I told the CliffNotes version. People asking to touch my skin, asking why my hands were white at the palm. A thousand half-finished stories.
“When I was a teenager, I didn’t even like to show anyone my hands. I’ve never really had body issues, but I’d wear gloves if I could.” I traced the palm of my right hand then, where the white underside reaches the dark overtones of the top in a near perfect line. My husband’s hands were like that when he filled a canvas with art. My dad’s hands are like that when he filled a chalkboard with equations. My nieces hands are like that when she pirouettes in front of her 900th viewing of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
I am okay with my hands now, but I left the story unfinished because everyone knows that story, or that type of story. I was silent for a minute, or two, and so was he. Then, unresolved, I spoke again. “The good news is, people learn.”
He laughed. “Yes, people do learn.” My seemingly-random statements of obviousness make him laugh– kindly, comfortably.
“It’s a self-soothing technique,” I explain, “Everything is gonna be okay, if people learn. And people learn.”
I admire him because he can sit with discomforts. He can hear them, and hold them, and meet them face to face. He can take a hard lesson, even a strangers’, and use it to clear a better path for them both.
Discomforts eat at me. The thousands of unfinished stories play themselves out in my heart. In a thousand tomorrows, a teenage girl who used to dance ballet in front of the television might not remember the show she so loved. She might not remember her Grandpa, or her uncle. She might cover up her beautiful hands and never do anything of note with them, all because they are light at the bottom and dark at the top, and for every person who asks about them, she imagines a thousand more are also distracted silently by her unintentional exoticism. She might cover up her hands so she doesn’t have to see what everyone else seems to– that, more than anything else, to others– she is brown.
No, I can’t sit in the silence of heavy things dropped. Not even unfinished fragments of heavy things.
I think I am the sort of person who invents platitudes. It is a self-soothing technique, a survival skill.
Everything’s gonna be okay.
(Except when it’s not.)
((Except that’s okay, too.))
A couple of the most impressively dedicated bloggers I know– Deb and Marilyn– posted their own takes on platitudes.
Deb started her post with one of Dave’s favorite quotes to use when talking about me.
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” — Obi-wan Kenobi
“What’s your wife like?” People would ask.
He’d tell them, “Well, she’s definitely not a Sith.”
I’m really not a person of absolutes, except of course– when I am.
My boss, the Man in the Purple Tie, often does an impression of me, too. “It depends.” he parrots before I have a chance to respond, and I laugh, because yes– yes, it does.
So when Deb texted me to ask if she could mention part of my story in her post, and also find out what I thought about the expression “Everything happens for a reason.”, I sent her a mini blog post in a series of text responses.
I started with the absolutes– I trust her implicitly. She has lived enough of my story to be able to take ownership of retellings. She can use it as she wants, when she wants, without ever asking, because I trust her heart.
Then, the less absolutes– I’m really not sure how I feel about that platitude. I don’t use it for the same reason I don’t say Goddamn. It hurts people I care for and there are other expressions equally suited to the moment.
But I believe things close to it. I have met its neighbors, held its children.
I believe purpose can be forged from anything… and that is perhaps why it is so often dangerous to the world.
I believe cause cannot be unequivocally identified in most things, and so to say that we know the results of any action is fishy business. And if we’re just making it up, I’d rather focus on the idea that maybe bad things happened so that good things could come to pass, than the reverse. Or that maybe bad things happened as a summed result of a thousand seemingly small acts of necessary kindness and love. Things so necessary and in such multitude that we wouldn’t undo them even if we could.
I also believe there’s nothing new under the sun, which I’ve always taken to mean that life unfolds as it already is. Thinking of things that way, there’s no such thing as good or bad, just a limited spectrum of life unfolding in patterns, like the toppling and rebuilding of dominoes.
Does that mean I believe everything happens for a reason?
But I’d never say it as an act of comfort because I’ve never heard of it comforting anyone. All it does is trigger the sorts of stories that you don’t need to finish because everyone has already been cut by the jagged edges of those tales.
They are heavy stories, tales of the discomfort that we pass on, the trauma that we inherit. The ones I can’t sit with, so I mutter something obvious or contrary. I am a creature of platitudes.
Maybe at one point in my life, my go to was “Everything happens for a reason”, but it’s not now and it hasn’t been for awhile– because… well. You know.
My May #B4Peace post is about stepping outside our nature or habits to create peace. Do you have a habit or nature in some arena that doesn’t really cultivate peace or comfort? Have you ever stepped outside your comfort zone to create peace? How do you feel about platitudes? If you have thoughts on any of these fringe ideas, or something else entirely– but related to peace– feel free to link to me and I’ll add your link here.
And you, can you sit with discomforts? What’s a platitude you love or hate? Have I ever hurt your feelings with my platitudes or obvious comments and if so will you accept this Wonder Yolk as apology?