“He that gives should not remember, he that receives should never forget” - Jewish proverb.
I had been living the good life for the past five years, a life of pleasure. Work was easy, highly paid and remote. With time, that lifestyle made me lazy and complacent. I underestimated the task at hand and overestimated my abilities. Besides, I had high expectations of my friends and of myself. Failing to meet those expectations consistently turned me into a bitter asshole. A demanding and resentful asshole.
Resentment is like eating poison and expecting someone else to get sick. It sneaks in to your mind, and contaminates it drop by drop. Without a high level of emotional awareness, it is hard to detect. In the end, it overshadows everything and makes you lose perspective.
Instead of being grateful for all the people who helped me with la Chichona, I focused on the very few who did not. I replayed in my mind the times when I had gone out of my way to help them, and used that as a standard of comparison. My friends did not reciprocate the favour in the way that I deemed fair, and that irritated me. I had become so self-absorbed that anyone who didn’t help me build la Chichona was getting in the way. People had become tools.
I was lying on the grass when the phone rang. It was my friend Brad, he couldn’t come help me because of an emergency. The next day, I was turning 30 and everyone was asking about the party. I had no money and wasn’t in the mood for that. I felt abandoned by Brad. There was nothing to celebrate.
When he asked what I was doing for my birthday, I was angry. “I’ll be working on la Chichona, alone, cause you’re too busy playing video games to come help me” I said bitterly. I added that he had let me down, that I couldn’t count on him, that he was a shitty friend. He took a moment to digest my aggression, then asked: “Raz, are you okay?”. An uncomfortable silence ensued.
He told me about a bowling party that night. Everyone would be there. “Come, it would do you good” he said. I didn’t want my friends to see me like that so, I pretended everything was okay. I put on a smiling mask and dragged myself to the bowling venue. I was fine.
It was great seeing everyone; laughing, playing bowling and forgetting the daily hustles. At midnight, all the lights went off. I thought there was a power blackout. Then, a sparkling light emerged from the darkness and the singing began: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU !!!”
Brad had coordinated everything: the event, the gathering, the cake, the card and even the gift. Everyone had pitched in to offer me a fantastic winter jacket. Surprised and moved, I could not hold it any longer, tears flowed. I hugged them tight, buried my face in their shoulders and cried.
You ungrateful piece of shit, I thought. I was surrounded by wonderful, loving people. Yet, I was too self-absorbed to realize it. I apologized again, we were all moved. I felt love all around me, so palpable I could almost see it coming out of my friends’ eyes.
After the emotional moment, I apologized again to Brad for what I had said earlier. I had created an avalanche of negative emotions, and clang to them to the point where they became my reality. Only because he could not help me in the way I had expected.
Love is a powerful emotion. It takes the shape of the recipient it goes in, and could take an ugly form when placed in a sick mind. I had corrupted my mind with expectations, a vortex of suffering, forgetting how privileged I was. The day after, a glimmer of hope shone in my eyes. My friends had pulled me out of that dark, toxic bubble.
Shakespeare was right, expectation is the root of all heartache.