What’s worse than harsh words? Perhaps no words at all.
I had a conversation with a friend today in Starbucks after my biology exam. What was supposed to be a quick sip and chat became a two-hour long heart-to-heart. As I drank my Cappuccino and listened to her speak, I felt every word. Every feeling. The hurt in her voice, the self-pity. The anger, the resentment, the love (really, the source of her anguish). You’re only mad because you care. And I thought: never underestimate the effect of words or the power of silence; neglect can be brutal.
Some people just love to flaunt their problems. Air them out in front of you like laundry, gesticulating with their hands with dramatized expressions to match. Sounds annoying right? They may appear to make a big fuss out of nothing, and you may even joke at their immaturity and sensitivity… But when you uncover why and when you see where they’ve been bruised, you start to understand. Your judgement was undue, condemning, Cruel. We’re not all thoughtless creatures, masochists or sociopaths. There are often underlying reasons for seemingly asinine behaviour. For example, these ‘annoying’, pestering people could just be trying to find an outlet, a way to feel better. They need sympathy- that much is obvious, because they’ve been truly hurt. They’re fighting for the attention they’ve been deprived, or desperately trying to jettison a sense of guilt. They want to make known that they are victims. When you think of it like that, they’re people again. People who you can’t hate.
I’m seeing this time and time again though it never ceases to be a wake-up call. On grad night, I sat on a bench in some dodgy park with a guy I seriously didn’t like. We talked. Civilly. By the end of it, we’re still drunk and suddenly on good terms.
See, he’s one of those guys with an IDGAF attitude. He makes you think that he could care less about you or anyone in the world besides approximately two other friends. He’s abrasive, frank, and frequently called an asshole (not that he cares). He deserves it, I thought. The way he treats people is the way he should be treated, which is with a combination of indifference and disrespect when it comes down to it. But when we talked and I remembered, I knew that he wasn’t always this way. Sure, he’s not the model gentleman but he’s lost faith in a lot of people. He never could get over certain events in the past, when he was ridiculed and alienated by people he thought were his friends, and that has affected his relationships to this day. His self-esteem is guarded by this rough, nonchalant demeanor and shielded, I exaggerate, by his colossal exterior (he’s certainly not the tiniest boy I’ve ever encountered). For the first time in a long while, I felt sympathy for him. When authors are able to create this hate-love relationship and make you feel sympathy and repulsion simultaneously towards a character, they capture the essence of the human. The universal truth that we are so much more than meets the eye; sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly. Tennessee Williams is one of these gifted writers with the ability to construct complex characters like Blanche and Stanley, who are both arguably annoying, troubled and flawed. #relatable
People are so fragile! You may think they don’t care as much as they do but they do care- deeply. You may not think they’re affected by your off-hand comment or your cold shoulder, but they are. We’re really too quick to judge- I’ve caught myself many times. It’s almost natural to think that the person is weird or simply an asshole without all the information (hello heuristics and the fundamental attribution error). Reminds me of a post from way back: Pidgeonholing.
This made-up word by the dictionary of obscure sorrows captures something along the same vein quite succinctly.
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
Another thing I’ve learnt is that if you value a relationship, honour it with honesty. Even if you no longer value the relationship as much as you once did, honour the person with respect and acknowledgement. Be it a friend or a significant other, do not choose the easy way out simply by opting out altogether. Neglect is brutal because not only does the person feel betrayed and irrelevant as a person, but you’re leaving them in a cockpit with their own torturous thoughts.
Yes! Just two more subjects to go and my exams will be OVER. Then, I can breathe easy again.