Friday, September 25, 2009

What it means to comfort someone

The question has always been for me, how do you care? How do you show it? How do you express it? How does compassion work in this fucked-up world of ours?

How do stop a person's hurt when they come to your shoulder with tears on their cheeks? How do you make that pain lessen, stopper the sadness in its slow trickle down the face to hang from their chin? The tears-drops just waiting to fall, like small pieces of a person's heart that have given up and only want to end it... they remind me of so many little suicides.

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Times have been where I was the only one around and times have been I was just the one someone chose to open-up to. Didn't want to know their secrets (although the writer in me, the goddamn curious cat in me might've been interested, looking for satisfaction to bring it back) but they told me anyways, like it was a drowning them or something. You know that lull on the beach as a big wave is about to come in? It was like that. First things start in this unbearable quiet, and then comes the pain-water, rushing to escape, even as it drowns me with them...

But, y'know, whatever. So it goes, right? That's the price you pay for being a good person, and you pay it, because even though you don't feel very good about yourself watching another in anguish look to you - of all the fucking shit-filled geniuses - to ease the pain, be that comfort, be that listener, be that soother, be that arm-stroker and awkward hug-giver... if you didn't do that, you'd probably feel a lot less good about yourself than if you didn't. And that's the crap-crap-crappy truth, dear reader.

So how do we do it? How do we do those things that are unexpectedly expected of us? How do I comfort someone when they tell me, "yeah my boyfriend beats me" or "my kids are mentally retarded and make my life a living hell" or "i hate myself so much that i hide in the bathroom and cry my eyes out because everything sucks and nobody cares, and i'm sick all the time and nobody cares, and every day i think i should just kill myself." What the fuck do you say to that? What the hell do I know better than anyone else? There's no way through those kinds of problems except the ones you make for yourself. But instead they're coming to me, like I know something! Like I've got a clue, because they know I survived too. If only they understood that so much of my life is luck... and the rest is just a coincidence.

When someone cries on your shoulder should you just shut-up and let 'em cry? Should you try to quiet their sobs, their moans? Should you rub their back, calm the wracking a body makes, seizures like they're trying to jump outside of themselves, if only for a second just to - to - to stop!

It's funny how we all try so hard to stop, and how we all try to move so fast at the time. Irony could be called the duality of Life's big versus contest. This and That. One or the Other. Black vs White. Top vs Bottom. A tournament, of sorts, between everything and anything.

Oh, and the stuff I hear from other people, the complete crap that comes outta their head - as if such sunny-side bullshit platitudes were something you could just serve up to everyone and the problem is solved? It's more complicated than that! You can't tell someone who got dumped by the love of their life that, "oh he's just a shell of a man, he's a douchebag/asshole/jerk, doesn't deserve you, you're so much better." How does that help? How does simplifying a person's pain to such oft-repeated phraseology make it better? You're putting band-aids on stab wounds! You're blowing kisses to third-degree burns and expecting it not to still hurt?

The insanity! The insanity! The sheer madness of humanity to survive itself after being bludgeoned near to death by itself. Some days I rage against my lack of understanding... and other days I can only shake my head.

An acquaintance of mine told me about her ex-boyfriend. He was a "great guy" at first, loving, caring, always getting her to laugh. Then, one day he stopped being that "great guy" and turned into an emotionally abusive alcoholic. It only took a few weeks for her to find out that he always was. Didn't see it because he didn't want her to, and she didn't want to either. They pretended to be better people than they really were - she had her own problems with not being a cheating whore - and they went about the business of falling in love, getting hurt, and then asking themselves why.

But when she told me the whole story, all she could do was sob into her fruity-mixed-drink and ask it to make her feel better. Lil' Johnny Alcohol was only to happy to oblige. I ended up walking her home and we sat on her stoop while she continued relegating the whole thing over and over, and over, for me.

Why did I stay? Not because I was attracted to her. She was beautiful, but it was the way that she interacted. She wasn't a good person - but not a bad person either. It's more complicated than good or bad, this or that. Mostly I stayed because here's a woman, drunk off her normally high-horse, crying, and what am I supposed to do? Leave? My mother raised me better than that.

So I stayed. And I listened.

And she went on, and on, and on.

It got to be late, but something about this woman's pain was so bad that she couldn't go to sleep. Couldn't let me go either. Couldn't be alone with herself, as if with nobody else around she'd just have to suffer in silence.

The worst of it was, I really felt bad for her. She was a wreck, inside to out. Her make-up smeared like a badly drawn map, of where each tear-drop had run it's course to fall into the ether of tonight, of where each pink-patch of skin still existed that wasn't yet marked by the pain of her love's breaking. I suppose in those few hours we spent talking, I loved her like she loved herself, and I hated her for what she represented. The worst in women - in all of us - that thirsts for the sensations it uses to dull the pain of its own existence. Because such bad in us can't stand being right beside the goodness of Life, of living. Just like all opposites, sewn back to back with one another, but if ever they actually meet face to face and then, say maybe, they touch? Both are gone like the last puff of smoke dangling off her cigarette.

What does a person do then? In my situation, would any of you have done anything different? If so, what? If not, then why? And, gawd help me, how do you help those you hate? How do you love the best in someone when the worst is all they ever show? I've been through ten different kinds of bad in my life, shit like fuck-all and I never wanted to see again. Wanted to stab my eyes out like Oedipus. Rip the nerve-endings from body with my bare-hands. But I've never knew what bad was till I saw my own reflection in the eyes of a stranger. Misty, drunk, clear, sober, however they come, they've all held the same chance to get hurt as an excuse to hurt as I've realized in myself.

