O brave new world. That has such people in’t!

Good evening/morning/midday/midnight my dears! I have once again managed to be absent for an indecent period of time, and have come back with some new perspectives.

Exactly. Perspective. That’s what my brain has been mulling over in the very slow and painful process of thinking these past few days. So allow me to just as slowly and painfully take you through the reasons why, and what is has finally come up with. Oh, and don’t expect anything grand.

A few days ago my lovely boyfriend came for a very enjoyable visit; we went out to a great restaurant, set out on a midnight hunt for chocolate in dangerous territory, went dress-hunting but found only pizza and Zippo lighters and most glorious of all, talked. We discussed little things and big big things, and somewhere in there, I gained new perspective. The realisation that some things you just cannot understand until you have actually experienced them yourself! “Huh. Well that’s fairly obvious” you might say. But just stop to think for a second.

We are the centre of our universe. From within our heads, we observe, think, smell, sense, calculate, remember and react to everything that happens around us. From within our heads, we imagine what it feels like to be someone else, or to be in a different situation, one so very foreign to you that your brain has to conjure images from movies long ago seen, stories long ago read and cat pee long ago smelled. Yet there’s a funny part of our brain that tells us that we understand exactly what the other person is talking about. A part we’d like to think of as not only imaginative and creative but also very empathic.

Dead wrong. Assuming that you understand someone else perfectly is the exact opposite of empathy. Empathy is to attempt to relate to what someone else is feeling, knowing that their situation is unique and you can only try to imagine what it feels like. But for some curious reason, this part of our brain – let’s call it the “I’m awesome because I can relate perfectly to everyone” part. Or maybe imo for short. – tells us that we in fact know what they feel, know what they think and so in some strange sense are connected to them and can not only offer kind advice and solace, but give instructions, and tell them that they are wrong.

Well, let’s just for a second try to tell that part of our brains to go screw themselves. I know that right now you’ll have to stop yourself from thinking either “I know exactly what she’s talking about, I feel like this all the time!” or “Whoa, she’s gone batty, she must be this and this kind of a person to talk like this, I have her pegged” but whichever one it is, that’s the part of our brains that we somehow can’t seem to switch off in the interactions we have with other human beings. Just try though.

From this place where we are standing now, isn’t it somehow easier to understand others? Because when someone says something, instead of our brain instantly jumping to five thousand conclusions about how they feel, what they must be thinking and what would make them feel better/what they ought to do about it, we can just sit back, watch, listen and actually hear what they are saying, and not what we think about what they are saying. I know it gets eerily quiet in there when you do this, but it’s also kind of fun, and a relief.

Maybe people would sometimes just like to be heard, to be listened to, and not to always get a pat on the back or a “The sun will come up tomorrow!”/”There are other fish in the sea!”/”Get off your high horses!”/”You’re doing it wrong!” etc. Maybe if we take the little imo in our heads and bundle it up in a roll of duct-tape and tuck it away in a dark corner for a few hours each day, we could honestly see what is going on around us, and not just what we think and feel about it all the time.

Studies (can’t remember where I read this now, was some kind of medical or psychological journal) made with 3 and 4-year-olds has shown that it’s around that age when, if put in front of a model of say, a small mountain, it’s around that age that children develop their ability to see the mountain from someone else’s perspective, and not just the side that they see. So we obviously have that ability somewhere. Unless we grew up and lost it. But are we really the people with “different-coloured lenses on our glasses” (thank you Fynn and Mr. God, This Is Anna. Still one of the best books ever) or do we have it in us to take those lenses off from time to time, open our eyes and see things as they truly are?

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A Bug’s Strife

As a prelude and an explanation for this post, I recently got rid of a plant that had an anthill growing in the pot, which for months now has been in our bathroom. It took me a while to truly realise that the pot was the source of the problem, and I got rid of it last night. Over time, my interaction with the ants, unfriendly as it may have been, has lead me to some strange musings on what it must be like to be those ants. 

