Ghosts of vorpal bunnies past

By Mir
April 2, 2006

I don’t know that it’s my favorite part of The Holy Grail–there are so many fabulous parts–but I’ve always had something of a fascination with the killer rabbit. It’s the perfect comic setup, right? Something that should be cute and sweet and cuddly and harmless ends up being deadly. That’s hilarious.

And it’s funny, in part, because it’s ridiculous. But it’s also funny because it’s such a silly representation of what happens all the time.

Nothing is more part of the human condition than betrayal by people who should love us or–at the very least–be on our side. Nothing is more a part of MY condition than agonizing over how to move past such things.

Forgiveness is such a complex topic. Especially for a champion grudge-holder. Not that I know anyone like that. Please ignore that room in the back with all of the colorful ribbons and trophies.

I’ve gotten pretty good at forgiving people in situations where I’m able to believe two things: First, that they are doing the best they can, and second, that they do care for me (again, as best they can). There was a time when you having the gall to LOVE ME made it that much harder to excuse you for not ACTING LIKE I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD. Because REALLY. Love was supposed to mean doing it RIGHT.

Hahahahaha! I’m definitely older and wiser, in that respect. But you had to admire my naivete, no?

Now that I’m a bit more sophisticated I understand that love means lots of things, but perfect achievement of every expectation isn’t one of them. Except maybe for Smurfs. But really, who trusts THEM?

What remains a difficult situation for me is when someone wrongs me (again, that’s in my perception; whether it’s TRUE in the absolute sense almost doesn’t matter) and it’s not at all clear to me WHY. If the only motivation I can surmise presupposes that the person in question sees me as disposable and/or unimportant, I have trouble forgiving. No; screw that. I not only don’t forgive, I stay angry.

Now, three guesses as to whom that hurts the most. If you answered the person who did me wrong, you’re dumb! No cookie for you!

A while ago, I found myself blindsided in a situation that left me spinning. Someone I loved very much (Primary) punted me out of their life. While I tried to make sense of that, someone else who had no business being part of the equation (Secondary) stepped in and made it worse. Soooooo much worse. I could only guess at motives, but the only ones that made any sense were universally infuriating in their selfishness, inappropriateness, and complete disregard for my role as an actual human with feelings.

After a lot of time and therapy and earnest work on my part, I’ve forgiven Primary. The aforementioned criteria were met: Primary did care for me insofar as they were able, and did the best of which they were capable. I could see that. I could forgive and move on.

Funny; I thought I’d forgiven Secondary, as well. But it turns out that I’d just sort of assumed that they were no longer of any consequence to me because I didn’t have to see them or think about them. It turns out that’s not quite the same thing. Go figure!

This past week I found out that I’m going to have to deal with Secondary, and I was shocked at how the fury from that long-ago time came rushing back to me as soon as I realized I couldn’t just pretend this person was dead. I really liked pretending they were dead. (Okay, I lied. I liked pretending they were IN HELL. Technicality.)

I also realized this past week that even when there’s forgiveness to be had, there is no such thing as walking away from trauma unchanged. “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” is something I’ve always believed. I still believe it. I think. But I’m not sure.

In my case, that which doesn’t kill me tends to scare the crap out of me. Here I think I’m processing and moving on and forgiving and being healthy… and when it comes right down to the wire, I realize that what I HAVEN’T done is GET OVER IT. I mean, sure, I’m over it in the sense of it not hurting any more, it doesn’t inform my every move or occupy my mind, nothing like that. But I am not over it in the sense that I am fearful of it happening again. So much so that I’m avoiding situations where I might experience a repeat.

And that would all be fine, if, you know, if we were talking about having a safe dropped on my head. “Self,” I could say, “let us not walk along sidewalks where cartoon people are apt to be throwing large money-holding devices out of the windows!” That would be easy enough to handle. Check! No more walking under windows!

But in a case where I end up hurt just by opening myself up to other people… it’s trickier. I find myself pulling back, even now. That part really sucks.

