I am confused.
Not in a “please tell me that I can get through this” kind of “where’s my sympathy” way. I’ve experienced facebook. You throw your discloser out there and either get a few “hey, I hope your ok’s,” or you get a bombardment of friends telling you their own stories, or worse… telling you what you MUST DO to fix yourself. It’s a bit like getting a cold and everyone advising you which old-timey remedy or over-the-counter drug to use. Sure, some of it can be helpful while others are not. When you get a cold and take vitamin C you can get well in seven days. But if you just let it take its own coarse it can take a whole week.
No. I’m not looking for sympathy. I know how hard life is for all of us. I don’t expect it to be any different than it is.
But I feel the need for a new language for suffering. Or rather, a new way to use our language. Mostly a new way to listen, really.
It seems to me that we are confined by our language habits. What if we started talking to each other differently, just to see what would happen? What if, instead of adding to the sharp voices that are always shouting what the world should be, we sat back and wondered at what the world is?
So what would be a new response to my opening sentence?
It could be simple compassion,
ME: “I am confused.”
One word acknowledging that life is complicated.
Or what about curiosity?
ME: “I am confused.”
YOU: “And how does that feel?”
Me: “Well, it sometimes feels like being strong in the face of chaos. And it sometimes feels like tears for no good reason except they are there. Right now it feels like monkey shit.”
I often feel that we use our language in much the same way women use chocolate. We don’t buy a small portion of really freaky good stuff and mull over every bite the way those anorexic models do in the commercials (They puke it up after. You know they do). No, we wait until the kids are in school and the husband/wife (gay marriage is becoming more legal than illegal these days, thank people) is at work, then we bring out the party bag of candy bars and gorge until we see sparkles in the air. This is how language is used, especially the language of vulnerability. We binge on sentences that beg for low quality responses. It doesn’t really acknowledge our vulnerability, just kind of pukes it out after.
And how often have you heard common phrases that actually discourage weakness?
“She fought the good fight.”
“He was fearless in the face of it all.”
“Lets stop and think about this logically.”
Sometimes logic is the least reasonable course of action. Sometimes fear is a very useful tool.
And some of us acknowledge that we didn’t fight the good fight. Some of us were the zebra that ran with the herd as long as we could and happened to be closest to the lion. And when the lion knocked us to the ground we didn’t get back up. We just waited and hoped for a quick end.
Again, not a call for sympathy, but a call for a new use of language that recognizes that there is more to life than being strong.
In fact, I find that most people who try to buck-up a suffering soul are using words like band-aids. They see their friend’s wound and want to cover it up, claiming that it will help it heal. But what if we sat back and offered just a listening ear?
YOU: “Wow, that’s quite some cut you got there.”
ME: “Yeah. Hurts like shit.”
YOU: “Good thing your body knows how to close the wound.”
ME: “Give me time. I will not always be like this.”
I like to think of it as flipping the words. I get mixed responses. Most people just laugh it off as weird old Elea. Others get angry because they didn’t get what they wanted from me. But now and then, my words actually get in. It’s one of the most delightful experiences I receive when someone else does it to me. I let that person, that moment in time, actually change the course of my thoughts. I stop being me for an instant and let myself see them.
It saved my life a few times. No, NO. That’s another common phrase, overused, overdramatized. I will try again.
It helped me get out of the stuck in nothingness part of grief I call “IN-BETWEEN.” I let someone else in, listened with an attentive ear, and let all the million busy thoughts of my own fade into the background. It didn’t heal the wound any faster or better, just gave me something different to do while my body took care of the rest.
We could use our language differently. We could use it to listen better, instead of shout louder. We could use it to feel compassion for each other. We could even learn to harmonize and synchronize and maybe create new sounds.