Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grief Encounter 3/30/11

Sometimes, you just have to accept that there are people whose sole purpose on Earth is to give other people grief.

Invariably bitter about the lot they have been dealt themselves, their strategy lies in the hope that in making others miserable, they will somehow feel better about themselves.

It never works, and they never learn that it never works; the poison just keeps eating away under the illusion of power.

I’ve had the misfortune to meet quite a few of these people in my time here; in fact, one of the reasons I have not been writing this blog regularly is that some of the individuals in question have made me physically ill. I have met many wonderful people in the two years I have been here, in particular those working in the film and TV industries, which were the reason I came in the first place; but this little pocket of nastiness has left a bad taste in the mouth.

With escalating blood pressure, for which it now seems I will have to go on medication, I went to a bookshop to see if there was anything that might help me deal with the problem in different ways.

There was the Bible of course – be good to them who hate you, love your enemy, turn the other cheek – but I wasn’t quite that far along the forgiveness route at that point.

Then, I happened upon a book titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – and Most of it is Small Stuff. It explains how most things that keep us awake at night, worrying, don’t really matter, and offers some techniques to help you deal with the difficult people you encounter in life.

One idea is to think of the bad people in your life as babies, long before evil struck them down. So, that’s what I tried to do with my detractors. Bonnets, dummies, toys. I thought of them as young children, innocently playing in the park. I focused on the things beyond their control that turned them into the bullying adults they have become.

This technique was sort of working, until the baby images were quickly dispelled from my mind and replaced by something that made me see right to the heart of my enemies in an instant: the Addams Family.

Forget all those nice little babies; the Addams Family was much closer to the reality. A TV show that was a satirical inversion of the ideal American family, it featured an eccentric, wealthy clan, who delighted in the macabre and were unaware that other people found them bizarre or frightening.

In real life, I had found my own Morticia (well, more like Morticia’s less attractive elder sister - and without the charm): a woman with only occasional wit, and a deathly disposition.

I had also found my Lurch, another member of the group, a man of few words, but regular grunts, sighs, or simply gesticulations. I endured only tenuous connections with the extended posse, with whom Morticia was regularly falling out, although more than one of them sounded as if they could have been a spiritual, emotional and body double for the African Strangler, the Addams' family’s man-eating plant, Cleopatra.

The hypnotist Paul McKenna once tried to help me overcome my fear of clowns by transforming their faces in my head into something more pleasant. I managed to do the transformation work with my Morticia and Lurch, although when you consider that the Addams Family was the surrogate family I replaced them with in my head, it gives an indication of the hell they put me through.

It still astonishes me that you can be incredibly kind towards people, support them through their woes (in Morticia’s case, a lot), and then they treat you poorly, cruelly, unfairly, and often, where finances are concerned, dishonestly.

How do such people sleep at night?

Are they sick, disillusioned, or just plain stupid?

Or just not very nice people?

I come from a culture where I was brought up to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, unless proven otherwise, and I have a long record in being fair and kind, both professionally and personally.

But when I came to LA, people warned me not to be as trusting as I had always been, and it’s true that I have often been disappointed, when what appeared to be one thing on the surface turned out to be the opposite.

I suppose that’s just life: it’s a cliché, but we really do live and learn. The weird thing is, that when I first met the Addams Family, all of my instincts said Run! I thought I should listen to my head rather than my heart, and it’s not the only time I got that wrong in LA.

City of Angels? There are quite a few here. But when you watch them fly too close to the sunny illusion, their wings, like those of Icarus, turn out to be a great deal less substantial.

So, having learned that, I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff and will be returning to writing on a more regular basis.

Some people, at the end of the day, are just liars, thieves and bastards. One day, they may wake up and realise that the rotten lot they have been handed in life is of their own making.

Yes, they were once all somebody’s baby.

It’s just bad luck that in my case, they happened to be Rosemary’s.

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