Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Don't Think You Are Alone

The irony of stigma-tainted situations is that it has the image of rare occurrences, but they are actually quite common. 

The "older" single. Infertility. Miscarriages. Divorce. Mental illness. Physical illness. Unemployment. Off-the-derech family. The list continues. 

When Ma became ill, we chose not to announce the news from the rooftops, however there were times when in response to a direct question, we reluctantly informed. 

A common reaction, to our surprise, was reciprocation; the other quickly shared their own trials—a parent, a sibling, a child. They were eager to unburden themselves, to make a connection. Suddenly, the viewpoint changed: You think you are singled out in your hardship. You feel alone. But you aren't. 

Jennifer Senior, in her review of The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs, relates the sensations of loneliness: 
. . . what lingered with me is the social isolation she describes during her many years of trying and failing to get pregnant. “Increasingly, our life was less and less like the lives of our married friends,” she writes, “who had entered a new and somewhat exclusive world of playdates and birthday parties and bedtimes.”
You need not be struggling to start a family to identify with this melancholy observation. People who’ve opted not to have children will surely see something of themselves in it, and so will those who are still searching to find a life mate. (Having reached 36 before pairing off with my husband, I felt a familiar heartsickness when reading these words.) There’s something truly challenging, if not excruciating, about being out of step with your cohort. And if you want what they’ve got, what story do you tell yourself as you bide your time? That living without is the new normal? Or that it’s only a temporary spell of distress?
In terms of fertility, the article states that one out of eight couples have difficulty conceiving. That's pretty common. The same would go for the other examples I listed above.

Yet those going through them feel alone. But they very much aren't! If anything, nearly everyone out there has gone through pain of one form of another. Yet we don't want to admit it. 

For good reason. 

I would think that the right person to commiserate with me would be someone who married "late," or who had also lost a parent at a young age. Not so. Very often those same individuals who went through the same trial are eager to condescend, as opposed to empathize. They had been pitied; they wish to correct the balance by pitying in turn. 

Pain is pain, and many have had it. Empathy doesn't require the exact circumstances to be felt. One needn't feel lonely. There is a community of fellows out there, believe me. 


Some Poems Don't Rhyme said...


Brene Brown.

“Shame cannot survive being spoken...and being met with empathy”

(Condescending) “sympathy” vs. empathy


Anonymous said...

I think some of it is personality, some is life experience.

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that it doesn't matter if someone is in a relationship, is not in a relationship, dealing with this challenge or that. (I.e. PL is writing this as a married woman for example!)

Empathy can always make a situation a little bit easier. It's the difference between "Your situation sucks and there must be something wrong with you and maybe you can try to fix it," (judgmental and hurtful), versus "It sucks and know how you feel." The latter is making the choice to connect to that hurting and vulnerable place inside yourself to be there for another person.

Empathy and feelings don't get people married or make sick people better, but it sure as hell makes things just a little bit easier. If the idea of being empathic makes you uncomfortable you have what to think about. Just because you might have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have.

Thanks PL for this post!