“Female friendships do not exist; their hearts are the hearts of jackals.”
–Rig Veda 10/95/15
There is a horrible feeling that exists that must have a word for it although I’d be hard pressed this morning to put my finger on it.
It comes during, and stays long after, a toxic encounter with someone. I recently noticed, while watching one of my favourite Danish TV shows on Netflix, that movie and television characters don’t seem to feel this emotion because, err, they’re acting.
The script calls for witty repartee and quick rebuttals that most people couldn’t pull off in their dreams, let alone in real life. They conclude a seemingly toxic conversation with someone, saying painful lines and driving in the knife, and then go home and make a sandwich.
In real life, you stumble and mumble your way through the wrongs that people might hurl your way or the insinuations that you ought to speak up against. Afterwards, yes, you can think of many things that you should have said but didn’t.
Afterwards, as well, is the sickly, noxious feeling that you carry around with you when the other person in question has released a little bit of a lifetime of pent-up poison into the air which, unfortunately, you’ve had the bad luck to breathe in.
This has occurred a couple of times with my boss, particularly when she was going through a hard time. A number of deep friends had suddenly passed away. She was a wreck. I was still on the mend after my heart operation a couple of months before. We were both raw. The smallest thing (at least I thought they were small) had her inches away from me complaining loudly and bitterly about my “terrible mistake”.
Anyone who’s read me knows that I’m the “sensitive type”.
I’ll go far in rectifying a mistake that I’ve made in the shortest time possible particularly if asked nicely, with a little logic thrown in. Err, I might feel a bit of resentment of “overkill”, when it is employed in regards to a problem in the office.
I’m not saying that I’m perfect. When things build up I can explode in a most destructive fashion, as happened with my boss a number of times, thankfully few in the past 12 months.
My boss can be a bit of a pit bull, but I did see how she related to her brother, who prints our charity’s newsletters. They were constantly at each other’s throats and still seemed to love each other and quickly get over their intense sniping within seconds.
I’m thankful that “Shirley”, as I’ll call her, is that type of person.
I also get over my outbursts relatively quickly. The volcano erupts but is soon followed by remorse, guilt and a certain sombre quietness. “Shirley” may be talking to me minutes later as if nothing happened.
Recently, however, “Shirley” had to take sick leave, out for a month or two to recover from a heart operation.
Little did I know that the knives would come out minutes after she vacated her office.
There’s the matter of the Executive’s vice-president, suddenly talking to me as if she’s the new Executive Director.
“Oh,” she tells me airily, “I think that we’ll work well together.”
“Oh, I’ll get you working much, much more than you have been than with “Shirley”, she’s told me on many an occasion.
“The way “Shirley” handled things,” she says with barely concealed rage, “is over. Blah, blah, blah.”
I always knew that my boss was “a difficult woman”, but little did I suspect the depth of anger and resentment others who worked with her possessed, ready to spring out the moment she was no longer in their presence.
And this among people who quite hypocritically chatted with each other in the most friendly manner possible on a daily basis! “Oh hi, “Daphne” how are you? How are the kids?”
And if this wasn’t bad enough, I have recently discovered that this vice-president is very thin-skinned with a trigger-like response to the slimmest of perceived slights, ever-ready to throw her darts at you (she’s quite accurate, the result, I’m sure, of a lifetime of practice) the moment she feels personally threatened. I feel as if I’m dealing with a supersensitive 11-year-old in the school playground who is constantly running to the teacher the moment a boy calls her stupid.
Going home with this toxic overload to process is not a picnic.
But that’s not all: there’s the National Director as well, equally threatened by “Shirley” and now able to proceed with her agenda. Once again, I’m stuck in the middle, like a sail in the sailboat swinging this way and that because the prevailing winds can’t decide which way to blow.
And “Shirley” is doing fine, thank-you, recuperating at a very fast pace; does she have a clue what’s supposedly in store for her when she returns? All these “changes” which I’ve been promised are about to occur?
- I will now have many more responsibilities (“Shirley” hates to delegate unless she has to); b. there will now be a petty cash in the office (“Shirley” pays with her credit card and is reimbursed); c. I will now be in the loop (“Shirley” is inexplicably secret about almost everything she does until the last moment). Is all this about to end?
Thank God for meditation, which this morning helped to dissipate much of the intensity of the toxicity circulating in my body. Still, the main characters remain, stuck in their limited egos, weighed down by their personal baggage, old, old, old.