Anyway, if I may be so bold as to open myself to internet assvice based upon this vague scenario: I need some suggestions. I am most likely going to have to face Secondary, and I would really like to be less of a basket case before that happens. Hate is such a useless emotion. I would like to stop hating this person.

How do I do that?

To realize I’d have to face this particular demon around the same time I was grappling with the spectre of what happened before (as it was impacting my current life) has left me feeling really… ummm… stupid. I want to use another word, but stupid is the right one. I need to find a way to move on. I need not to feel like facing this person will be a challenge that I might not be able to handle.

I need to be okay enough to forgive them.

Or I need to know where I could get a bucket of pig’s blood and some rope. Either way.


  1. Jenn2

    Let me preface this by saying it’s not the most mature approach, but it did work for me.

    I had to have regular contact with a woman who slept with my (first, scummy) husband. I was in knots because I really hated her. In talking to my mom, she gave me this lil’ nugget. Be nice. It confuses the hell out of them. And I was. And it did. heh heh. Watching her be really confused and apprehensive about my gracious goodness was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. Almost as good as telling my first (scummy) husband I was getting married again. Which, by the way, was during the same conversation when he told me the woman was leaving him because he had cheated on her. But that’s neither here nor there. Be nice. Super nice. Then enjoy the confusion. Let’s call it the killer bunny approach in reverse. NEET!

  2. ben

    You can try my fabulous one-two approach.

    One: get drunk.

    Two: Stay drunk.

    Okay, I’ll admit that it may not really be fabulous, in that it does next to nothing about the actual, you know, problem and in all likelihood will just make it worse, but hey, we don’t call it assvice for nothing.

    Hope this helps! Cheers!

    (wink wink, nudge nudge)

  3. daysgoby

    What would you tell Chickie and Monkey to do?

  4. c

    This sounds really simplistic. And it is REALLY hard. But it has worked for me in some situations that are unbelievably beyond the human capacity to forgive:

    Pray blessings for this person. The things that you want for yourself. Every day. For two weeks.

    Now, when I was given this advice it was ascribed to Billy Graham. I don’t know. I was also told that I didn’t have to like it. I could do it with gritted teeth. Emotion has nothing to do with it. Just your will. Choosing to do it.

    It is hard. But it works.

  5. buffi

    I like what c said. But I also really like what Jenn2 had to say. I’ll just add that pity works for me. Replace the hate with pity.

    In a similar (as far as I can tell) situation, I just thought to myself, “Who wants to be THAT person?” How sad and pathetic it must must be to be them.

    Helps with the being nice part. And the prayer thing as well.

  6. Brenda

    Jenn2 covered a lot. Don’t give them what they expect, don’t give them what they deserve. Be the most perfect, gracious person you can possibly be. Because you are so much prettier, nicer, sweeter, smarter, kinder, gracious and just plain awesome than they could ever hope in their wildest dreams to be.

    I always remind myself that, aside from my immediate family, no one is worth wasting my energy on. I have a limited amount of time and energy. None to spare for losers.

    And, I figure they’re losers because they’ve lost my company and friendship.

  7. Brenda

    P.S. I remind myself that people like that are usually found months after they’ve died behind a pile of garbage in the back bedroom of their home. But I’m not petty.

  8. Irony Queen

    Deep breaths. And, like everyone else said, being nice will help. But deep breaths will help YOU.

    Then go home and drink yourself silly, as Ben suggested.

  9. Cele

    I almost ALWAYS do what Jenn said. Except for once. At my 20th class reunion I ran into the guy who raped me. 22 years later I thought I was over it. WRONG. That is when I went back to my hotel room and followed Ben’s advice.

    Side bar: Jenn’s advice doesn’t have physically punishing residual effects.

    Mir, smile, realise what a good person you are and try your best to move on. Killing them with kindness is really much easier on you.

  10. Meg

    Oh, Mir, I hear ya.

