Random Thoughts About Stuff

You will have doubtless gathered from my previous post that my (extended) family is experiencing something of a crisis this season. There have been phone calls and emails and txts, but few real ideas about What Can Be Done other than to Stand By Each Other In These Difficult Times. How interestingly hard it is to be of help to one another when someone is in pain, whether from illness or emotional distress. As always, I wish I could write about what we're going through because writing always helps me make sense of things or at least put things in perspective. But when others are involved, I find I simply can't. And yet, ironically, or so it seems to me, if only I could write about it, I might be of help. More help than I could ever be just getting upset over the phone.

Some of the things that I might say, if I were asked, not necessarily to any one person, just generally. Don't be so hard on yourself, it isn't all your fault. I know it feels bad now, but what everyone needs is a bit of distance; at the moment, we're all scared and that means it is hard for us to see clearly what to do. None of this has anything to do with how smart you are; this isn't about intelligence, not in the book-learning sense. I know you feel lonely, but in part that is a consequence of being so good at what you do. Nevertheless, just because you're really good at one thing doesn't mean you are smarter than everyone else at everything.

I'm not saying this well, perhaps a fencing metaphor would help. A-level fencers are few and far between; there are usually only a few at any one club, which means that it is hard for A-level fencers to find people their level to fence against. They cherish the times when they can fence against each other because it is only in fencing someone better than yourself that you are (typically) able to fence your very best. This holds in other contexts (working on cars, studying history, diagnosing an illness) as well. But being good at fencing (or cars or history or medicine) does not make you an expert in everything, nor does it mean you are smarter than everyone else. It just means that you are going to find it difficult to find others who share your interests and who can challenge you to excel.

This came out better on the phone yesterday; I'm still not saying it very well. Because, you see, there are so many things tangled up in this situation, there really isn't any one answer to what's going on. There's this personality and that personality, this history and that history, this point of view and that point of view. There may or may not be truth involved; people rarely say everything that they are thinking even in the heat of anger. But the more you try to isolate yourself from others out of self-protection, the more isolated you feel. Am I being clear enough? I hope not, because I don't really want anyone to feel got at, just listened to.

I wish so very much that I could meet everyone involved on the fencing strip and that we could work things out that way. "Oh, you are using that attack on me? Well, then I need to counter here, keep my distance, give you time to set it up, and then parry-riposte, here and here." Sigh. We may as well be naked when we meet each other on the fencing strip, so transparent do our personalities become--she always attacks, he defends by retreating, she only ever uses that action, he gets really upset when he is behind--but the bruises we give each other with our foils are as nothing to the bruises that we inflict upon each other's souls in the everyday give-and-take of life.

I gave the Dragon Baby a special bone yesterday for Thanksgiving; this morning, she threw up her breakfast all over the living room rug. She even made it onto the sofa to vomit up what was left once she'd barfed all over the floor. I wish I could barf up everything that I've been taking in these past several days and be clean of it as easily as she dealt with her overly-rich food. Maybe I should listen a little more carefully to my own advice: don't be so hard on yourself, this isn't your fault. And yet, when someone in one's family is suffering, isn't it hard not to feel that it is (one's fault), if only because if one were a better daughter/sister/wife/mother, maybe he or she would have been able to come to you for help? No, anymore than the dog needed me when she was being sick. People have to be sick for themselves. And then we can help clean up the mess.

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