So I’m just going to dive right into this. I hope that’s alright. With everyone on the World Wide Web pining to be seen and heard, I don’t blame you if you simply blink and swipe on by. Too many people want our attention, and we should probably give it to the people that need it most. I’m not among them, but when has that ever stopped anyone from desiring to matter even if it’s the briefest of moments?
Alright, here we go…
What is fairness? What does it mean to be fair? Is it possible?
“Fairness” usually, for me, conjures up the image of someone in my mind—usually a child—pointing to something they want, not receiving said thing, and complaining to anyone who can hear them that the instance “isn’t fair”. Of course, there’s a lot more to the concept of fairness than that, and everyone everywhere is going to swim in some philosophical pool (some deeper than others) in regards to what we, as human beings, deserve on so many different levels: physical, mental, emotional, eternal, and on and on and on it goes.
So why is this relevant? Good question, and I’ll get to it.
Ever since I published “On Divorce”, I’ve experienced an unsettling reminder, warming the part of me that presents the idea that maybe, just maybe, I’m in the wrong about a few things. It’s possible, right? Being too introspective and overthinking pretty much everything, I pick that feeling up off the ground; turn it over in my hand; poke it with my most expendable finger; and question every angle, attempting to see it not only from my perspective but from the perspectives of those who may be like me and those who may be entirely different from me. It’s not something I always do, but if it’s something that sticks with me a while, I’ll go through the process. Full disclosure: I hate the feeling I’ve wronged someone.
I want to be careful where I tread here, because I don’t want this essay to be an apology, so let me be clear: this isn’t an apology.
While I hold a great deal of my personal life close to my chest, there will be moments where I feel I must take the wind from the sails of those ships which traverse the sea of my mind. The best way for me to do this is to pen those things down and (sometimes) place those memories in the hands of those who read my work for them to do with as they may. Once it has passed from my mind to paper (or in this case, a backlit, LED screen), I feel its departure. I am free.
It was amazing to me that “On Divorce” resonated so deeply, and so many kind words in response will stick with me and help keep me writing.
That being said, as I rolled the piece around in my mouth, tasting the bitterness and frustration behind all of my words, I pondered whether or not I was fair to the alluded antagonist in the particular instance I shared. There are two sides to every story, and in the stories of divorce and separation, there are often no protagonists just as there might not be any proposed antagonists. It’s been my experience, however, that the people closest to you desire a narrative, wanting to know who is in the right and who is in the wrong. And in the same way that one feels the desire to be liked or funny or popular, no one wants to be found guilty by a jury of their peers. Spin can and does occur.
Friends split; families stop talking; people take sides; and two chronological tales form and are passed around like a campfire story over drinks, food, casual conversation, and social settings.
Because I set up what I wrote in such a way where my ex-spouse could not defend herself, it would be easy for those who read the story to see me as the victim. For some, the only experience of her will be through the lens of my pain and anger, and for days, I wondered how I would react if any of the things I said during that painful process, behind closed doors, were revealed to the world without my permission. Would I feel further betrayal? Would it feel justified? These are the questions that I continue to ask myself.
What does it mean to be fair in these situations? How can you let loose of old hurts and the sting of rejection but at the same time acknowledge that the person you believe to be a complete monster is still a person just like you?
In short: How can we treat those who wound us deeply with fairness when recounting our troubles?
I have no idea, but the question is worth asking.
I suppose what I am really trying to say is that we are all capable of what might seem to be monstrosities, and to some out there, I am probably the antagonist, the villain, the fraud. Perspectives should always be taken into account with the understanding that bias and subjectivity is a real thing, and while my story is my experience as I tell it, there are probably similar stories being told where I am the one yelling or saying something hateful. Because I did. I said a lot of things in anger during those several months. I’m guilty.
So trust me when I say that I’m not the bad guy, but I’m not the good guy, either. Relationships are tricky. They begin and they end, in one way or the other (’til death do us part). No matter how great the “betrayal”, I believe there can still be fairness in the way we speak of our past, and maybe, there can even be—dare I say it—forgiveness. Maybe.
I’ll let you know when I get there.
Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’m always down for feedback, discussion, or just keeping up with old friends and new ones.