    I have assvice. I always have assvice. Someone Wronged Me grievously many years ago. We were friends at uni and also working together (she got me the job) and also living together (she asked me if I wanted a room at her place).

    I told her before I moved in that I kept to myself a lot and also she knew I had a boyfriend. She knew him fairly well.

    Didn’t stop her bitching about me to him and others, because I’m so passive and non-confrontational (which is true to some extent but she was way too far at the opposite extreme). Also leaning on me way too much and expecting me to listen to her endlessly moan about how she loved X guy but also loved Y! The agony of being adored by two guys at once!

    She then told me via a letter stuck to a door that she wanted me to leave, because when she’d asked me to stay she wanted a friend, not a roommate.

    I was hurt and very angry. I treated her with icy courtesy at work because I didn’t know what to say, and to be honest didn’t really want to get into it — too hurtful, and also I knew this was it for our friendship. She was very uncertain around me and I really liked having the upper hand along with sort of being the better person and not starting a fight. Sort of. ::g:: She got another job not long after that. She tried to invite me to something ages after that but I just didn’t respond.

    So, that’s my longwinded way of recommending being The Better Person and just treating them with courtesy. Then you know you haven’t done anything wrong. If this person habitually says stupid things that push your buttons, then I also recommend you prepare a few ways to answer those stupid things that will allow you to be polite but still retain some self-respect.

    If all else fails, screech, “BE NICE TO ME, MOTHERFUCKA, MY BOOB HURTS!”

    (good luck)

  11. Sheryl

    I have done what C did, it is torturous, but it works. The other thing that works is viewing that person (and their whacked behavior) as ill, instead of heartless. Somehow it’s easier to cut them a modicum of slack that way. Enough to be civil, anyway.

  12. Gillian

    Ok, this may be off the wall, but for me it isn’t enough to lose the anger at the jerk. (you may have picked up that this is not about being the better person already.)

    Usually I have some anger left that I let myself get slammed. The anger is really at myself, and I am still saying ‘Wow, were you stupid to let yourself get so hurt by this.’ I also have some anxiety that I am opening myself up to get slammed again. I would rather be a person who gets hurt sometimes than a person who never lets anyone close enough to hurt me. So, I choose to forgive myself for not seeing the left hook coming.

    At the same time, I realize that that person is unlikely to get a second shot at me and they should be the one feeling embarrassed and vulnerable for being a scum bag.

    THEN I have a drink.

  13. Em

    I don’t have any good advice like everyone else. I’ll tell you what I would do but based on the mature resposes I’ve already read, I’m thinking it isn’t “good” advice.

    I would be terse and inpatient with the person. I would answer questions they asked and not give them an inch more. If it is a work situation where other people were involved, I would kill with kindness when other people were around, then make very sure just by my attitude that they knew I was still seething. I would make their day very exhausting and uncomfortable. I would make them not want to ever see me again so I would never have to deal with them in the future.

    Again, this would really only work if it was just the two of you. It would be unprofessional and kind of rude to drag someone else into it but yes, I would enjoy watching them squirm very very much.

    P.S. My pig donates at the Red Cross. Explain the situation, I’m sure they would understand and let you borrow a bucket worth.

  14. Beth

    I’m all for holding grudges, so I think you should go right on doing that until you don’t feel like it anymore. I’m not sure what this “forgiveness” thing everyone talks about is, but unyielding hatred has always worked for me.

    However, I also recommend the amnesia approach. You barely remember Secondary. Oh yes, now that you think of it you have some vague recollection of knowing each other in the past, but it was such a long time ago and you barely even recall it because obviously Secondary isn’t worth remembering. Hey, you may even start believing it yourself. (Denial is second only to grudge holding on my list.)

  15. Donna

    Life is too short. Repeat that until you believe it.

