Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pain and the Ignoramous

Shit happens. And I don’t mean shit in a flippant way, like tripping in the mud or missing the bus. Sometimes life hands you really rough stuff.

There are those kinds of people, however, who go through life with everything falling into place, ticketty-boo, one thing happening after another in the natural order of things without much of a hiccup. I have spoken of such fortunate ones before, and I don’t begrudge them. But there’s something to be said for experience.

I have always thought that, although I haven’t had a HARD life, I have had to work a little bit harder for every good thing that I have. I had to actually try in school to get good grades, I dated for over a decade before I found a man I wanted to marry, I had to pay for everything I owned after age fifteen and I worked 7 days a week for almost four years to have something to my name. No, not terribly hard, but I’ve never had anything handed to me on a silver platter and it’s made me, if nothing else, resourceful and enormously grateful for whatever I do have.

The thing that has always kept me hopeful, and perhaps the reason I have lots of opinions on varying subjects, is because I have LIVED and TRIED and had fantastic and terrible experiences. If someone can confide in me in their troubled time, I usually have a decent idea of where they’re coming from. And I am thankful for that. We all know that the best catharsis in a time of need is to talk to someone who can fully understand where you’re coming from because they’ve been there themselves. Everyone else, although potentially well-meaning, cannot possibly relate.

We can all attempt to empathize, and if we’re good people we try our best to do so. But ultimately, unless we’ve been through the exact same thing, we just don’t get it.

You don’t know what it’s like to lose a child if your dad died. You don’t know what it’s like to be lonely until you’ve had absolutely no one to be with. You don’t know what it’s like to provide for yourself if you’ve always had a third hand slipping you twenties on the side. And you don’t know heartache until your heart has been torn in two.

I would like to appeal to all ignorant people reading this. I mean ignorant in the sense of not knowing what a specific experience is like, which we all are about certain things. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY. I don’t mean don’t offer support, I don’t mean don’t add your two cents where you tactfully see fit. And I don’t mean staying silent when all your friend wants to hear is that he has the right to be angry or scared or hurt. But saying to a heartbroken friend that her wayward husband’s lack of loyalty is a blessing in disguise DOES NOT HELP. IT ACTUALLY DOES THE OPPOSITE.

When people talk to you about their pain, they do so because they are still raw. They don’t need to hear how much better you are without the bastard, or how God has a special someone just around the corner, or how the deceased loved one is in a better place. They need you to grieve with them. They need you to feel their loss. They want you to tell them that they love you and they are there for you if you need something. They want you to be specific in your exhortations. Don’t make vague promises that you both know may or may not be true. If you believe a heartbroken friend will find someone else because they are a good catch, tell them that. If you believe your brother will be okay because he has marketable skills that many companies need, say it. If you’ve known loss and you can say with authority that the pain subsides with time, encourage with that.

I could have done without the latest event in my life. I may be many things, but I don’t treat people like shit and I didn’t deserve it. But I know it will make me more empathetic, because I now truly understand a great pain. That doesn’t make me grateful for the experience. The most I can hope is to, at the very least, be a comfort to other people going through the same thing.

(Do ask me to elaborate. This is a blog, not a one-on-one.)

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