Scary, when you see you're not so different after all like that.

And I did what everyone else would've did. I hugged her some. I rubbed her back a little, listened quietly, agreed when her eyes told me, and shook my head when I couldn't stand to look anymore. I made the right sounds in the right places and pretended she was going to be okay. I never told her what I've written to you, which is that she isn't going to be okay. She's messed-up. And so what? We're all of us a little bit crippled, somehow, maybe more than the guy next to us, or less than the guy across from us, but we've all got our problems and we've got the need to share them - not realizing that all that hot-potato does is burn the hands of somebody else, maybe somebody you never meant to.

But you did, we do, and so it goes. I've gotten used to holding in my shit, never letting a peak out that wasn't carefully wrapped in as many layers as I could give it, like my tragedies were radioactive. I dump them into cyberspace. And sometimes ya'll like to read them, sometimes watch 'em, and sometimes nobody cares. That's fine. If I weren't me, I wouldn't either. Not because inherently we are bad people, but because we've all got so much to deal with who needs another burden to carry that someone else made?

Sometimes I wish I could let go. Be free of all that I got tied to my back. Just drop the fucker and run! But unlike the soulless bastards who have, I realize that to do so would be to abandon my own self, the battle-wounds turned scars. I don't want to die without any scars. And I don't want to forget who I am, where I come from, and what I've lived through to trudge as high as I have despite that.

As for that woman, my acquaintance, she - and everyone else - needs to be told the truth someday. Life is complicated. You'll never be just fine. Your man wasn't a bastard. He's a person just like you. Wrecked just like you. Got his own monkey on top his back, biting, beating him till he's gone mad from the pain. Doesn't realize he hurt you, maybe doesn't care. Just wants the hurt to go away, for a minute for a day. Just wants to be like you were on that stoop, high as a kite with no string. And no trees around for miles.

9 footnotes:

Jasper said...

For those who suffer in silence, sometimes just knowing that there's an ear for listening helps.

I don't know about those who are so open about their inner anguish.


Maybe this blog entry didn't need feedback.

Zek J. Evets said...

@jasper: eh, feedback is always welcome.

i think the only reason she was that open was because of all the alcohol...

Anonymous said...


FunkyStarkitty50 said...

For some reason, I've always been the person my friends have told their secrets to and most of the time they are pretty horrific and tragic stories. The abortion they never told anyone about, the body they helped get rid of, the fact that their teenager has been led to believe that their real Dad really isn't their real Dad and they don't want to tell them, things like that. It starts to drive you insane because you worry about them so much. Kind of like the shrink friends that I have who actually have therapists themselves because it takes so much of a toll on them emotionally, carrying all of this stuff around. But, I don't regret being a compassionate person, a safe person that someone can turn to if they are hurting. It is an admirable quality to have, although it can be emotionally draining.

tuleep said...

Okay don't take this in a creepy way, but the more I read your blog I realize that I think you're my male twin. No joke. It's really quite strange.

If tears stained permanently, my shoulder would be covered in marks. It's the strangest situation to be in. I'm told that I'm "good at it" but i don't even know what that means, it never feels that way, but I can't NOT be there for people if they come to me.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I just a blog about being there for people. It is tough I totally agree. I never know what to say but the whole act of being there for some people is actually what they want. Even if I can't give words of wisdom, i think yeah just being there helps. They just want someone to listen.

Zek J. Evets said...

@funky: it's mostly the feeling of being there for someone, but not being able to really help them in any meaningful way. just a useless presence it always seems to me.

but, we try. and the emotional is worth it, is even normal after a time.

@tuleep: haha, i'll try not to be creeped-out ;)

it's not weird to share a compassionate nature with other people. if only more people did...

@melanie: you think just being there is enough? it's all i can really do, but sometimes i wonder if only there's was more... bleh.

i'll keep what you said in mind.

Lex said...

I don't think anyone is ever fine or right. I happen to agree that we're all a little messed up. And that getting your heart broken is something that everyone has to go through. If you haven't had your heart broken then you don't have that shadow on your soul to compare love to. Like you, you go searching for this love and find these obsessive infatuations that just seem to go with your character. You've had these fleeting little crushes looking for the one and almost idolizing these fucked up women you just manage to find in some dark alley somewhere. But I'm still waiting for you to meet the person you can look in the eye without shame of what you've been through, without that desperation for them to love you, to look at a woman and actually see her as a partner, an equal person. Not a muse, not a phantom, not an immortal, a person. But when you find that, the way you write it'll be incredible to read what you're capable of writing about it. I think that's the reason I still read your blog from time to time.

Some people have been through so much shit in their lives, holding in their own pain and messed up stories doesn't weigh on them as much as it does for other who haven't. At least in my opinion. There have been things I've seen some people go through that seemingly destroyed them, but those things wouldn't have destroyed someone else.

It sucks, life does suck, it's still beautiful. If a person can't hold onto that idea or that last bit of hope that life is something, it's on them. That may make me sound like a bitch but, I've been through too much shit and still hold onto my hope to actually feel bad that someone isn't able to hold onto theirs. I do feel bad for that girl, whoever she was. But I've been through it, I picked myself up, and got through it. I still hope to find that love. Now I'm not saying that I won't listen to someone in need of a listener, or that I'm going to turn down someone when they ask for help. It's just when the dust settles and the wreck is cleared, that's my general reaction and thought.

Zek J. Evets said...

@lex: wow... just, wow. i really don't know what to say.

well fucking put.