I had been toying with the idea of writing an end of year list of all the things we should bin off for 2017 for weeks, but I was struggling to stop it from sounding like every other blog post I’ve written. Planning has never worked for me when it comes to blogging and this time was no different, because the day I had intended to write it, I received an envelope in the post from a friend. In it, was a Christmas card and 2 letters. One was a thank you note for a gift I had sent them. The other had a short note at the back saying that on the reverse, was a letter they had enclosed with a gift they had intended to send me, but had decided not to. The letter itself said how they had boxed it up and had it ready to send for a week and now they didn’t want to, or couldn’t. There was a small gift enclosed instead, one I know they send to all their friends at this time of year.
It read like a commiserations speech a teacher might make for a child who came last in every race on sports day. A “you’re great, but you must try harder to earn this.” It was Chris Tarrant snatching the cheque away on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It was, simply put, a “you’re not good enough and I’m going to make a point of telling you that, but better luck next time.” It shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise, knowing the sender, but I was still gobsmacked, not by the lack of a present, but the insensitivity of sending the note that would’ve accompanied it. The purpose of the note, apart from sheer spite, wasn’t clear. Perhaps they wanted to provoke a reaction, but it probably wasn’t my reaction when I read the note. I laughed. In fact, I laughed harder than I have done in quite some time. There was nothing funny about it, so the thought did cross my mind that my behaviour was verging on the hysterical, but for once I didn’t overthink it. Just the idea of someone sending a note to say “I’m not giving you this” seemed hilarious and I laughed until I cried. Then I went out and got drunk like I haven’t done since my twenties and what a night it was.
I acted irresponsibly, I behaved like a teenager and I was reckless. It felt good. Really good. We laughed about the letter, we laughed about my ability to attract the worst of people and my friend made an alternative list of the kind of people I should stay away from that I was still clutching when I passed out at their house that night/morning and made little sense when I read it back the next day, sober.
We talked more seriously that day, about patterns of behaviour, about needing to break out of destructive cycles, and for the first time, I felt like something had changed. I wasn’t forcing myself to commit to change, I wanted to. I needed to. The note didn’t seem funny anymore, just pointed, a dagger. The latest of many. One final “fuck you”, only this time I didn’t respond, a first, because I can’t usually stop myself. An actual “fuck you” would’ve been preferable. At least it would have been honest and not an act of passive aggression dressed up as something nice.
I had deactivated my twitter account the day before and hadn’t lurked. Sticking to that, I left it alone for the next few days, and intend to for now, apart from logging on briefly to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Christmas day itself came and went, trying and testing at times, but mostly bearable. I was struck by the similarities to last year in so many ways. My circumstances near identical to how they were then with even the same people involved. Stupid, so very stupid on my part to have let it happen again.
We had discussed my foolishness in wanting to give people second chances, always wanting to leave the door open, hoping to make things right. A Disney attitude, always wanting a happy ending. Real life doesn’t work like that. We decided that anyone who isn’t willing to see through the end of one year with you, shouldn’t be allowed to gatecrash the next one. With very few exceptions, people don’t change. Those who hurt you once, will do so again, leaving little doubt in your mind about whether it’s accidental or deliberate. Letting go of that doesn’t have to be giving up or failure, but powerful and liberating.
Having a fresh perspective on it from someone new really helped. Instead of a list of things to bin, I binned the list, along with the notes and card. Who am I to give advice to anyone on what they should or shouldn’t do? Me, who is forever getting things wrong and making bad decisions on almost a daily basis. The only one who needed to bin things and make changes was me. So I did.
Instead of thinking about lost friends, I’m thinking about the ones I’ve gained. I’m allowing myself to feel heartbroken about the bad and positive about the good. 2016 has been a bad year for many, and I’m not going to sweep that under the carpet because someone tells me to cheer up. There is a lot to feel angry about, injustice to speak out against, and I won’t change that. But at the same time, I need to stop repeating myself to deaf ears. Pick my battles more carefully. Accept that I can’t make people be kind, thoughtful or considerate to me just because they are with others. I have choices and so do they. As a sentimental person, deleting media and histories from my phone is every bit as difficult for me as deleting them from memory, but I’ve somehow managed it. It hasn’t been easy, none of it has.
It’s time to step away from those who I have always put first while they too have put themselves first. It’s time to get away from people who only listen when you say something that reinforces what they want to do and ignore the rest. It’s time to stop being a replacement or substitute because there will always be someone or something else to take your place. It’s time to be around people to whom giving their word MEANS something, to both you and them. Where words aren’t thrown out just to get what they want. It’s time to be with those who find you irreplaceable, who put you first, those you can trust, who value you and don’t need to be told how to show it. Those who take responsibility and don’t blame things beyond their control, for whom you’re not out of sight, out of mind. Where words don’t patronise because everything is felt. Those who don’t hide you or themselves, leaving you trying to work everything out like it’s a cryptic clue. Above all, if it feels wrong, it probably is. It’s time for some fun without promises and hollow declarations and just seeing how things go with no expectations. Here’s to new beginnings.
Wishing you all a very happy 2017, a year full of possibilities. If you can do one thing for me during these troubling times when we’ve lost so many people far too soon, is show a little kindness. You never know what someone may be going through.