Dirty Tricks and Dirty Dealing

I’ve lived long enough now to know what I have always suspected — most expected behaviors are not realistic. For example, if someone plays a trick on us, we are supposed to be good sports about it, to grin and bear it. Why? Why is it incumbent on us to smile when someone treats us badly? Why aren’t dirty tricks and dirty dealing frowned on?

When I was young, my best friend hid my school books, then she went inside her house, locked the door, and left me outside to search for my books. I couldn’t find them so I rang the door bell, knocked, and called to her. She didn’t doorrespond, just left me standing there alone. I got scared. It was getting late, and I had to get home or else I’d be punished. When it started to rain. I grew frantic, thinking of having to explain those sodden books to my strict teachers and stricter parents. I couldn’t think of any way to get my friend’s attention, so I decided to play the baby. I sat on the porch and pretended to cry. She flounced out of her house, got the books, threw them at me and called me a crybaby and a bad sport.

I could see where maybe hiding the books for a few seconds might be fun. It might even have been funny. But to leave me searching for my books for at least fifteen minutes in the rain? That was cruel. When she grew up, she became a lawyer, and was never heard from again. I’m sure she forgot about the incident shortly after it happened, but I always felt guilty that I hadn’t been a good sport. And I still don’t know what I could have done differently. Well, that’s not true. I would have done one thing differently — I would have immediately dropped her as a friend.

I used to think friendship was the most important thing in the world, and since I didn’t make friends easily, I did everything I could to keep the ones I had. I might not have borne their disregard with a grin, but I did bear it.

Not any more.

When my life mate/soul mate died, I figured I had to let myself be vulnerable and get to know people (or rather let them get to know me), otherwise I’d end up friendless and alone. Opening up worked for a while, but for some reason recently (maybe my Karma coming back to run me over?), some of these friends and online aquaintances have decided to tell me all the things they dislike about me. If people don’t wish me well in my journey through life, they aren’t friends. And I see no point in being a good sport about their ill will. Nor do I grin and bear it. I simply say good-bye.

Oddly, I’m not as worried about being friendless and alone as I was at the beginning of my grief journey. If it happens, so be it, but there are billions of people in the world. Somewhere, I’ll meet people who appreciate my struggles to rebuild my life. In fact, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately, both on and offline. Now that’s a wonderful trick!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

18 Responses to “Dirty Tricks and Dirty Dealing”

  1. Setsu Says:

    One of my dearest friends taught me this: Open the door once for everyone. If they open the door for you, by all means — return the favor again. If they don’t, don’t harm them; but don’t give them a chance to hurt you again.

    There are so many amazing, beautiful people in this world that no one should settle for that kind of treatment. Taking your knocks as a kid is a vital lesson. It teaches you how YOU cope. We have every right to kick people out of our lives, so long as we accept they have the right to do so to us. It’s fine. It’s forgivable. Sometimes we’re what they need, or not. And vice versa.

    Keep writing true.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I like that advice. If you close all the doors before you see what’s out there, you miss out on life. And if you keep the doors open for ill treatment, that’s no good either.

      I especially like your last comment: “Keep writing true.” That should be my motto when I’m not sure what to write.

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I remember reading about these experiments in sound for early radio. They’d tape the roar of a lion at a zoo then they would get someone to fake the sound of a lion roaring. They would then play both recordings to an audience and get them to pick out the fake. Strangely enough, most of the people thought the lion at the zoo was the fake. Why? The person imitating the lion’s roar was aiming to meet the expectations of others as to how the lion should sound. The lion of course was just being a lion. Hence most expected behaviors are not realistic.

    Personally growing up I never understood why girls tend to go for the bad boys. I still don’t but that’s just me.

    As for dirty tricks pulled, well, there was a particular rotten trick played on me ages ago that is going in my latest novel Cold Water Conscience. I have in fact made it the main consideration of the book. Yes it was supposed to get laughs and nothing I could say, do or not do was going to stop it from happening. In any event, years later, it has become fuel for my own writing. This particular book is in the third draft stage. Regardless, what I am saying is that you can take a dirty trick played on you and work it into your writing. It’s a thought at any rate.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Actually, in the history of dirty tricks and cruelty, the one played on me was mild, made memorable only because she was my best friend. Or so I thought. Good idea to use your past traumas in your books!

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    There’s no way I can know, but perhaps some of these friends were only friends because grief brought you together. Now that you’re in a slightly better place, perhaps these friendships have run their course.
    I could be wrong, of course. It’s happened plenty of times before.

  4. Joy Collins Says:

    Have you been spying on my life, Pat? I could have written this same post. I too was afraid of being alone after John passed but I quickly learned it was better to be alone than in the company of people who treated me poorly. I have let many people go in the past three years that I had put up with for far too long, even before John passed. When he was here, their unkind behavior was something I could brush off. Without him here as my buffer, their actions were more obvious and I just didn’t feel like I needed that negativity in my life. It was a matter of caring for me because I had to. And I survived! And the more I treat myself with care, the better I feel about myself. I trust my judgment. I’m glad you have reached this place too.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I thought I had to put up with people’s unkindness if I didn’t want to be alone, and it simply isn’t a good way to live. Like you, I lost my buffer when he died, and now it simply is not worth putting up with unkindness.

