I'm not one to hold a grudge.
On the contrary.
I don't merely hold a grudge - I wave my grudge proudly. I hoist it like the Statue of Liberty with her torch. I love my grudges.
I put the grrrr in grudge.
I have lots of grudges, maybe 300 of them, and they're always with me, like a Snuggie of bad feelings. And when I travel, I pack my grudges in a roller bag and drag them behind me.
They don't fit in the overhead.
They barely fit in a 737.
But I'm starting to wonder if this is a good thing.
Our story begins with my oldest grudge.
More than 20 years ago, I decided to try to become a writer. I did this to stay home with baby daughter Francesca, but that's not the point. The point is I always wanted to write a novel, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give it a shot. So finally I did, and there followed five years of rejection. My favorite rejection letter came from a New York agent who wrote: "We don't have time to take on any more clients, and if we did, we wouldn't take you."
I've had a grudge against that meanie for almost two decades, and it's one of my favorite grudges.
I'm hoping you can relate. I'm betting somebody done you wrong, at some point. Maybe more than one person. And maybe, like me, you keep mental score, so you can keep hate alive.
If you are a grudge professional, you keep a You-Know-What List. I myself have a You-Know-What Book, Volumes 1-12.
What doesn't kill you makes you bitter.
So here is what happened:
I was signed up to go to Book Expo America, which is a big publishing trade show in New York, and I knew that the aforementioned meanie would be there, because he always goes. Every year, when I spot him, my head explodes and I think felonious thoughts, but I never say anything because he's always across the room or surrounded by people.
Also, I chicken out.
And it's been bothering me for years that I chicken out.
In fact, between being angry at the meanie for the original grudge and being angry at myself for chickening out, I'm packing a lot of bad vibes lately, far too many to carry on the plane.
And now the airlines are charging for checked bags, which also makes me angry. In fact, I'm starting a grudge against the airlines.
So I told my assistant, Laura, that I would be seeing the meanie and I asked her how I should handle it. I told her I had three choices: I could tell him he was a jerk to me, or beat him senseless with my latest hardcover, or strangle him with those Spanx I bought and never wore.
You know which answer I preferred.
One size kills all.
And Laura answered, "Don't be bitter, be better."
"Huh wha?" says I.
"You heard me. Be better, not bitter. You're better than that."
"I am?" I asked, but Laura had already hung up.
So I went to the trade show, and sure enough, I saw the object of my disaffection across the room, talking to people. And I promised myself I would not chicken out yet another year.
Was I bitter or better?
Only one way to find out.
I found myself walking toward him, happy that I had a purse so heavy it could qualify as a lethal weapon.
In case I was accidentally bitter.
I zeroed in on him, and when I got closer, I could see that he was much older than I remembered, or maybe I had never gotten this close to him. When he looked over at me, his pale blue eyes were hooded, and one had a gray rim, like a storm cloud edging in. His posture was stooped, and his suit hung on him. Still, he smiled at me in a formal way, and I found myself extending my hand to shake his, which felt cool and frail, his knuckles knobby from arthritis.
I introduced myself and asked, "How are you?"
"Fine," he answered, then turned away and went back to his conversation.
He hadn't gotten nicer, he'd just gotten older.
But I was better.
Truth to tell, I felt better. Lighter. Happier. I went outside and called Laura.
"Good for you!" she said. "So you forgive him."
"I'm better, not crazy," I told her.
And I'm still mad at the airlines.