A Little Closer with Joy

Misunderstandings based on uninformed patterns can be joyous in their resolution.

For about a year I’ve been collecting data on a certain tradition a loved one has. My data led me to a logical conclusion: the tradition occurred only when I wasn’t around, so I presumed my absence was the key to the tradition. I knew I could not always be present. It wasn’t healthy for either of us.

Let’s use a simple, obvious example from my past that many who garden may have experienced. I plant beautiful flowers in my front yard. When they begin to bloom, they disappear.

  • They’re there in the morning.
  • They’re still present when I arrive home at lunch time.
  • When I arrive home at 6 p.m., some are missing.

However, when I arrive home at 3 p.m., all flowers that appeared that morning are accounted for in the evening. In this case, one might decide 3 p.m. was the magic moment to be present in order to preserve precious blooms.

Arriving at 3:45 p.m. one afternoon, I discover a neighboring young lady on her way home from school. She is plucking a particularly lovely spike of salmon-colored gladiolus. When she sees me pull into my driveway, she hurries past my house. Ah. My data was incomplete. The disappearance of my lovelies had little to do with my presence or absence or time of arrival.

I stop the young lady and she sheepishly makes her way back to my driveway, flower spike in hand. She had been filching blooms to take home to her mother, who had a mental illness that kept her from working on a regular basis.

I explain the flowers for everyone to enjoy. If she takes one each weekday, I and the other passers-by will soon have nothing to see. I let her ponder a moment before I suggest she invite her mother out on nice days for a walk around the block—past my house in particular—so both of them, and the rest of us, can enjoy the full spectrum of a flower’s life from budding to developing seeds (seeds I wanted to harvest, though I didn’t tell her this part).

I didn’t want to deny pleasure to another person. I wanted to understand why my conclusions were limiting my perception and affecting my behavior. The flower-picker would have had no idea I had changed my behavior pattern. She would have had no inkling how troubled I felt, how responsible I felt when I didn’t have all the information.

People who have been through abuse are often the first to take the blame for any situation. It is drilled into us by our abuser(s); we are responsible for everything that ever happens in the sphere of an abuser’s life. Abuser is late to work? “Your coughing kept me awake half the night and now I’ve overslept.” Abuser is disappointed they don’t save more money. “If you hadn’t bought that steak at the grocery store, we wouldn’t be short on the bills.”

So, tonight, I brought the blame of a misunderstood tradition upon myself, just as I had been trained to do by decades of abusers. The joy bloomed when the soundness of my beliefs, my data, were wiped clear by the simple introduction of a pattern I hadn’t even considered. Absolving myself of blame, I then was able to preserve the pleasure another person takes in a tradition while righting my perception and behavior. We are one step closer to understanding each other than we were this morning.
©2012 Sandra Davidson

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