Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Knowing and Understanding = Two Different Things

When I was sixteen, I knew absolutely everything. Mom would tell me to do my homework and I'd say "I know Ma." Dad would tell me I needed to get up for school and I'd say "I know Dad." Sometimes they wouldn't even finish their statement and I would interrupt with "I know!" And it was the truth, I did know, but I usually didn't understand.

I never knew how infuriating that must be - to have someone say "Yes, I know," and know that they didn't understand. My best friend and I have this circular discussion about once a month about how I feel and what I think and I swear, if she was sitting next to me when we were talking about it, I'd hug her throat.

The conversation is one of love and life, living and existing. I think too much, says she, and I don't go out and do enough in my life. Friend or no friend, that's wrong; how are you going to tell me what I am and am not doing? What I do and do not feel? And the more she talked, the madder I got. I told her that she didn't understand and she said she did, but the more she talked the more I realized she didn't.

She doesn't understand what loneliness and fear feel like inside of my soul, she only knows what they feel like for her. She doesn't understand where I'm coming from because she doesn't understand or even know where I am in my life at this point. Eventually I told her the conversation was over, because we were getting nowhere with each other and the conversation ended (for this month at least).

She knows who I am and what I think about most things, but she does not, for all that knowledge, understand that much about me, or not as much as she thinks she does. And the more she says she does the more I feel like she's belittling anything I've said prior or anything I could say after to the point where I just shut down on her which benefits neither of us.

There are parts of me, parts of my soul that are so hidden from other people because I fear the let down that I feel always comes with trusting people. I fear moving too quickly; those who move quickly make rash and usually wrong decisions. I fear becoming a catlady, especially when it seems everyone around me is pairing off like they've gotten the call for the Ark and I didn't. She knows. I know she knows. But does she understand? Does she feel it? Does she hear it? Does it keep her up at night like it does for me? No. And I don't think it ever will, which is why I don't like having that conversation with her, because not only does it not go anywhere, it takes me down into those deep dark parts of me that are so hard to get out of and so hard to shake. If she understood, she wouldn't take me there for nothing but the fact that she frequently does just lets me know she doesn't and there's nothing I can do about that.

Is empathy only valid if we've been there ourselves? Is compassion wasted if it can't be reciprocated to those we're compassionate to the right way? Am I being too hard on her?
Talk to me,


AtypicalLibrarian said...

I really enjoyed your post. It's my first time reading your blog and I discovered it due to Yoles comment and your subsequent reply on VSB. I made a very poignant reply a few minutes ago, but atlas is disappeared. Great writing and I might try to re-type my other comment, but I know it won't come out nearly as eloquent as before. I said all this to say I completely understand where you're coming from with your best friend. I'm in a similar spot with mine right now, though I'm not quite to the point of wanting to hug her throat. :)

Testorshia D. said...

Thanks for stopping by ^_^

I really didn't think anybody read anything I wrote here, but now that I know I have atleast two readers, I'm all over it :)

I wonder if it's their want to understand us that makes them think they do, or if it's the fact that they do but we just can't see from their perspective.

Im said...

To AtypicalLibrarian and Tes... This is Yoles

first thanks for actually reading what i wrote and responding... i'm touched...

Tes believe me when i say i understand... i wish there were words better than you're young, life ebbs and flows and with that comes understanding and other words that are supposed to be encouraging but are actually not saying or doing much...

as for your follow-up question... i do think its a) their desire to understand us b) their own lives, experiences (which are sometimes very similar) and perceptions that prevent them from doing so...

maybe its how you are saying these things (i am in NO way saying that you are saying things the wrong way but maybe a different approach, different wording etc.. may have a different outcome...

AtypicalLibrarian said...

I'm gonna try this again, but let me preface this comment by saying that "atlas" in my previous comment, should've totally be alas.

Is empathy only valid if we've been there ourselves? Is compassion wasted if it can't be reciprocated to those we're compassionate to the right way? Am I being too hard on her?

This is truly something to think about. I am currently on the "trying-to-finish-grad-school-and-not-kill-anyone-or-get-fired-in-the-process" roller coaster and my best friend just doesn't get it. Whle she sympathizes with my stress level, having never been there she really doesn't know what I'm going through yet she insists she does. She means well and I love her and I have to catch myself from not lashing out at her. The other day during while I was ranting, I told her as politely as I could that her declaration that "it'll be ok" was not helping matters. I realized that I needed her to be a sounding board and then silently vowed never to mention grad school to her ever again.

As far as your situation goes, I hope it works out for you two. My bestie's boo will be popping the question any day now and I recently accompanied her ring shopping. While I'm happy for her, all that bling was just sparkly reminders of my seeminly perputual singleness. Of course, I couldn't ruin her moment nor could I talk to her about it because I might have lost it if she went all "I know" on me in the jewelry store! And no, you're not being too hard on her. You're being realistic.

Testorshia D. said...

Hi Yoles ^_^ Thanks for stopping by (and for motivating me). Tell your patients they're welcome :P

I try to explain in many ways; I use food analogies, clear language, interpretive dance...she just doesn't seem to grasp it. I've given up talking about it much because I feel like a whiner when I do, and I feel like that's so not my role in life.

