"I'm not one to hold a grudge," is something you might hear me say over the course of most of my life so far, and generally I'd be telling the truth. Then about 7 years ago I was wronged in a way that I took so personally I found myself holding a grudge. In fact, my roomie and bestie let me know before I admitted this.
I had been co-managing a small organic farm. The owner and I had been navigating a project in which a local herb provider was using some of the small plot of land on which we farmed. A rancher owned the entire plot. Most of the summer we had been involved in one meeting or another in which there was discussion of a lease agreement that would meet the needs of all three businesses. Finally, during a Friday evening in summer while on a sales trip in Miami for another company, I stayed in my hotel room to draft the document all had been requesting and none had yet provided. I sent it to all parties. Nothing further was said. Not even "thank you."
That winter, the owner of the farm disclosed that the owner of the ranch was making some changes, and perhaps we would need to find a different plot on which to farm. Prodding disclosed the letter the rancher had given to the farmer, essentially blaming all the disagreements among the various parties on my management of the farm. We both were livid. And I began to hold a grudge. My ego wants to note here that on the one subsequent visit I made to the farm, the landowner invited the farmer into his house for a meeting and didn't even look at me, much less say "hello." Months later, I was at breakfast with friends, and sitting nearby was the rancher and a mutual friend. The friend said "hello," and we talked briefly. The rancher did not turn to look at me or to say "hello."
This sounds like petty drama, right? I quit working for the farm and quit helping the farmer, who is a close friend of mine, with farm-related concerns. And I won't lie: I held a grudge against him for a while. But the grudge against the rancher, who never approached me directly about anything related to issues with my management style, persisted. And it bothered me. I called him a spoiled brat who was threatened by competent women. Knowing little of his upbringing but some about his recent family situation, I then turned to driving myself crazy at times wondering why he would have snubbed me so. My professional reputation is not one that suffers disparagement. And more recently, I began in practice to attempt to generate some compassion for this young man.
If you practice enough, this is not difficult to do, even when holding a grudge. And I like to remind anyone having trouble, that starting with finding pity may help. We all have hurdles in life.
Presently, I have decided to hold space for this grudge that I hold. Does this sound antithetical? But in holding space for holding this grudge, I am allowing myself the time and compassion to understand why I am holding this grudge, and to relieve that pain. And then, whether or not this rancher ever looks me in the eye or says "hello" again - yes, Ego is saying he knows he is wrong - the fact is the herb people left, the farm continues without me, and whatever the rancher does is his own choice and I am not bound to any of them, and can have compassion for myself. And I hope I become a better non-grudge holder in the future.
I used to stay at the farm after the rest of the crew had left for the day. I used to go out on weekends to weed, water and plan for the week. In those times I had the whole space to myself, to be with the plants and animals there. I didn't miss that for a long time. I set that period of life firmly behind me and refused to look back. Now I can look back and remember those times not with sorrow, but a touch of wistfulness. Someday I anticipate only the good feelings will remain.
How often do we hold space for others and not for ourselves? While the term "self-care" grates against my better instincts, holding space for my own struggles and sorrows does not. We can be compassionate with others when we can have compassion for ourselves.