrying over, then you better clear you calendar as I’m yours forever.
However, when I’m spurned or hurt – that openness seems to vanish in an instance. And often irretrievably. I feel myself become cold to the point of hostility, weary and untrusting. This can be unsurprising and totally justified response in many instances, but not if you’re operating with someone who doesn’t know the rulebook or even know the rulebook is in play. Even more so, what if the other person has a totally different operating system and subsequent rulebook?
I’ve written before here about how I’ve wasted a lot of time worrying about the attentions of mediocre men who really don’t deserve me or my eternal devotion. But a lot of that time has been worrying because I’ve put in place these landmines to protect myself, these self-imposed regulations of navigating the battlefield of love. A self-published handbook I’ve not given the other person, an instruction guide filled with my responses to certain behaviours – most of which entail ‘cut them off’.
With this particular person in question, I cannot resent their behaviour. I cannot resent that they do not feel any of the affection or admiration I feel for them, be that even in the form of friendship – let alone anything more. I cannot continue to try and filled sated by Love Kernels. I cannot use crumbs to make a feast. I can’t keep drinking the swamp water as I’m thirsty.
As Carrie Fisher said “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” I can’t resent this person, or whoever arrives next when this godforsaken crush is finally exorcised from my body, for their behaviour or their inability (unintentional or otherwise) to understand the extent of their behaviour. That’s a serious waste of time and energy. Not only that, I actually feel pretty stupid spending so much time thinking about a person who – and I have very little doubt about his – doesn’t think of me in any way, shape or form at all.
That was the level-up moment, when I viewed the person and the situation in a more objective and understanding light. If he wanted to, he would. And hopefully there’s someone out there who does want to. I just don’t know it or him yet.