I always feel like other people are better at being hurt and disappointed than I am. I judge this by how rarely I see people crying on the floor. That makes little sense, considering I can only remember crying on the floor once in my adult life, but I am determined to believe there’s some kind of secret to managing feelings that everyone but me knows.
I look at other people and admire the way they seem to just carry on. I guess I do the same, but it feels less heroic.
I also imagine that other people are not bothered by the petty little things I sometimes let drag me down. Simple observation proves this false. In fact, I’m often surprised by the way some people are not self aware enough to realize how petty they’re being or aren’t controlled enough to keep those thoughts inside where they cause less harm to others.
But I also kind of admire them for putting all of that ugliness on display, trusting that other people will understand and forgive them.
I get obsessive about doing the exact right thing. Understanding things as they really are, being fair to everyone involved, and justifying my every word. I think that if I find the right way to think about it all, then it won’t hurt, and if I do all the right things, then everything will work out for the best.
It just doesn’t work that way. And that’s when I admire the people who are less careful with their words and don’t worry so much about being fair.
There are real limits to empathy and even if you accept on an intellectual level that people feel the same way that you do, it is hard to really understand that pain when you’re not experiencing it yourself. It is hard even to recall the real depth of it after it has passed through your life.
I suppose what I’m getting at is not understanding the pain of others, but understanding your own pain. Not even the big blows, but just the everyday difficulties of being a human being. I keep looking to other people, because it seems like they know what they’re doing. I want to grab a notebook, sit down with a pen, and ask, “How are you doing that?” Except, I don’t think I want the real answers.
So instead I read fiction and think of all the non-answers provided in existential thought and talk to people and write about my feelings and drink a lot of tea.
Written: November 2011.