Tea Break Read
A serialised short story
By Allan Hunter
So here’s a question. If my Jabberwock is my Dad, then why isn’t it those guys who tried to grab me? Wouldn’t that make more sense? It was really frightening, and I’ll never forget it. Why would my Dad be the bigger monster in my life? Why did I draw him???
I wondered about that a lot. I couldn’t ask Malcolm about it. I couldn’t ask anyone about it, come to that. So I went for a walk. Then I went for some ice cream, and nothing much altered in my mind. But I got a sense after a while why it might have been like that for me, now. It’s that my Dad is always there as a thought. Always a danger to my sense of peace. Always. The dumb shits at that party were a one time deal and I’ll never, ever get myself into anything like that again, I swear. My Dad, well, I can’t escape the effect my Dad has on me every day. I feel it every day I can’t afford stuff, and every time I see my mom or talk to her or text her. He’s there. He sort of haunts us all.
The trouble with this stuff is that if you think hard enough about it you could probably rationalize almost anything, I’d guess. Or is that really true?
So in class we talked about a bunch of stuff and then Malcolm says something about how often we make excuses in our world, and how often we say sorry. And we all agree that we do that to keep the peace, sort of. So Malcolm says OK, write a series of bogus apologies. What do you mean? Said almost everyone. I couldn’t believe they didn’t get it so I said, “You know, you feel you have to say sorry but you’re not, not at all. In fact the person you have to say sorry to is a grade one douche-bag but you still have to say sorry. Like the way I always have to apologize to my father when he gets the wrong thing at the store and I make it like it’s all my fault.”
And half the class says “I’ve never done that” and the other half says “Yeah! I can think of a bunch of times”, and I say, right, so make it a sarcastic apology for an imaginary situation. Like: “I’m so sorry I ran over your dog – the nasty one that always tries to bite me and always chases my car. Yeah, I’m really sorry about that”. (because there’s a dog like that back home and I’d just love it if someone managed to run it over, even though I like animals. I love animals, actually, but this one…) Anyway I’m on a roll at this point so I say: Or better still, how about apologizing to that noisy guy who always plays his music too loud by saying, “I’m so sorry I broke your sound system. I didn’t realize that beer and electronics don’t mix well.” Some of the class still looks confused.
And I come out with a whole lot of bogus, sarcastic and even downright mean “apologies”. I love this exercise!
Jessica talks about working in retail and having snobby customers and then when they want help she just says “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have that in your size” or something like that, just to get revenge. I know exactly how she feels! This was a great class, and we all laugh about some of them, and some of them are kind of enough to make you cringe. Kayla apologizes to her ex for calling the cops when he was beating her up, saying, “How was I to know that this was your way of saying you love me? How was I to know that your craziness is all my fault?” and the whole room sort of gets still. And Kayla says yes, that happened and yes, she’s got a restraining order against him now, and yes, she is still bullshit mad about it. Then she bursts into tears.
And then a couple of people talk about abusive relationships they’ve been in, or seen, and how it did a number on their self esteem. There was a lot of sharing in this class. I think we all got closer. Even Mike, the kid who’s always texting, paid attention.
Then at the end of the class Malcolm thanked us all for our open-ness, and even those who hadn’t spoken had listened, he said, and that’s a great gift to give too. And Malcolm said that this was a really simple exercise but look how much had come out of it. It was all stuff we needed to share and wanted to share, but we probably never got much of a chance to before. And he’s right about that.
Then he said that when we apologize for something that isn’t our fault we give away a part of ourselves, we give away some power, usually. A bogus apology is a way of claiming it back, perhaps, as we reclaim our anger and annoyance.
Then he said that it’s exactly the way the human psyche works. The Id wants to scream at people who are being assholes, but the superego says “you can’t do that” and so the ego comes into the middle, like the middle of a sandwich, and decides to do what you have to do to get through the day without too much conflict. So we apologize, sometimes we feel shitty because we want to choke the living daylights out of the person. That’s the price we pay for having a well developed ego – we don’t give in to our primal urges, though, which is probably good.
So then he talks about Anger. He says it’s just energy and we don’t have to hit someone because that’s what we feel like doing. We can feel the feeling and let it go. Impulse control, he says, is the difference between most of us and those who get locked up for hurting others. They act on their destructive impulses.
If anger is energy, he says, then we can direct it if we choose to. We can direct it to hurt others (bad idea) or we can direct it so we say “I deserved that bad treatment” which is usually not true (and also a bad idea because you’re hurting yourself). Because everyone deserves to be treated well. So if we go that route we’re punishing ourselves, which is a depressive viewpoint. But there’s a third way: we ask ourselves how we can get treated better. That may mean moving, or changing job, or making a legal complaint, but it is likely to be productive in a way the other routes aren’t.
It’s also, he says, exactly the same as the Id, Ego, Superego structure. What we feel in the Id is real, it matters. How we act on it is our choice, and will define our destiny.
Destiny. That’s what he said. Our choices based on how we react may well define who we become. Then he said – you can react anyway you wish. It’s a free world. My job is simply to tell you that you have a choice. You always have a choice.
So much for that “I didn’t have a choice” stuff that people always say. Wow.