My brain likes to go walkabout occasionally, without even a “by your leave”. I’ll be sitting or walking, even driving when suddenly, I’m back in the past, revisiting an event I didn’t enjoy the first time around.
I hate flashbacks. I hate the emotions that come with them. I felt horrid during the initial encounter, whatever it was, and I don’t enjoy reliving everything from assaults, to bad days at work, to bullying. Any opportunity my brain has to make me relive misery, it takes.
Occasionally, I’m in the author. I create memories of things that never happened, and wild imaginings of bad times yet to come. Visions of death, injury, violence and destruction abound. I feel ridiculous when I pull myself out of these daymares, as emotionally wrecked as if the event in question had occurred.
Sometimes, however, I enjoy my brain’s creativity. I like it when I construct imaginary scenarios where I fight back, stand my ground, and put bullies and abusers in their place.
I have a favourite scenario that relates to a job I left years ago – more than a decade, now. I left for greener pastures and better pay, but the owner was livid. He considered quitting to be the ultimate betrayal. He was a bully – nasty, petty and ranting – during my employment. Due to my constitutional dislike of standing up for myself and my ability to soothe over almost any situation with sycophancy, I stayed off his radar. We went head to head only twice during the three years I was employed there. The first time he attacked me, I caved and took it. The second time he attacked, I responded in kind (fully expecting to get fired) and he absented himself from the building for three days. The last time, which occurred after I left the job, I took him to court; I filed a complaint against him with the labour relations board.
I gave my two weeks’ notice, but after I finished work on the day of, he had an underling call to tell me I was fired. Which you aren’t allowed to do here; once someone has given notice, you can ask them not to come in for the balance of their shifts, but you’re required to pay them for the notice period. Since he’d let me go, he was required to pay me within forty-eight hours. He didn’t.
In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have poked the bear, but I was angry. I also needed my money. I was livid they’d treated me so shabbily; up until I left, I’d mostly been an exemplary employee. So, I called and complained and got a vicious email in response; he insulted me in the vilest terms and said horrible things about my son.
It did prove to be a helpful document to have at the hearing. Nonetheless, I was traumatized by the way the whole thing played out; the words he sent ate into my soul for a long time. I still have trouble letting them go, I still let them make me question my value as a human being.
The scenarios my brain constructs regarding this man vary. Sometimes, he’s ill – dying in fact, usually of cancer – and seeks a deathbed rapprochement. Sometimes I give in. Sometimes I give a blistering sermon to his messenger detailing all the reasons I won’t, which is delivered, leaving my former boss devastated.
Sometimes, his business has started to fail. In that fantasy, I’ve come into a rather enormous sum of money and I’m approached to be their angel. I’m their last and only hope. I laugh scornfully and let the business go under, unconcerned about collateral damage in the form of the employees who might suffer, content that my former boss is now reaping what he’s sown.
Sometimes, I encounter him at a restaurant, and he approaches in supplication. He’s seen the error of his ways, he’s trying to undo the multitude of wrongs he’s committed, and he’s desperate for forgiveness. In that scenario, I’m usually magnanimous, a stellar example of all a person should be. He’s left grateful, humbled, and aware of how much growth is required in order to match my character.
The various revenge scenarios are enjoyable, but really, they’re no less problematic than the flashbacks or the daymares. They still take me out of the now.
The take me out of my present, away from real life with real people and real emotions and trap me in a fantasyland that does nothing for me as a person. I keep giving rental space in my mind to people who should’ve been jettisoned long ago.
The revenge fantasies are tempting. I like the way they make me feel. I like the sense of vindication. I like not having to be brave in the real world. Unfortunately, one must come back to reality eventually.
It would be far better to work on staying here deliberately. We have one life and living too much in my head and in the past is wasting it. Wasted time is not something we can get back.