I have been addictively watching Sons of Anarchy lately, catching up on what I have missed. As in, the entire series. My life has been overtaken. I could sit here and write pages of what I love about it (the pace, the need to kill bad guys, Jax), life lessons I’ve learned from it (like, don’t double cross your gang members or you get ripped apart…literally), and so forth, but I’m not going to. Just do an Internet search of the Sons and there are enough people doing just that.
So why then, did I mention it? Because there is one thing that draws me the most to this show, and it’s not the violence or the bikes or the vests (patches I guess I should call it to remain true to the show). It’s the way they handle conflict. And I don’t mean conflict in a literary story-writing sense, but interpersonal conflict. It’s how the characters solve their own shit that keeps me coming back every. single. day (because we are in the time of netflix people, binge watching is how it is).
No, I do not mean how they deal with conflict on a large scale, like, someone turned rat and now must die. I mean, how they deal with it among friends. I’m actually jealous of it. There is no beating around the bush, there is no passive-aggressiveness, there is no silent treatment. There is only in-your-faceness. There is the wronged person calling out the wrong doer on their shit so it is all out in the open. Often, calling the person out on it involves punching them in the face and then working it out is often a massive, house destroying brawl, but then it is solved. They walk away, issue done, time to move onto the next with only painful bruises to remember it by.
And that is the thing. There is a bruise to prove it. Visual evidence that someone has hurt you. There is no denying that. There is no internalization and pretending everything is okay. You can’t hide it with more layers of makeup (because it is makeup, get it? They don’t actually beat the shit out of each other on the show). And then, when that fight happens, the rage, the anger, it’s dealt with. You don’t get that in real life.
Although, sometimes you do. I have met some people who will walk right up to the person they are angry with and say, “Hey, why are you being such an asshole?” Usually, that happens amongst men. Men call you on your shit. Women, on the other hand, don’t do this. Because you can’t say that to a woman or she’s offended, and that offense will stew inside them forever, festering and brewing and often causing a bunch of chronic symptoms we think are from food or illness, when half the time it’s the internalization of our pain and anger and hurt. Because instead of bringing that issue out into the open, we bury it, then lash out in little ways, like backstabbing or complaining or getting mad at the bank teller when you really want to be yelling at the friend who hurt you.
But, for some reason, we can’t. We can’t walk right up to that person that hurt us and punch them in the eye and say with fists raised, “C’mon, we’re dealing with this.” Women don’t work that way. Most real life doesn’t work that way. So instead we carry it around, trying to do right by it but never quite dealing with it.
Sure, we can forgive the other person. We can rise above the hurt. But that is hard. Really, really hard. Because you still are left wondering. You still have that tiny nagging voice in the back of your mind saying, “Why would they do this to me? What is so wrong with me that this keeps happening? What did I do to deserve this?” And until that is dealt with, it is damn hard to let it go (Unless you have magical icing powers and can just go freeze the person until they come around. Then you might feel better. Plus, you wouldn’t have to see them anymore because you can then go live in an ice castle far far away.).
I look at my kids, well, at my daughter, and I see the struggles starting already. The friendship issues that come from girls getting pissed off at the other one and stomping away, refusing to talk about it but instead completely rejecting the other one. I’m sure most people have had this happen to them once or twice (or in my case, once a week) in school. That shit was one of the major reasons I was desperate to graduate and get out of school. Only to find, as an adult, it doesn’t go away. It’s just hidden a little bit better, or it’s easier to avoid the person as you’re not in their face everyday. But it’s still there.
And this is where I wonder if that is why small towns can be so difficult to manage, because no matter how hard you try (and trust me, I try), you will run into that person, which will bring up all the hurt and sadness you’ve been trying to overcome like it just happened all over again. You will see them and think, “Why?” and then beat yourself up for not being over it already, for not being the bigger person and letting it all go. You will wonder why you are still so upset by this when they obviously couldn’t give a shit.
I used to be friends with someone who works with my daughter. And then I did something, overstepped somehow, I’m not sure exactly. And that has been the end of everything. As in, a complete and total cutting off of all communication. Basically, I no longer exist to this person. But the problem is, they still do for me. I still have to see them regularly because I can’t get away from them. There is no where else for my daughter to go. So now, not only do I have to see this person regularly, I have to see her getting along with everyone else…but me. I have to watch as my daughter suffers and life moves on for the rest of them. I have to deal with angst and tension and anxiety if I want to watch my daughter do what she loves (and lose what she loved in this case) because she is there, always there, and pretending I do not exist even if I am only steps away from her.
And so I did do the right thing, I tried to reach out. I tried to deal with it, only to receive….nothing. Which, in a way, shocked me because I had this idea in my head that we are all adults and could deal with a situation like adults. But, just because we’re adults does not mean we have any ability to deal with conflict or problems or tension. I’m just finally learning that there is no one way to deal with something like an adult. Being an adult doesn’t mean you can handle problems or deal with shit in the first place. It doesn’t mean you are any better at handling hurt than that twelve year old girl stomping away because you left her out of something. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean it won’t bother you just as much as when you were a child, it just means you’re supposed to pretend it doesn’t bother you. It just means that you can’t go in there and pull her hair and punch her in the face and scream, “You hurt me!” because you should know better or will most likely face some kind of criminal charges. It means you have to hold it all inside until you want to burst, but can’t, because there is no one to hear you. You have to walk into that place where you will meet that person and try to maintain some form of decorum even though every time you run into them you want to scream across the room, “Here I am! What, are you blind?! You can’t read emails or answer your phone?!!” You have to pretend to accept the bullshit because that is your job, as a non-violent human being, as a parent, as a fully functioning adult member of society.
And that is why I love Sons of Anarchy so much. Because when they are wronged…they retaliate. Even if it’s just punching their buddy in the face, it’s something. And they both feel better. But this other way, this non-bicycle gang regular human rest of the world way of just leaving it be does not make anyone feel better, because no matter how much self discovery you do, no matter how much you tell yourself you are better than that, that the problem is now theirs and not yours, you will always wonder. Because for some reason or another, you were disposable. That cold shoulder is evidence that you meant so little to another person that they could do this to you and no matter how hard you try, you can’t convince them otherwise. And that sucks.
I know this isn’t about me. I know I am better than that. But sometimes it takes a lot longer for my heart to hear what my head is trying to tell it.