    I tell people “I divorced well”, and I get a lot of comments about how nice things seem to be between my daughter and me and my ex and his new wife and my new husband…
    The only reason for that is I decided life was too short to even CARE about the woman he cheated on me with (now his wife). She means nothing to me – nothing good, nothing bad, just nothing – and I deal with her often, as we live only a town away and my daughter is back and forth a few times a week.

    What this woman did is so far beneath you that the only possible course of action is to treat her, politely, as a person who means nothing to you, and to also believe that – because life is too short.

    Good luck.

  16. Bob

    step one: obtain black knight doll.
    step two: tape picture of secondary over face of black knight.
    step three: tear arms and legs off SLOWLY.
    step four: go to step three.

    It’s only a flesh wound.

  17. Aimee

    Probably Secondary is expecting things to be difficult. He/She is braced for it. That said, I agree with Jenn2. Be as sweet as you can bear to be without making yourself sick. That way there can be no complaining on Secondary’s part (what can they say? She was too nice to me? Please.) I use this technique at work all the time, and it works like a charm. The other piece of this is to keep your (mental) hands up.

  18. Heather

    The unfortunate part is secondary probably doesn’t even know that there will be a problem, people that have total disregard for others feelings don’t usually realize they have done anything to upset another. So remember you are letting this person effect your life once again…

    My mom use to always say “don’t hate, it is a wasted emotion.” And it makes sense if a person is horrible and you don’t want them in your life, why waste emotion or time on them?

    I didn’t get this until I left my ex-husband. I hated him for awhile, but then I realized, he just isn’t worth my time. When I left him he decided that he didn’t want to be a part of our son’s life anymore either. I figure that is his loss. It did take awhile, but letting go of the anger, best thing I ever did. For the first few years, I was worried about running into him. But now, I just have no emotions either way. I think remembering that I have a beautiful life with my beautiful child helps a lot.

  19. Snow

    I haven’t the slightest clue how to go about being forgiving. In fact, my inability to forgive is precisely what brought about the demise of my marriage. That, and the desire to punish my husband.

    When I discussed all this with her, my therapist told me a long while back that I was confusing forgiveness with a return to naivete. Just because you’ve forgiven someone doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened, and doesn’t necessarly preclude protecting yourself from hurt during subsequent interaction with that person.

    That made it easier to forgive myself for not being what I considered “forgiving”.

  20. Stephanie Chance

    Don’t deal with either one of them unless absolutely necessary, and then, preferably with only Primary and completely ignore Secondary. When dealing with either one of them, imagine it as a business meeting. ‘This is the goal. This is how I propose to achieve that goal. What are your ideas?’ If either one of them like to push your buttons, respond with an emotionally neutral statement such as, ‘I prefer not to discuss that with you,’ or, ‘Let’s talk another time when we can rationally deal with the issues at hand.’ They are selfish and stupid, and you are better than they are. Sorry that it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

  21. Patricia

    I don’t know how to tell you to forgive — though I’m not really sure that’s what you need truly. You are a woman of faith, and you have the strength to forgive anyone who has wronged you for any reason. (Now, we are also children of faith too — who throw temper tantrums and scream “I don’t wanna” but doesn’t mean we don’t have the strength). I’m not offering some sissy-ass thought like “let go, let God.” — don’t get me wrong. You see, I believe firmly that we often confuse the act of forgiving with prentending it never happened. Forgiving is really nothing more than accepting that someone has wronged you because they are faliable and incapable of rising above their own sinful nature. It is the moving on part that truly sucks. This is the part where we are hurt and angry that someown’s “love” for us or just who we are wasn’t a good enough reason for them to TRY just a bit harder not to attempt to cut our heart out with a spoon.
    I wish I could say that I have somehow conquered my grudge problem and follow these 12 simple steps and you too can conquer yours. But I have to admit that I still have my problem. While I pray most days that God give me the strength to forgive her; I beg and pled that He never make me actually see or deal with her again. Every so often I have to and I wish that I could say that I’ve done so with grace and aploumb that is befitting me — but I have to admit it turned into a screaming match of hate and discontentment. The one thing I have learned in all of this is that it isn’t that I (or any of the other people she hurt) am not worth better behavior from her — she is incapable of it under any circumstances. This little tidbit for me helped me not fear that every new friend I made would turn into a raving, hateful lunatic.
    When you do have to deal with your person, just repeat to yourself to remember to have grace and charm. Keep whatever conversation you must have to the “safe” subjects and smile. Don’t give up that you hold any anger — it will not kill you and will confuse the other party. And LEAVE them wanting to talk to you. Act as if you are far above it and past it — even if every bone in your body is pleading to cuss this person off. I’d love to say it will make you feel better — I promise it won’t; but it sure will feel better than the regret you will feel after a scene.