Day 1; The aliens have captured us from our earthen home among trees and plants and stuck us in some kind of massive basket lined with plastic. I believe they are keeping us here to observe our behaviour. The country outside the basket is barren, the only plant in sight the one growing in our new habitat, and I have sent some scouts out over the grey basin in search for food and a way back home.

Day 9; The aliens keep pouring water on us. None of the men have drowned yet, but I fear it might happen. Are they trying to torture us for information? We will tell them nothing, we stand united.

Day 45; The aliens appear to have servants, much smaller but still greater than a thousand of my fellow men. The plant, which has so far been the only friendly and familiar thing in this hostile environment, is now slowly getting torn to pieces and disassembled by these creatures. It has become clear to me that the alien is indeed trying to torture us with the water, since it does nothing for the plant in this state.

Day 56; Some of the troops managed to reach a distant land, across the boarders of the grey basin, where sustenance was abundant, but before they could bring any back to our new habitat they were killed by the alien. There was an ungodly rattle, these great lights flooded the world and a few hours later, one of the scouts returned with the sad news. Why then has the alien brought us here, if they intend not to observe us but to starve us to death?

Day 72; We have found sustenance, in the shape of a strong-tasting, sticky liquid high up above the basin floor. It is blue in colour and minty in taste and it makes the men rowdy but it keeps us alive. Did the aliens intend for us to find and drink this liquid? What is their plan?

Day 130; The aliens’ underlings are attempting to slaughter us, slowly but cruelly, one by one. They will lie in wait on the floor of the basin behind the great white metallic object that occasionally fills with a thunderous waterfall, and though I have sent out many men to defeat them, none of them have returned. Is this a game to them? Do they realise their cruelty? They do not seem to be as intelligent as the aliens, as they appear to be following their commands.

Day 202; My suspicions were correct. One of the underlings forcefully knocked our new home over, bringing the earth and now dead plant crashing all over the floor of the basin. I ordered the men to scatter but our attempts were futile, the alien that has been trying to drown us used a big device to bring us from the basin-floor and back into the woven prison. In here, we may starve to death, drown or get eaten by the underlings, but whatever fate befalls us, I know it is a dark one.

Day 204; The previous behaviour was repeated. Why the alien keeps returning us to this pot after it has its underlings knock our home over baffles me. Perhaps they expect us to rebuild our home, maybe they are seeing how we survive in an unfriendly, dangerous environment. Either way, there will not be much time left for us now. I know the end is near.

Day 216; I write this in the darkness. The alien has removed us from the confines of the basket-like structure and put us inside something that appears to be thin plastic. I could feel us moving a great distance, but there is no light, and since the rocky landing, no movement or sound has been made. I can tell from the surrounding smell that there is some kind of sustenance nearby.

Day 217; I sent the men out, but shortly after came a roaring of the skies and a rumbling never before felt. I have lost my men and am currently hiding under an orange-peel, in the vain hope that these words will someday reach another civilization and teach them of the horrors we have lived through. These are my last words. May they aid future generations.

For he that hath, to him shall be given

Congrats to my boyfriend for guessing the previous post’s quote (are we surprised? Not me!). As promised, the person who guessed correctly also got to pick my theme for this weeks post. I got a few options and eventually settled for the one that I was most unwilling to write about, because generally when you’re hesitant to write about something, it’s because you have a lot of questions/emotions regarding this thing, and so if you write about it, it will inevitably become very interesting.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

No, but seriously. Knowing me as well as he does, he said “Maybe you should write about the problem you have with people doing things for you, and them giving you things”. What does he mean, you may ask? Well. For the longest time, since my early teens, I cringe inside whenever someone does something nice for me, or gives me something. I get this instant rush of guilt, of “Why are you doing this for me? Do you want something from me? Or do you honestly think I deserve this?”, and as soon as I’ve – less than gracefully – accepted the gift – less than gratefully = either saying “Thank you!” a hundred times, as if the person gave me something absolutely wonderful, or grumbling about why they would do something like that for me, and could I please refuse to accept? – my mind starts racing towards options that would help me somehow repay the person for the favour/present.

