Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Misunderstood

Sometimes those that have nothing or who give everything away are the wisest people. And what they do without or give isn't always material possessions. They may make 21st century sacrifices, but they also give their time, their energy, a thoughtful gesture, a kind word, a friendly smile. Some of them don't recognise their own giving spirit because they couldn't possibly live any other way. If they went against their own nature, it would be like rubbing coarse salt into a raw, weeping wound. Some of them try, feeling they need to toughen their outer shell, but often it feels too unnatural. It doesn't sit well.
Yet these giving spirits can be misunderstood, especially by those who they assume are kin and think much of. Another who they see the same light in could misinterpret their words, their actions. And when that happens it's painful. A pain that's deep and long-lasting. A torturous, lingering pain...
A nauseous stomach, a shattered rib, a punctured lung. A grumbling spleen, a twisted knee, a sprained ankle. Sharp, daggered shoulder pain. A constant head drum. Drum-drum, drum-drum from dawn to dusk. Fighting for breath and clutching their chest; every intake a rasp or a wheeze.
Then the rain comes...a drop, a splash, a gush. A showy fountain, a spectacular waterfall, a fast-flowing river. Followed by dull, heavy skies with a single ray of sun poking through. A slight reprieve from the throbbing ache.
The thick cotton clouds lighten and gulls once again wheel overhead with their pitiful cry. In the trees, the wood pigeons coo, 'My baby's sick. My baby's sick..' for even they know this sickness is not over. It will return with a fresh pang, a new symptom when it's least expected. A sudden sadness, a welling of eyes, airways obstructed by muted dry sobs. Or it might be a violent burst like a blow from behind or a ruptured appendix. A fleeting memory, a brief encounter, a single read word, a heard five minute song causes a rainbow streak or luminescent stars to shoot and flash. That emotional wave crashes, tamed or volcanically active, as if the one afflicted were the shore. The sand on which it beats with a shush or a deafening roar.
At moments like that, go with it. Let the current, the out-pour take you. That's what makes us human. We all have masks that can slip. We all make mistakes, we trip.
But it's hard when the pain dealt doesn't dissolve into nothing, return to its original nature, or soften to that of a daylight bulb. Dimmed, no hissing spark, no licking flame.
How could someone who seemed to be on the same wavelength as me get me so wrong, they wonder. It's puzzling to them because they're genuinely interested in people: their backgrounds, their everyday lives, their culture, as well as in those that appear to share that same spirit. But assumptions, presumptions in this online world are hurtful, and this is where the misunderstood are more likely to be hurt.
A throwaway phrase, a held view, a strong opinion may be taken the wrong way, and that's when the pain starts. Character assessed and pulled apart. Confrontation, a refusal to engage or an abrupt silence. Hurt flows in both directions.
Let the drawbridge down and thieves rush in, upset beliefs and perceptions. Steals precious jewels from the victim, a sense of who they thought they were, and crushes them. Grounds them to a fine dust.
But this loss, this pain doesn't make those misunderstood seek to be consoled. The very opposite. Pain is a catalyst, a helpful companion, an instrument for compassion. All they want from life is to be understood as to understand.
Picture Credit: The Tragedy, Pablo Picasso 1903