Thursday, May 06, 2010

Truly PO'd

She was sitting right in front of me, clearly upset. At the best of times her speech is hard to understand, but now, with the added emphasis of temper, it was impossible. I knew enough to just sit and listen, pick out as many words as I could, try to piece meaning together. Her eyes bore into mine as she talked about something, I gathered something had happened that someone had upset her. But more than that I simply couldn't get.

I am honoured by her presence. She seems to have selected me as someone that she will sit with. She doesn't sit with many. She is wary of people. Trust does not come easily to her. The simple fact that she sits with me is a huge deal. I understand that. I feel that burden as she speaks. I do not want to disappoint her. When she stops talking, when it's time for me to speak. I want to say the right things. I want to be the person she expects me to be.

She's running out of steam now. I am beginning to panic. Soon, it will be my turn. I can't say, 'I understand' when I don't. I can't take her trust and then trick her. It is an offense to the effort that she put into telling me what was upsetting her. I can't say, 'I don't understand'. I can't make her story into mumbo jumbo, I can't take away from her the need to be heard simply because she can't speak well. So, what do I say.

And I realized:

When I get really angry, often I feel that people around me don't understand exactly why I was angry. They get the general gist, but not the precise, exact, 'hey, that's it' reason for my upset. Anger is so idiosyncratic that only the 'feeler' really understands the 'feeling'. We are alone in the experience. What I want from my listeners is something different. She finished.

I looked at her and said, 'I get mad like that too. Don't those things just really piss you off?' She looked and me, shocked at my 'bad words', then a slow grin spread over her face and she said a word that I could understand clearly:



miss kitten said...

some days, that's all a person needs, to be heard and acknowledged.

again and again, done good. VERY good.

wendy said...

I'm putting that in my back pocket! There have been times when I've been in very similar situations and, I hate to confess, I haven't handled them nearly as perfectly as you did. I tried. I did my best. But I also got caught up in "the words" themselves and not being able to understand them. Your solution is so wonderful. Thanks, Dave!

ivanova said...

That is a great story. It's good to know that true communication is possible, even under trying circumstances, if people really use heads and hearts.

liz said...


Kristin said...

Well done Dave.

Susan said...

I like Wendy's response. "I'm putting that in my back pocket."

It didn't stay there long! Five minutes after reading this, 9 yearl old grandson Mikey walked in. He was SOME upset. Even though I understood every word he said, I still said, "I get mad like that too sometimes, Mikey. Life really sucks sometimes, doesn't it?"

He was immediately defused, settled in for a cuddle and then left just as abruptly as he came, headed for the trampoline, presumably to jump off some of that negative energy he had accumulated. He came back a few minutes later, grabbed my hand, squeezed it hard in both of his, and said a quick, "Oh, I just LOVE you Mommy'sMum," before darting back outside.

Thanks, Dave.

patty said...

I Love, Love, Love this.