Through the years I’ve had lots of theories as to why I do this. One is that I have this need to be one step ahead. I need the other person to know that I love them more, that they mean more to me than I do to them, and unless it’s either in perfect balance or I’m ahead of them in this “game”, then I panick and sit in a dark corner staring at the gaping void which is my debt to this person.

OK, that’s a little over dramatic, but you get the point.

Another possible reason is I really do not feel like I’ve earned anyone’s kindness, that I don’t deserve anyone going out of their way for me. That I have not made myself worthy their love and their displays of affection, so the little person in my head that goes “dude, you are a really crappy person, it’s a fact” has a great big party whenever someone does something really nice for me. “Look!” he says. “Here’s this really awesome person doing something really nice for you. We both know you don’t deserve it, in fact you barely deserve being acquainted with someone this awesome, so I think you should feel really, really bad about yourself now. OK. You work on that and I’m just going to go make some tea.”

Either way, it’s something I can scarcely get past, no matter how hard I try. If someone gives me a compliment about how I’m a great person or how gorgeous I look, it takes a whole lot of willpower to just say “thank you” instead of “Uhm, is there a person standing behind me that I don’t know about?” or “You are mistaken, you just need to get to know me a little better”. If someone offers me a ride, I need to be able to give them gas money, or supper, or coffee, and if all else fails, a really big hug and an “I owe you one! Next time we have lunch it’s on me!”

The number of times I’ve snuck money into people’s bags and coats, the backseat of their car, dropped a bill on the floor so they’d have to pick it up or dashed to the cash so I can pay for the meal first are too many to count. The problem goes further where it takes quite a bit of effort to ask someone to do me a favour. To ask someone for a ride for instance, I first need to make sure it wouldn’t be a bother to them, and that I can give them something in return. To ask someone to pick something up for me from the store, I need to make sure I’m cooking them dinner later. If I want someone to look at something I’ve written, I need to at least do that for them in return, or maybe send them a “thank you!” card. When I lived in Canada, our aforementioned crazy downstairs neighbours turned out to be a hopeless case and there was never peace between our two households, but here’s a little story as an example for what I’m talking about.

One Christmas, I worked long hours at both my jobs, so I was never at home and when I was it was more or less to sleep or eat. I had no energy to get the house nice for Christmas, especially when I’d be spending so little time in it. So there were two or three decorations kicking around in the living-room, but no lights, no tree, no nothing like that. I really didn’t think much of it till the neighbours left a rather acrid note, where among other things, they said “Tell Amki to stop being such a grinch and put up some lights and have a swig of wine and maybe she’ll enjoy Christmas better”. This note made me cry. Sobbing I explained to my boyfriend at the time that I was as far as one could be from a grinch, that I in fact owned not one but TWO Santa-hats, and that on both my jobs I spread the most Christmas-cheer out of anyone. So first I wrote this really elaborate poem, that went something like this;

There once was a girl, who lived on your roof.
She thought that for Christmas, she needed no proof,
That she loved it so dearly, with a glee and a joy,
That only was seen in a wee girl or boy.

Her neighbours they said “we think you’re quite bad,
yes, like a mean grinch!” and it made her right sad.
For Christmas she’d wanted some glimmering lights
to put on her house, and spark in the night.

But she’d had no time in between Christmas-shopping,
Between present-wrapping and all the corn-popping.

She hoped everyone knew, that in her heart beamed,
A love for the season that practically gleamed!
And that no-one would doubt it, so bright and so strong,
That it lit up her Christmas and all the year long.