    And FWIW, you are an awesome, awe-inspiring woman. You do have grace and the power to handle anything — you have come so far; accomplished so much.

  22. DebR

    Personally, I’m lovin’ Bob’s idea.

  23. joy

    might i suggest a well-timed sucker-punch?

    ok, well if not that, the bludgeon with nice-ness. seriously, I agree with folks above. if you don’t want a confrontation, then go with the “i am the epitome of sunshine” mask. it might actually feel ok.

    first time at your blog, but i love it, love it.

  24. janie

    Yup, agree with everyone that said kill Secondary with kindness. It really works and proves that you were the better one all along. It’s hard. I have to deal with my X’s new wife (the one he left me for) regularly and she is a hateful spiteful nasty thing. She even sounds nasty when she is attempting to be nice. And pray for them. I do that too.

  25. Monica

    I’m very fond of the extreme politeness and professionalism in front of others combined with icy disdain when there are only the two of you around.

    The only downside to it is that it precludes the use of “Oh Secondary, yes I believe I recall the name”

  26. wheelomatic

    Mir, You are an awesome writer, a terrific parent, you have a huge heart and you are funny as hell.

    You said that you had “dealt” with Secondary by basically acting as if this person was dead and putting no energy into thinking about or reacting to him/her/it. My question to you is why does this have to change? Just because you might actually have to communicate or be physically near Secondary does not mean a thing. Secondary only has as much power over you as you give him/her/it.

    To echo what others have said: Secondary is not worth your precious time and energy. Don’t give him/her/it any part of you that would be better spent on your kids, the Walk, knitting, cleaning your toenails, whatever.

    Killing with kindness, while tough, can be fun when you see the confusion that results. But even that takes up too much energy and focus. I have found that what works best is treating people like this as if they hardly exist and barely cast a shadow in your world. Because in all honesty, they don’t. They are inconsequential, insignificant and frankly unimportant in your life story.

    To mix pop culture metaphors: think of Secondary as one of those Start Trek red-shirts that gets offed before the 1st commercial. An Expendable Ensign used for a plot point in your life that no longer is in the script except as a casual reference.

    Or you could just shout “Ni!” as loudly as possibly every time the enter the room and demand that they bring you shrubbery. Oh, and fart in his/her/its general direction.

  27. Amy

    I agree with the kill’em with kindness approach. But first to get to a point where I am mentally ready for this avenue of interaction, I do the following.

    I focus on the fact that what was done to me was intentional and undeserved. This makes them a sad, pathetic individual. With some sort of past that has made them the warped person that they are today. Then I mentally take that ball of anger and hate, that sits in my stomache, that they thrust upon me, gift wrap it and give it back. (All mental imagery, no real interaction takes place, of course.) But why should I hold those feelings, why should I feel bad, when they created the ugliness. That kind of stress shortens a life, let it shorten theirs not yours. (Even if they don’t know they hold the ugly gift, it’s no longer yours.)

    Then I minimize contact as much as possible and remember that they are completely untrustworthy.

    Best of luck!

  28. Amy

    I agree with the kill’em with kindness approach. But first to get to a point where I am mentally ready for this avenue of interaction, I do the following.

