People looked at me and smiled. I was sitting in a Borders Book Store Cafe having a tea and reading a new book that I'd bought that day. The writer is brilliantly funny and I kept breaking into chuckles. For those who, like me, are aficianados of the movie "A Christmas Carol" with Alistair Sim you will remember a scene where Tiny Tim is looking in a toy shop window. There is an automated toy that laughs with a bouncy kind of rhythm. I have always felt that I looked like that toy when I giggle. So people smiled, just like Tiny Tim, at me bouncing and giggling.
I set the book down three chapters in and had a sip of my tea.
Then it hit me.
A deep sadness.
I get this sometimes when I read a book like this. Most often when I read brilliant literature I am just in awe or impressed. But every now and then I read a book that I would have liked to have had the talent to write. Where there writer has a style, unlike mine only in the way that words spin to brilliance. I felt deeply disabled. Something that I would love to do is out of my grasp.
I have just enough talent to know that I don't have just enough talent.
And it saddened me.
I know that we are not supposed to compare ourselves to others as it leads to either vanity or despair. But still it's hard not to. Really hard not to.
"I wish I could talk like you," he said to me. He had come to a workshop for those with disabilities. He came and chatted to me intoducing himself simply as Paul. I asked him if he liked the workshop and he said "yes" but then he added that he wished that he could get up and talk like I did. I brushed away his sadness - diminished my ability to him so that he had nothing to envy. But envy he did anyways.
I understood today, what it felt like for him. And I wish I had that opportunity over again. I would have taken that longing, that sadness more seriously. I wouldn't have brushed it away. I would have seen the deep compliment hidden in his envy and should have talked with him more seriously about his dream. I had mistakenly thought that he was talking about me when indeed he was sharing deeply about himself.
How often this happens to me these days as I get older. Something will happen and suddenly I will have an understanding of something from my past - long past, recent past. A momentary light is shone for me to see glaring error, brilliant mistakes and sometimes surprising competency.
Just before writing this email, I looked the author up and sent an email saying, "I wish I could write like you."
It's the deepest compliment that I can give.
It's the deepest compliment that I ever got.
Pity was - it was for something else.