but, people learn.

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.

I can’t.

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.

But then…
people learn.

__________________________________

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.

https://teepee12.com/2016/05/13/my-8-least-favorite-platitudes/

https://deborah-bryan.com/2016/05/12/reason-cause-or-consequence/

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?

Maybe.

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.

People learn.

 

________________________

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?

wonderyolk
Wonder Yolk? Not all she’s cracked up to be….

32 Comments

    1. What a good question! I definitely am… though I don’t know if the credit to that goes to me or to the many patient teachers (professional and accidental) I’ve been lucky enough to know my whole life through. ♡

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d give yourself (in some fashion) full credit. I am not going to say, “Things happen for a reason,” but I will call BS on those “accidental” occurrences. It is all part of your plan. Keep going! I call it allowing with intent.

        Like

  1. “Everything happens for a reason” has always bothered me. Sigh. A long time ago, when a lot of bad things were happening in my life, I asked my dad about people who always say, “God never gives us more than we can bear.” We both agreed that statement would never do anything except make someone even feel worse. Either that, or we were better equipped to handle more crap than most people. Then as usual, we found something to laugh about. I think a lot of platitudes are a way for some people to explain the total unexplainable randomness of life.

    That is my two cents worth this morning. Awesome post Ra. I want my young folks to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It is what it is.” I have a coworker who frequently recites those words in the hopes she will believe it and not resent the way things are.

    Like

  3. There is a saying that bothers me so much, it affects my internal peace. I hear it all the time, especially in certain kinds of advertising when I assume it is supposed to draw some kind of emotion from me. I thought it was a platitude, but wasn’t sure so I looked up the definition of platitude and now I am beyond confused.

    http://www.smart-words.org/quotes-sayings/aphorism-proverb-idiom-saying-pun.html

    Anyway, the saying is “If I can do it, you can too.”

    How the F do YOU know what I can and can’t do!!!??? See, I get worked up over it.

    Anyway, I don’t want to be a writer any more…too many rules and definitions…but I sure am glad YOU are! I loved this post!

    Like

  4. I wasn’t in need of a Wonder Yolk apology but it made me laugh anyway. 🙂 (Good work, it’s monday morning!)
    Everything happens for a reason is the big one that makes my skin crawl. I try my best not to let on that I’d like to be rolling my eyes when people say it because I understand that what makes them feel better with their outlook on the universe may not be what makes me feel better. When dealing with the big nasties of life I find the most comfort in knowing that life around me moves on. Fall follows summer, winter makes way for spring, no matter what I do. However I know that’s also not a thing that makes everyone feel better, so I try to limit my sharing of those platitudes to those who will forgive me my own outlook on the universe if it’s different from theirs and just accept the comfort I try to share with the words…. But I bet you already knew all that. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, platitudes. I think most people say them just to make themselves feel better. I try to avoid them, now. I used to say ‘everything happens for a reason’. I don’t say it anymore and in fact quite dislike it. We as humans can justify anything given enough time. And we do. Now, after all the stuff that has happened to me during my life, I look at things as a test of endurance. I prefer to see the good, not the bad. Like you do. But…..I do see the bad as just bad. There is no excuse for it, except maybe it’s there to show us how much good there is. After all light must have shadow to be light.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it is human nature to ascribe or find meaning to events in our lives. Sometimes platitudes makes us feel better. Sometimes worse.

    My invented platitude: Nothing is always true, except when it is.

    Guess the platitudes I use regularly are: You are loved. You are worthy of love. You are not alone.

    Yet, at the same time, I can feel both so very alone and so very much a part of everything.

    Which leads me to another invented platitude: We are both alone and connected.

