I’m still pissed.

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I’m still pissed. 

As though it were a bad show on Bravo or the dead possum on the side of the road, for a long time I just wasn’t able to look away even though I know my spirit (and my queasy stomach) deserve better. 

It’s about something that happened so long ago. About something I should have handled then but didn’t. 

Once and only once have I not received payment for a painting– a really big painting. I want so much to go into the gory details of it, but I’ll resist my baser urge and summarize it like this: I was commissioned for this work by a relative of another collector, and it was in light of a gut-wrenching situation that the new collector wanted the painting. It was also time sensitive. Having had a positive experience with the first collector, I dropped everything I was currently working on, took on the project without a deposit, and fronted the bill for shipping. These are just the facts. Not my most saavy business maneuvers. Upon it’s safe arrival, the collector immediately messaged me his joy at having received the painting and said he would send the payment we had agreed upon at the start. It never happened. I reached out, nothing. I gave it some time, then reached out again. Rinse, repeat. Nothing. Months went by.

I was ghosted. Though I’ve never met this person, when I created the painting for him, he friended me on facebook. And the whole time I was reaching out, trying to procure the payment (or, let’s be honest, just some form of communication about the situation that would have undoubtedly led me to an “it’s on the house” response), I watched photograph after photograph after meme after status update of boats and planes and vacations, of a fancy suburban home and cars purchased, inspirational quotes about lives well lived, integrity, family. All in all it appeared a #blessed life. Can you feel me rolling my eyes thorugh the screen?

Eventually, after a long and overly heartfelt letter in which I definitely, I’m embarrassed to admit, played the “single mom” card, this isn’t a hobby it’s my job, I have a mortgage, yadda yadda yadda, I got my first response and a payment that did not even cover the shipping– not even a fourth of the agreed upon price. There was a weak assurance that the rest of the money would be paid. And I’m sure you can now guess, it never was. All my invoices and messages again ignored. 

I seethed and I raged. I sent invoice after invoice. I threatened legal action I didn’t actually want to take on. And what’s worse, I kept looking at the facebook posts mocking me from my feed, delighting in all the evidence I was mentally building that this was just an undoubtedly rotten person. I daydreamed about responding to some of the posts– “Nice car. Do they know you don’t pay your bills?” or “Beautiful family, I wonder if you’ll teach them to be responsible and decent?” Oh and the one about his taxes paying for the lazy and unemployed? That one really set me off. 

I was clinging tight to my comforting rage, letting it curl up next to me on the couch every once in a while just to stroke it’s forehead and listen to it purr. 

“You’re letting that ugliness take up too much space in your beautiful life”

That’s what my friend said to me after I’d recounted (gory-detail version) this story. I was expecting her to feel the same glorious, righteous indignation I thought the situation warranted. Instead she asked what I’d learned, and how I had behaved differently since then– I always take a deposit. I never ship without a payment. I only take on commissions I want to take on, not ones I feel obligated to take on. 

She was right. If I hadn’t done anything and was not planning to do anything about it, why was I letting the foulness of it all creep into my heart and mind? Why was I giving it a voice, prominence in a life that, admittedly was going pretty wonderfully? Why was I letting it onto the couch, where it would shed and leave messes for me to endlessly clean?

Let it go, she said. Unfriend him. Today. 

And after one last look at a ridiculous quote I couldn’t quite avoid, with the click of a button, he was gone, robbed of the power to take up any more space in my life. No more festering, no more ugly anger. Dignity isn’t something someone can grant or take away. And there I was hoping he would grant it, furious that he was withholding it. 

But it was always there, immovable, unshakable.

I was working on this new painting when my friend and I had our conversation. After I’d texted her a screenshot of the “unfriending” I went back to work on it. I added the birds. The ones the woman’s letting go of. The ones no longer beating around inside her, tying her stomach in rage-filled knots. And it’s funny how so often when I let something go, it’s not so much the thing that’s free, but me. 

I have to admit, I’m still pissed, I really am. But my frustration and anger no longer have an open invitation to hang out. I’ve shut the door on something that no good could come of. Letting go isn’t a one time thing. Those birds, I’m sure they will come back (though they certainly won’t be beckoned by a silly facebook post) and having exercised my letting-go muscle, I hope I’ll have the strength to do it again and again, until they’ve got no reason return at all. I think my anger, now that I’ve stopped looking at those posts, was really more about me anyway. I’m mad at myself for not standing up to this guy in a more meaningful way, a way that would potentially curb his next crime. But I’m letting go of that too, confident that I’ve become more assertive and confident in the process. Confident that history will not repeat itself. And that is enough for now. 

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

June 25, 2019

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