(calculated using the Star Trek Stardate Calculator)
The other night Himself was very sick. I was so very worried about him I got a big lump in my throat. I was letting him get some rest and sitting at the computer in the family room. Then I got to thinking.
No one really knows what goes on with others. No matter how much one person has gone through, he can’t understand, truly, what another is experiencing or feeling. Essentially, each person goes through life alone.
We can offer sympathy, even, to a degree, empathy to someone, but we don’t know, really know, their thoughts, their feelings.
My mother died when I was 34. It was not unexpected. In fact, we knew she was dying for over a year, and the last few days we knew the end was only a day or two away. But the actual event was stunning to me. My Momma was gone. I firmly squashed my emotional responses, not wanting to distress my husband and children or my friends. I realized only later that I seemed to be “cold” and “uncaring” about losing her! Far from reality! No one, not even those closest to me knew what was really going on inside me. I was alone in my grief. O yes, I cried on my husband’s shoulder – mainly at night when we were alone. But even he, who is my friend / partner / part of me in every positive sense of those words, did not know just what I was (and continue) feeling.
Similarly, when his mother died, in 1986, he was unable to communicate how he was feeling. For a year he seldom spoke except to say things like, “please pass the salt,” or “please answer the phone.” He buried himself in books for that year, reading 2, sometimes 3 or 4 books a DAY. After that, it took him months to gradually crawl out from the extreme pain he was feeling. But I could not feel it with him – I only saw and tried to respond to the symptoms of that pain that I could perceive.
What I’m describing is not loneliness, but is an intrinsic estrangement from the rest of the world and from other people. There is no way to describe how we feel to another person in such a way that they truly and completely know how and why we are feeling. No one can understand all the points of pain that another feels. No one can understand all the intricacies of another’s pain – that seeing a pond with water lilies will bring deep remorse and sadness, and why that happens, for instance.
Our internal emotional connections are hidden – from others and even from ourselves. How many times have I been startled to react in unexpected and, almost, inappropriate ways to something that seemingly is neutral? How can I possibly explain that to family members and friends?
Essentially, each person is alone in his thoughts and feelings. Others can perceive and react to a small portion, but only as they perceive it. If, as was the case when my mother died, one is so frozen by an emotion he only shows coldness and a rigidity of spirit, then that is what others will react to.
Being “sensitive” to others is a “touchy-feely” process that only means you try to perceive the other’s feelings and react with compassion. That’s a nice thought, but the largest part of each person’s feelings are hidden – many from himself. His uncertainties, fears, hopes, loves, and griefs may present as nearly anything – stony coldness as in my case, or total withdrawal in my husband’s case.
We each were incapable of “reaching out,” and depended on the solidarity of our family and friends to sustain us. They did, but we each were still alone inside ourselves. Not even each other was able to provide the comfort we each needed.
Only God could do that. And He did.