Testorshia D. said...


Isn't it maddening? It'll be okay is just one step above patting a person on the head with sad, sympathetic eyes...In any case, I agree that if the conversation does nothing but make you want to hug her throat, it's best not to have it often (if at all) or find a way to translate it to her (try food analogies. For some reason folks always understand food :))

I can also relate to the "singlefrienditis" you've described. Personally I'm always the single friend, but I'm not the bitter one giving all the bad advice; I'm the one giving the advice I would give myself if I were in a relationship. And it works, and I'm secretly always jealous that it works because I'm thinking, "If it were me..." *le sigh* I'm not sure if singlefrienditis gets easier over time (though I sure hope so) but I think as long as you hold onto wanting to do good for others, good will come onto you. Eventually. Which is another word I hate.

It'll work out with me and her. It always does. I don't think there's anything either of us could do to make us not still love each other.

Jouromeo said...

Wow you women. :-) that was fun to say.

Really though, and I am not at all referencing this to say it applies to all(but thats what I want to do). Whenever we feel as individuals aren't understanding us, it is us that doesn't understand what it is in them that stops them from understanding us. Our words ring true to us, they are simple and direct to us but to their ears, our words seem to sound alien and irrationally unfamiliar.

I like to avoid pointing fingers at all cost and work my issues with it out. I go to the mirror when I feel like pointing fingers. It is frustration at maximum but hey, we gots ta grow and eating food and sleeping ain't the only things that make it happen....neither is readin books.

Jouromeo said...

Also, I have a single friend that LOVES to give relationship advice despite not being in one longer than a few weeks in the last six years.
He sounds ideally moralistic. He sounds clean and professes to "know" the right answers sometimes. I've been in relationships consistently for at least the last four years and then another two years on top of that...and I hate his answers which are childish but sterilized mentally as if fighting for a central but missing the point of needing a point for everything you do based on the individuals involved and not some mainstream ideal. People customize cell phones, cars, food, and just about everything else under the sun but relationships are one size fits all? Eff the perpetually lonely friend with advice...SHOTS FIRED!!!! no offense meant...smh&lol

EastAJ said...

Hey, i'm from the VSB board, hope you don't mind me poking in >.<

I think you needn't have to go through what another has gone through to show compassion...or even understanding, to an extent. We all have our battles and trials, and while everyone's battle isn't exactly the same, we can compare a rough time in our life with a rough time in someone else's life, all in the effort to tell a person: "i've been there too."

I may never experience or relate to some of the bad things my friends have dealt with, and some of them will never know what i've been through, but I can very least show that i'm there for 'em, and they've shown they're there for me. Not knowing what someone is going through, but still caring anyway, even if its not the way we may like, that's true compassion.

I know that sounds basic and elementary, but, I think that's what really counts at the end of the day.

Testorshia D. said...

@ Jouromeo
Thanks for stopping by ^_^.
I don't go out of my way to be that particular friend, it just always ends up that I am the one giving advice to people, usually about love, life and sex. Having no experience with it personally (which I tell them) I tailor my answers to who I observe them to be, not who their spouse may be and that, I think is the key; it's not about expanding the other person, it's about expanding yourself to include understanding them. Is it simple? Yes. Does it fit everyone? Not hardly. But can it help in some cases? Definitely.

Testorshia D. said...

@ EastAJ
Thanks for stopping by ^_^ and making me feel all loved and sh*t...

I think being there is majorly important as well, but I sometimes wonder if it is enough for some people? Some people need leaps, and bounds, and major shows of expression and emotion of which I'm sometimes not capable.

Maybe it all gets lost in translation. Maybe we just need to communicate better. You think?

Jouromeo said...

TBH, I wasn't taking shots. I was saying something that you probably do anyways. Maybe I should focus on saying less and being more direct.
This as my point: When people are in a position where sharing opinions is easy, what they should in fact do is talk to the person and not at them based on experience. Which is a HUGE difference.

I'm sure you do that already. You have a nice balance to your approach.

They say only death and taxes are guaranteed but mistakes are fairly certain to occur as well. :-)

EastAJ said...

True, some people need more affection and/or attention than others, which everyone can't or won't give for whatever reason. That can sometimes be the thrown monkey wrench in the helping process.

Good communication is vital too, but it isn't always that you need to communicate better, it may be that ya'll just communicate differently and need to find common ground.

Ivy St. said...

I like your style. This is my first time on your site and I think your writing comes from the soul. I've only read a few of your posts and I can relate to both.

I think it is hard to empathize with someone when you yourself haven't been where they have been especially when it comes to more deeper issue. We don't all have to fall off a bike to know that it hurts, but some things have to be experienced for someone to know that place. I have a close friend who shares stories with me all the time about her dating life. I've never dated the men she has dated and while I try to comfort her, sometimes I don't know how. I give generic responses or responses I think are appropriate. If that doesn't work I try to just listen. As a friend it puts me in a weird place because I really want to be there for her the best I can. I want her to feel like she isn't alone, now that I think about, she just might be.