But then as I was about to put that on their door-step, I realised it was just too spiteful, and unless it left them completely unphased, I’d just make them feel guilty. So instead, I found some time to get Christmas-lights, put them up on Christmas-eve, and left a little basket of chocolates with a note and a drawing of the Grinch on it which said; “Look up! Merry Christmas!” This resulted in the crazy neighbour-lady bundling up the stairs with a hastily wrapped box of chocolates and an offer to have some of their Christmas-dinner the next day. Everything was back to normal a few days later when they found some other strange thing to complain about. But yes, that is how I tried to resolve a situation that had started with a rather nasty insult.

This trait of mine must be really annoying to most people. Mainly because I do so love giving people things, and doing stuff for others. Now, that’s not in general. I’m not a good Samaritan. Though I get a little burst of happiness every time I manage to help a perfect stranger in whatever little way I can. But that’s just the self-righteousness getting to my head. No. I just absolutely love giving things to the people I love, anything I can do to make their lives better, anything at all to make them understand how important they are to me. So when someone loves giving and doing things for you, but turns into this little cringing, pale, wide-eyed creature every time you try to do the same for them, it tends to get annoying in the long run.

So, does anyone else have this problem? Have you had this problem but managed to work through it to the other side, where you can accept things like a normal person and not feel a twinge of guilt? Do you have any suggestions? Would you simply like to say “Oh my, first world problems, poor you. Over dramatic nutcase”? Anyway, comments of any kind would be welcome.

Oh. And the same thing goes for this post’s quote as for previous one!

I frown upon him, yet he loves me still

You may well wonder why I didn’t apologise in my latest post for not having written in so long. Well. It occurred to me that since I haven’t made any promises about posting on a regular and frequent basis, I haven’t really let anyone down, and so there was nothing to apologise for. And I’m rather sure that even my most dedicated readers – if I have such – do not walk around crying for days if I haven’t posted in a while. So I figured maybe I’ll stop apologising for something that doesn’t really make anyone angry or sad.

Speaking of moods and feelings, those are things that have come to me easier of late. To people who have just met me, I tend to come off as a – and here I’m quoting comments that people who don’t know me have made on my behaviour and mannerisms – energetic, happy, enthusiastic, cute, nice person. I think this has something to do with a) I can get very easily excited by very silly and mundane things, b) I tend to smile and laugh a lot, because I noticed that people who cry all the time aren’t invited to parties as often, c) I have this problem where I need people to like me so I’ll be very friendly and d) if I don’t feel like I’m up to being social and nice I don’t leave the house.

But also, and most of all, I have since my teen-years done a really good job at hiding and suppressing my negative feelings about people or events. I have a fear of confrontation that prevents me from speaking my mind on many an occasion, and I constantly worry that other people will get down or depressed if I express any displeasure or sadness when around them. So in all of my friendships, I have very few fights, and never any serious ones. The last time I raised my voice at someone I was 16 and the someone were two random kids who ran past me at a summer-fair and sprayed me with that horrible gooey foam-stuff they have in cans. (To whomever invented those things; I kind of hate you.)

Most importantly of all, it has prevented me from having fights in my romantic relationships, at least until very recently. I was worried that I, when angered, would say hurtful things that I couldn’t take back, and that mayhap my outburst would lead to a break-up, or the other person seeing me in a different light, or that they might perhaps feel really guilty about their behaviour and try to make up for it for months afterwards. So instead I would do my best to shut up whenever something didn’t feel right, whenever I felt a bit mistreated or overlooked, and I would either try to blame it on my own inadequacy, or go around harbouring this grudge for really long, and eventually bring it up at some point months later, together with a long list of other misunderstandings and slights – guys, if this sounds familiar to you, that might be because lots of women tend to do this very same thing, only some of them just put hot sauce in your underwear instead of trying to discuss the issues at a later time -, which would make my other half very confused and quite hurt. This would generally end with me apologising for my behaviour, and the issues were never resolved.

I know, very healthy behaviour. I thought this was a bad cycle that could never be broken; me getting hurt or upset, not saying anything and bottling it all up, taking it out on myself or letting the other person know way past the issues expiration date (you know it’s past the expiration date when it starts getting this funny-looking red mould stuff on it) and eventually feeling like crap for saying anything, apologising and ending up with nothing resolved and a little more guilt on my conscience.

