Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nobody Understands Me

My favorite Cezanne, Still Life With Apples

Remember that little song from childhood?
Everybody hates me, nobody loves me,
Think I'll go eat worms...
I'll stop there.  It was common in my youth, maybe because it poked fun at something we all feel sometimes - that nobody understands us.  And still do, even in old age.  That is especially true if you are making some radical change in your life.  Your actions make other people wonder if, well, maybe they should join the Peace Corps or go vegan.  Even when you mind your own business, if you are different than the flock, you are an agent of change.  A therapist cautioned me once that nobody likes an agent of change.  She didn't say this, but look what they did to Jesus.  Gandhi.  Martin Luther King.*

So recently I found myself high on a windy hill, and I gave this some thought.  One of my conclusions was, If somebody feels overly responsible to you (a parent, a sibling, a grown child), they get frightened that they're going to have to bail you out.  I think being over-responsible is itself a stressful way to live.  Another thought was, If somebody really would never think of doing what you're doing, but now if you do it, they might have to think about it - obviously, that could engender defensiveness and hostility.  Or if what you're doing scares them for whatever reason, they may prefer to detach from you.

And so it is.  When people you know and love are critical and reactive about a choice you're making, they have a problem.  You have an opportunity to examine your actions thoughtfully, and be brave.  You have a problem insofar as you depend on someone else's affection or understanding. 

In spiritual traditions the idea seems to emerge time and again, that maturing is sometimes a lonely road.  I remember the chills I got when I read the first lines of Dante's Inferno:
Midway on our life's journey, I found myself / In dark woods, the right road lost.
 There is also an intriguing Zen koan that John Tarrant has spoken to:
 "The moon sets at midnight; I walk the streets of the town alone."
And there you are, with nothing but your vow of pilgrimage and maybe a map (though, as we know, the map is not the territory).  And these days, your GPS.
*Not that I compare myself to them. Joan of Arc, maybe.

1 comment:

  1. One's unique history and chemical make-up cannot be duplicated(see God or nature), be glad for that otherwise you would be a Stepford Wife!