I caught my friend Doris crying silently in her cubicle. Although she doesn’t say anything, I know its again that good-for-nothing whom she calls “my everything.”
When your sister or friend hurts badly -- physically or emotionally -- and you feel so helpless, what do you do?
You make your shoulder a little broader for crying on.
You want to say "You nitwit you. Why should you let that SOB hurt you.” Or: "You think you love him but you don't, can't. " But you don't. You don't deny her her feelings.
You want to tell her about your kumare or kapitbahay who suffered bigger than she does, but who was able to cope. But you don't. You don't say "wala lang yang problema mo compared to so-and-so." Nope, you avoid belittling her troubles.
You just listen, make those cooing little noises, try to rephrase her pain, turn it every which way, and hope she talks some of the hurt away. Talking -- like writing -- can be cathartic, you know. You listen -- even if you can almost lip-sync what she's saying. And then you listen again. You take the phone even if it’s 2 a.m.
The cliché way is to pray for the hurting friend. Maybe it is unfair to call prayer that word. I am sorry if I offend others by the narrowness or recklessness of my vocabulary. But it’s too easy to say “I will pray.” It is even easy to do, too. I can pray by rote; I can compose a prayer – as I sometimes do –and say it over and over again until the repetition erodes it of meaning. And my own experience is that prayer does not always produce immediate results but has to patiently wait for “God’s own time.”
There must be more than listening and praying.
Can you – uhmm -- appropriate for yourself some of that pain? Can you carry around a piece of it to relieve someone of his or her load?
I have this lame-brain theory that pain is a universal pie that can be cut up and distributed thinly. And that if you get a slice bigger than your quota, you leave the other person with a smaller and lighter piece to carry around.
But I am just full of hot air, you know. Big deal, big talk.
For … what are the mechanics of appropriating pain for oneself?
How does the hot air translate into action?
I don’t know.
Another’s pain can never really reach me – except in an abstract way. The only way for that pain to touch me is for something to happen in my personal life that will cut and bleed me.
Then and only then will my talk turn into walk.
But I wouldn’t want that, would I? I am not as numb as I might tout myself to be. And if I have really desensitized myself, what pain would I be talking about?
No, there should be a better way. But I don’t know it yet.
Can it be to spread more kindness to the world?
Can it be to fix one’s own unmended fences – no more pretending the damage is not there, but rather pick up the pieces and hammer away.
Can it be to forgive those you are most hard pressed to forgive?
How will that help Doris who is hurting badly?
It is hard to say. I am not blind to the gaping fallacies of my reasoning. My brain is shot full of holes. Still, I rest my case on that fragile ground.
I just know, sure as the sun sets and rises, that people’s fates -- friends’ especially -- are inextricably connected.
Yesterday we cried, stung by life
That promised, gave, then smashed away.
The broken shards lie in the sun
Shimmering, a river of tears.
We swam, my friend, we swam
We swam for our lives.
Our eyes dried with every stroke
As we glimpsed the shore.
Yesterday we cried
But yesterday's far and gone.
We're safe, we're free -- we've always been.
We've forgotten why we cried.