Every month when Vanity Fair arrives, I immediately turn to the back page to the “Proust Questionnaire,” where famous people are asked philosophical questions that supposedly reveal their true nature like, “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” and “How would you like to die?”
But my favorite question by far is, “What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?”
That’s the money question — the one that most reveals the underbelly of the beast in question. I’m intrigued by the self-serving (i.e., Danielle Steele’s answer: “not always standing up for myself enough”) and impressed by how many people say, “procrastination,” from my Facebook peeps to Cathy Rigby.
If I were to take VF‘s Proust Questionnaire, I’d skip the lighter, albeit mortal, sins like gluttony and sloth (sorry procrastinators, that’s your category!), and go right to the gusto: wrath. Or, as I like to practice it: grudge holding.
This is not a deplorable trait I take lightly. I am well aware of how destructive it is to hold on to negative feelings, like chewing on an old piece of gum that’s long ago lost its flavor. No matter how hard I bite down, there’s no actual juice left. Just a stiff, stale wad stuck in my craw. You’d think I’d be smart enough to spit it out, but then what would I have left to chew on?
Since I know my weakest spot and I’m a sucker for self-help, I’ve taken plenty of action to move on from being the Grinch of Grudge. I’ve attended Secret-infused seminars (“what you put out is what you get back”), practiced IntenSati, which is a high impact physical and mental workout that involves screaming positive affirmations at the top of your lungs while sweating your balls off, and even logged into an Oprah master class or two on the subject of gratitude and forgiveness. I’ve chanted, prayed, meditated, and even done this weird stalkerish thing where I drove past an ex-friend’s house and blew a kiss of love and compassion. (That I made up myself — but thank you, Oprah, for inspiring me to be a complete freak at times. And by the way, letting go of my anger didn’t help me fit in my skinny jeans any faster, either.)
No matter how much work I’ve done, however, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll backslide down the rabbit hole of resentment when the same people with whom I’ve butted heads with in the past crop up in my present. If only there were a big bottle of mind-erasing fluid in a big ass DRINK ME bottle to wipe away the indiscretions — both theirs and mine.
But when I look to popular culture for some clues on how to Kumbaya-it and all just get along, I’m left at a loss. In the world of the Dance Moms, for example, every time a new kid makes it to the top of sadistic Abby Lee Miller’s freakin’ pyramid, one of the women stands poised to scrape out the proud mama’s eyeballs. With her teeth. Sugar-sweet Taylor Swift has made a fortune not for smelling like an intoxicating brew of Love’s Baby Soft, cotton candy, unicorns, and rainbows, but for ramming lyrical barbs into the hearts of all of her exes. And everyone from Jon Hamm to Beyonce hates Kim Kardashian. Who among us wouldn’t want to see any of those celebrity grudge matches play out? Preferably naked and on a muddy field (save Abby Lee – yeesh, even the thought of it gives me chills).
Whether the grudge is real or manufactured, it often takes on a life of its own. And when I really examine what keeps the embers glowing long after the flame has gone out, it’s the unresolved spark at the heart of the matter. To me, conflict is what brings us closer together — that is if we can yell, scream, fight, and above all, communicate. True relationships work and last when the brush is cleared every once and a while.
A grudge, then, is just water under the bridge. With some perspective, I can see it for what it is, go with the flow, and drift downstream to where the love is.
Now, if only I could find my paddle, I’d get there a helluva lot faster.