    I focus on the fact that what was done to me was intentional and undeserved. This makes them a sad, pathetic individual. With some sort of past that has made them the warped person that they are today. Then I mentally take that ball of anger and hate, that sits in my stomache, that they thrust upon me, gift wrap it and give it back. (All mental imagery, no real interaction takes place, of course.) But why should I hold those feelings, why should I feel bad, when they created the ugliness. That kind of stress shortens a life, let it shorten theirs not yours. (Even if they don’t know they hold the ugly gift, it’s no longer yours.)

    Then I minimize contact as much as possible and remember that they are completely untrustworthy.

    Best of luck!

  29. Amy

    I agree with the kill’em with kindness approach. But first to get to a point where I am mentally ready for this avenue of interaction, I do the following.

    I focus on the fact that what was done to me was intentional and undeserved. This makes them a sad, pathetic individual. With some sort of past that has made them the warped person that they are today. Then I mentally take that ball of anger and hate, that sits in my stomache, that they thrust upon me, gift wrap it and give it back. (All mental imagery, no real interaction takes place, of course.) But why should I hold those feelings, why should I feel bad, when they created the ugliness. That kind of stress shortens a life, let it shorten theirs not yours. (Even if they don’t know they hold the ugly gift, it’s no longer yours.)

    Then I minimize contact as much as possible and remember that they are completely untrustworthy.

    Best of luck!

  30. Niki

    Mir – I had to go look it up, but what rang through my head as I read your post was from Romans 12:20 – “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” My advice (for what it’s worth!) is to be polite and kind, but not have more interaction than you have to. If you just smile, nod, and act like nothing happened, it will just kill Secondary, who will have to realize what a (far) superior human being you are! Hang in there!

  31. Wacky Mommy

    I’m struggling with this today, myself. None of what I’ve read so far is assvice! Beautiful! Well, I don’t know if this helps, but my way of dealing with Primaries and Secondaries is when they ask me something out of line, or try to “engage” me in whatever b.s., I just ask, “I’m sorry, what?” (Not like DeNiro! Just matter of fact.) Then when they do the yadda yadda again I say, “I thought that was what you said.” And I leave it and walk away. My friend Roxie says, “You just got to turn it to the bladdity-blah-blah-blah channel.”

  32. Amy-GO

    Niki said it – Romans 12:20. And lots of prayer beforehand. Any chance TD&H could be on your arm when you see this person? ‘Cause “living well is the best revenge” works for me, too. Good luck, Tulip!

  33. KimberlyDi

    I deal with it in a purely selfish way. Hating someone hurts me and it doesn’t hurt them so why bother? Anger is toxic and whenever it rears its ugly head, I hit the off button.

    I choose at that moment to enjoy a happier life. It took me a long time to learn that but I became a happier person when I did.

    If someone does me wrong, I move on. I learn from it and move on.

    Forgiveness, killing them with kindness and prayer is probably a better way. But if that doesn’t work, just be selfish for yourself.

  34. Dawn

    What everyone else said. Put on your best, most content bunny face, complete with enigmatic smile, and kill them with flawless manners. Then watch while they squirm in confusion. Then remind yourself that, while you can walk away from “Secondary” and go back to your civilized world, “Secondary is stuck with him/herself forever. How much must that suck?

    Failing that, key their car. Kidding. Sort of.

  35. jennifer

    i tried the polite, kind bunny thing for 2 years. it works for awhile, but then it lost its effect on the jerk. now he’s sending in order forms and subscription cards in my name to get me in trouble, and he says bad things about me in front of my 6-year-old. He didn’t put any effort toward her until she was 3, after he left us for his secretary, and the fact that I had a male friend who did things with us was what inspired him to finally be her dad. Kindness hasn’t stopped his meanness, so now i hide behind the front door when he comes to see our child. this way, he can’t say anything else ignorant to me. i hate it. i need a new way to cope because he’s moving in my neighborhood with his brother.

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