May 12 2014

Paul Williams



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“Getting even” is a phrase that can be read two ways with very different meanings.  For example, consider a gangster or a bricklayer.  Revenge for one, precision and balance for another

When my feelings are hurt or I’m being insulted or verbally attacked I’m usually fairly passive.   I tend to go a little tharn like the rabbits described in “Watership Down”.  That almost paralytic place where I can’t really think or move. Only not so extreme. Tharn Light actually.  I’m functioning but somehow slightly removed from what I’m feeling.  It’s as if I’m an uninvolved witness to the scene. It passes quickly.  I’m surprised by the emotions, don’t understand why anyone would want to cause me pain, but these days I’m not much for the instant counter attack.

Still, I’m human.  Do me wrong and after the shock wears off I often begin making mind movies with sharp, cutting edge dialogue that might have impressed James Elroy, Charles Bukowski or Bogart.   They’re words that are seldom heard. Almost never spoken.  Why?

I get even.

As in balanced.  Something’s happened to my macho monster response gene.  It’s been misplaced.  Or washed so many times it’s threadbare.  It’s unable to produce a decent act of sabotage or comeuppance. Even in that rare incident of physical violence I’m finding the ability to rise above the situation and see the incident from both points of view.

Recently I suffered a bit of road rage.  Driving to a breakfast meeting in Santa Monica, I noticed my windshield was looking a little grubby.  I used my wipers with the built in spray.  As I was exiting the freeway a huge white truck was suddenly tight on my tail and blaring its horn.  I pulled off and as the truck passed I rolled down my window to see what the problem was.   I was suddenly hit by a flying container of milky coffee.

I was drenched.  I followed the driver and at a light got out of my car and asked him what in the name of God was wrong.  “You got water on my truck asshole!” he screamed.  “I just washed it and look what you did!”

I was obviously dealing with someone really unstable.  I apologized for the few drops of water on his windshield and got into my car, locked the doors and left.  I was shaking like a leaf.  And then it was gone.  Completely.  I knew I was safe.  I knew he was sick.  I got even.

It was remarkable.  I had no desire to call the police.  No desire to become involved in any kind of retribution.  He threw a container of coffee at my car.  I would not continue the drama.

I got even.

His attack was insanity for sure and undeserved, but there are times when I’m on the receiving end of a little outrage that I’ve earned.  More and more I begin to see the truth in the character defect that’s being pointed out and even when the method of reproach has been excessive I try to grasp the lesson in the moment and adjust accordingly.

I sound like such a grown up.  Not always. But I’m getting better.  I say so when I’m wrong and try to understand what people are going through that leads them to a combative stance.

It usually changes my outlook.  Sometimes in a heartbeat.

I get even.

I found a quote recently that pretty succinctly states what I hope would be the message of my blog. It’s by Toba Beta.  “If you’re betrayed, release disappointment at once.  By that way, the bitterness has no time to take root.”

Whew.  That makes so much sense.  Whether it’s an incidental snub or something that feels like a knife in the back, when we lose our spiritual equilibrium all is not lost.  There’s healing and hope in the offering of a little love and understanding and “getting even” should always return us to the balanced comfort of gratitude and trust.

Paul Williams

Paul Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor, recovery advocate and has been a fixture on the American cultural scene since the seventies. His book Gratitude and Trust is now available.