But you know how we tend to think we can’t change and then realise one day that we have? It hit me about a month or two ago, when I just had a fight with my boyfriend (who has a blog, check it out and pat him on the back for being such a good person to fight with!). Anger and hurt had been felt, words had been said – no name-calling though, to everyone’s relief. I suck at name-calling anyway -, misunderstandings had been had and eventually cleared up, apologies made and everything was back to normal. Then it dawned on me. I had never, NEVER had a fight with my significant other before! At first I panicked for a second, wondering if this was a bad sign perhaps, but then I mentally broke down laughing at myself. How could fighting be a bad sign in a relationship? Something so normal, something that everyone does, something that is perhaps vital to a healthy relationship?

I asked the relative of a friend of mine what she thought was the secret to a healthy long-term relationship, the very day after we’d – we = in this case, me and boyfriend – had a really proper fight, and to my great surprise her answer was, straight up, without hesitation; “You have to be able to fight”. Needless to say, I laughed helplessly for a few minutes. The world is strange sometimes. Over time I thought more and more about this, and tried to figure out why this was. Why were the fights necessary, why would they be good, would a relationship work without them, what are the pros and cons? I realised rather early on that of course there are different reasons why people fight, and HOW they fight, and that these differences are very crucial.

The unhealthy fights – and please remember I have only been an observer to these and can’t really speak from my own experience, so feel free to butt in with comments and your own perspective – often come from one or both parties feeling hurt/betrayed/overlooked etc. A dangerous thing with these fights is that one or both parties feel wronged, and that instantly also makes them go “I am the victim here, you are the bad guy, and I am right”. When someone steps into a fight with the “I’m right” card taped to their forehead, getting anywhere in that argument is going to be very difficult. These fights tend to escalate into the kind of screaming profanities at the top of your lungs, packing your bags, slamming doors kind of thing. I think it’s impossible for an argument like this to end well until both parties learn to listen to what the other person is saying and give them a bit of empty space to express themselves properly in.

The healthy fights – and if you don’t think there can be such a thing please say so and why – mostly come from one or both parties not really understanding where the other person is coming from, and why they are doing/saying what they are doing/saying. In these fights, people will be upset as well, but only because they can’t understand the person they love in this instance and that always makes people sad. This tends to not result in name-calling, but rather a lot of hand-waving and the voice climbing maybe and octave or so as you try to get the other person to listen. The reason these fights are good is because there is no “I’m right” card on anyone’s forehead, but simply a “Would you mind explaining what the hell you’re doing, you idiot. P.S I love you” sign on the wet floor. In these fights, there’s an unspoken understanding that whatever the other person is doing it’s probably not to hurt you, and nothing personal, and you will probably stop being so mad at them once you understand why. You can look past the upset feelings of the fight into a future – hopefully nearby, long fights are never fun – where you can understand why, and once you understand, you just love each other more.

So no, I’m not saying that constantly fighting is going to build a stronger, healthier relationship. Nor that yelling and feeling upset every once in a while is a fun and productive past-time. But I am saying that if you can’t fight, if there is never any reason for you to fight, then you are either cloned from each other and have no individual thoughts, or you are hiding the hurt feelings and misunderstandings, keeping them to yourself and sowing seeds of resentment that will eventually make cracks in the foundations of your relationship, so you had better talk while the wound is still fresh, or it might always leave a scar there.

(Seeing as how in this post I sound like some kind of relationship-guru that’s hopped up on caffeine and narcissus-gas, I would really like your input and stories from your own personal experience.)

 

Fun competition! First person to identify the quote I used for a title to this post and tell me the name of the author and the work it was in – in the comments below, creepy phone-calls from hidden numbers are discouraged – gets to pick the topic of my next post! Not much of a prise I know, but it’s the best I can do for now, I spent all of my money on Roombas.