    Even as I share my thoughts and feelings through words, I protect a part of myself, and do not let anyone completely in. No one really knows what it feels like to be me, but when I find others who seem to understand, something magic happens. I feel loved, supported, accepted. That feels good. That is what we do, what we can do, what we should do, for one another.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You and your wonderful writings. It now have two to-do posts from you. I read Debs post, and the more I ponder the less I seem to know. Sigh. The other side of loving to learn about others-they often change us💜

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never been a fan of platitudes. It seems like I read them and say, “Oh that’s true,” then five minutes later it’s vanished from my mind. I do love yours above though, that starts with “Everything’s gonna be okay…” I think it’s perfect.

    If you’d like some platitudes to make you laugh, you should check out Jack Handey’s website.
    http://www.deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com/

    Thank you for a great post this morning.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thing is, everything DOES happen for a reason, but that’s more to do with the direct impact of other diverse variables, rather than ‘for a purpose’, which (I think) is where platitude gets mixed up with actual-in-fact, and can become hurtful. Thing is, we don’t NEED (in the middle of those awful moments) to know that there was a trail of quantifiable, dominoeing THINGS, which resulted in the eventual situation of badness – we just need to be held, and to have someone agree that it’s NOT okay, that it hurts, that it’s awful and senseless and unfair.

    I believe in stepping stones. Even the bad, rocky-over, buckling-under-the-feet ones have their place. They all lead onwards and upwards (if we let them) to the place where we’ve learned whatever there is to learn from the thing, and allowed our newly-taught self to move onwards, through, or to wherever else.

    P.S. I like to say “It depends on things that vary”

    P.P.S. I’m quite sure your hands are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Can I sit with discomforts? Depends on the source of discomfort. Most times I’d say no, but I make delusional exceptions for people I love.

    As for platitudes, I don’t speak their language. I only see something as empty or overused/meaningless if the source seems empty & meaningless. I haven’t come across many.
    But — (and I know I’m gonna get a smirk out of you with this)
    I do however almost see “I’m sorry” as a platitude.
    Overused & 9 times out of 10 unnecessary. Coming from a good place but…yeah. It just feels empty. Even when I’m the one saying it & I truly mean it.

    & As far as you hurting my feelings, girl you fix my feelings. Every. Single. Time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So this is the type of post I have to read and re-read because I get something new out of it every time and it is a lot of deep thoughts for my tiny brain. I will say some people learn fast and some slow, I am definitely the slow chap. You know the saying: we study history so not to repeat it? I think that is a crap saying because history always repeats itself. This is my saying: history will continue to repeat itself so long as the selfish nature of man remains unchanged. You’re a good person Ra, you’re helping to make the world a better place by helping all of us to get over ourselves. Your beautiful hands have touched the lives of many. On a side note, you would be a great Spider-woman, you have great power and are responsible. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I agree. That might sound too simple for such a thoughtful, thought-filled post, but … it’s true.

    As far as learning? On Saturday morning, I found a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser note on the table. D came and sat on my lap as I read the note and explained that my godfather died of CF when he was younger than I am now. D asked what CF is, so that I gave him a him-appropriate explanation. As I did, I remembered vaguely a comment I’d posted on someone’s blog five years ago.

    The blogger had two young daughters. One had CF. In this post, she railed at that daughter’s situation and asked, “How am I supposed to deal with knowing my daughter will almost inevitably die before she’s as old as I am now?”

    I wrote something to the effect of, “That’s a lot of good years ahead of her still. I hope you make many good memories together while you can.”

    Thinking about that, I wanted to reach through time and the intarwebz to punch myself in the face.

    I’ve learned, though I still have more learning to do. I’m a lot more okay sitting with discomfort and letting people know that, though I have no answers and lots of love, I’d much rather hear them than tell them.

    (And I’ve just now recalled a message I forgot to send … next, to that!)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love your Wonder Yolk! She’s awesome!

    No, sweetheart, you’ve never hurt me with a platitude, and even if you inadvertently had, I would not be hurt that much because I know you well enough to know that causing hurt would never be your intention. It’s easier to forgive an unintentional hurt than a deliberate one.

    I don’t think I can sit with discomforts either. Not comfortably anyway. We are always fighting for who gets to drive and who has to ride shotgun.