      It makes sense that it would seem as if I were spying on your life — we’re on the same path, dealing with the same obstacles.

  5. Autumn Larrow Says:

    It takes great courage to over come that kind of fear, the fear of being alone. So I tip my hat at you. Personally, I’d rather be alone then open myself up to back stabbing, dirty trickery. It takes a lot to get past my “door,” but I know if people are willing to try, they are likely to end up dear friends. I’ve had to watch someone close to me go through just this and it breaks my heart. I wish I could help but it’s not my choice to make. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It also takes courage to know when it’s not your choice. Too often, people feel as if they have the right to control other people’s lives because they believe they see a deeper truth. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) we each have to find out own way through the labyrinth of human relations.

  6. elainemansfield Says:

    Poignant and personal writing, and so many can relate to hurt as a child, hurt from loss of a mate, and hurt from people we thought were our friends. I’m sorry you’re getting whacked around, but I guess it’s to be expected when we put ourselves out into the world with honesty. I love my intimate friends and supportive acquaintances on the web, but being alone is much nicer than I thought it would be. There is only one person I want to be with and he’s no longer here. Thank you, Pat, for courageous feelings and words.

  7. Juliana Says:

    Pat, I couldn’t have said it any better. Just when you need people, they abandon you. I wasn’t given time to grieve because it would mess up a huge anniversary part for my parents. Do you really think I wanted to an Anniversary party three months after my husband died. He happened to die two days before our anniversity. I was expected to attend. The priest gave a prayer extolling the virtues of marriage. At that point I was crying and had to leave. When I returned, no one could figure out why I left. Are they insensitive or just plain stupid. Insensitive wins! My life has continued with that theme…put on a happy face. I finally stopped playing the came and my sister told me to get my “Act together”. Are they deliberately trying to make me commit suicide? I know my sister wanted to be an only child. I’m quite willing to let her have my parents to herself. I just what to be left alone with my dogs. They’re the only things that bring me happiness.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, I am so sorry. That was incredibly cruel of them. Completely instensitive. I think people want us to continue as if nothing happened, as if our hearts weren’t torn out of our bodies. They have to make our grief into something abnormal, because they couldn’t bear to see themselves in our position. Until his death, I hadn’t realized the blinders people wore. It’s okay for them to extol the virtues of marriage, but once that marriage is ended by death, it’s supposed to not matter any more.

      Wishing you peace.

      • Joy Collins Says:

        Pat’s right. That was both cruel and insensitive of them. People don’t want to witness our grief because it makes them feel vulnerable. The nicer ones fear it will happen to them too and we are a sad reminder. But there are not so nice people out there too. For them, we are an inconvenience. Those are the ones who tell you to “move on”, and “get over it already”. Those people I have removed from my life. Life is too short [as we all know all too well] to waste it putting on a fake smile and tolerating people like that. I have enough anxiety and sadness in my life now. I need to be kind to myself. I do not have to force myself to suffer people who can’t take the time or energy to understand what I am feeling. Maybe that sounds harsh. But guess what? I don’t even care. It’s all right – and even necessary – for us to take care of ourselves now. I am so sorry you were treated that way. [[[HUGS]]] to you, Juliana.

  8. Juliana Says:

    Thank you, Pat and Joy. I know you’re right. Most people are afraid that this could happen to them, and guess what, it will. However that is fear operating. If there is one thing I’ve learned from Ken’s death is to be fearless. Ken wasn’t afraid of anything. He protected me from so many ugly realities of life. He loved my joyful and blindly optimistic view of life. He didn’t want me to lose that because together we had such a wonderful life full of wonder and serendipitous events. Realities are hitting very hard, but I still want to see the world as a good place; so I’ve basically had to stay away from all relatives except my sons, daughter-in-law, and parents. One son who was with his Dad when he died seems to want to avoid talking about it. The other son, the younger one, seems to be more accepting of change. He sees that this mourning and grieving are part of life not something to run from. They’re both handling it in their own way. Like me, they have to let go of the past in their own time. My greatest hope is they will have as wonderful a life as their Mom and Dad had.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I do think that’s one of the gifts of grief — fearlessness. If we allow ourselves to feel grief instead of hiding it away as if it didn’t exist (though I found that impossible) then we learn that the worst thing we feared happened, and it allows us to eventually embrace life unafraid.

      I’m glad you had a wonderful life. It doesn’t make it easier to be alone, but . . . (I was going to say but at least you had great memories. How silly of me. What good are memories? You can’t hug them or talk to them.)

  9. katsheridan Says:

    Pat, remember that the Wombats will always love and accept you, and our jokes are truly only meant in the spirit of fun and joy.

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