    I am half Sith, and I am married to a Sith. But, he calls me Padme and I call him Anakin.

    Generally I tend to like platitudes, because they often have a kernel of truth. I think my favorite is, “Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

    And I also hope that I have never hurt your feelings. If I have, I’m sorry. *hugs* ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’m so not a fan of it happens for a reason. I’ve tried to make peace with it, but nails on a blackboard make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up less. Wonderyolk is adorable. Egg on face. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Platitude – having the attitude of a Platypus. The question is, what is the attitude of a Platypus?
    Life is chaos, only ordered by coincidence, coincidences have a strangely high probability of happening..

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m not one for absolutes. I’m too good at viewing all angles and seeing different perspectives. As such, I’m also not one for platitudes. They’re too general – though (as a non-absolutist) I can recognise the comfort they may bring and why some use them. ‘Everything happens for a reason’ has an air of reassurance about it. I’ve always lent more towards the ‘things just happen’. Life happens – good, bad, beautiful. Similarly, not all clouds have silver lining, just like not all silver lining has a cloud.

    I’m still trying to understand what you mean about discomforts. It’s good not to be too accepting of such things. Some discomforts should be challenged, we raise the bar, we try harder, be become better. Other discomforts, those was cannot change, those inflicted upon us by others should not be internalised. Of course, it’s much easier to write that than be it.

    As someone devoid of colour, I myself have wondered at the hands of others. How some possess a tinted gradient between palms and fingers. It’s not a judgment, it’s an observation. My observations weren’t born from discomfort but of curiosity and marvel. We are the same, but different. It’s amazing.

    My belief in non-absolutes is much like our belief of opposites. Opposites can be true. Some are quite mundane, like, sleeping can make you tired, and eating can make you hungry. And others like not all those who are lost are gone.

    I believe in possibilities.

    Thanks for your lovely, thoughtful post, Ra.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sometime around 9th grade, one of my teachers did a play on words that can’t translate into English. It translates roughly as “don’t ask ‘why?’ but ‘towards what?’”. As in, don’t try to understand why something happened on a cosmic scale. Learn what you can from it and get stronger.
    This was in response to someone who was badly hurt by a person who told her “everything that happens is in your best interests.” (the sister of “everything happens for a reason”) as a response to her pain.
    If a platitude helps someone, makes him feel better and helps him get up again…then what I think of them isn’t important, because the point of a platitude is to help someone, hopefully the person in need of comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I like how you say people learn….thank goodness for that. Some need more learning than others. LOL This post reminded me of something I felt as a child. I actually coveted dark skin. We always want what we don’t have right? 🙂 I still love dark skin, it reminds me of coffee and chocolate. I don’t mean to make light of the stigma that goes along with actually being dark skinned, I have just always thought it was and is so beautiful. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand entirely what you mean, Dani. You’ve seen my wonder at red hair, and I know that isn’t always an easy road either. 🙂 But to me, it’s just so beautiful.

      And “Some people need more learning than others” made me laugh out loud, haha! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh my gosh I was so delighted to see your post on Green Embers! I do not know why I stopped receiving your notifications but according to wordpress I still subscribe. I hope you remember me, Patty B from Thoughts from an american woman – I have thought about you over the months and wondering how you were getting along. I have missed your posts and so glad to see you are back into being a full fledged blogger again. I will have to get into my wordpress account and find out what happened to why no email notifications. But now that I know you are back I look forward to getting reacquainted with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea fixed it and found out a few more blogs were “knocked” off daily notifications. A while back my word press crashed and I was not receiving any emails so I am sure that is what happened, But now I will receive your little golden nuggets of wisdom! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I too am not pleased with “everything happens for a reason”, because sometimes there isn’t a reason, not a logical one anyway. Like the recent Egypt Air flight disaster. Sure, there might be a reason like terrorism, but that’s not really a real reason. Sometimes, sadly, stuff just happens. How we live with it is more important than the why it happened.

    Love you, Ra. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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