Friday, August 28, 2009

What question have you always wanted to be asked?

Right: Painting of D. H. Lawrence's writing by Dr Ala Bashir

Being chronically misunderstood by someone up close and personal is like getting beaten with a bag of oranges: it damages you internally but leaves no bruises. (Or so The Grifters claims of the bag of oranges). Being understood, on the other hand, especially without even having to spell yourself out, is like that wonderful first gasp of air after you've been underwater too long.

Recently I came across a letter (oft quoted) that D. H. Lawrence wrote while his mother was dying, describing their love: "we knew each other by instinct," he writes.
I felt the same about my mother, I told a friend over lunch. I wouldn't go so far as Lawrence and say our love made me "abnormal," but my mother was the person who helped me make sense of the universe.

I don't actually know this friend very well, but we've always "gotten" each other. I've felt rather pummeled this week, and talking to her was like a balm.
After I quoted Lawrence to explain my mother and me, she asked,
"How ever did you withstand her death?"

I suppose I got used to living without that sort of understanding.
It's even freed me up to do other things. Lawrence said something about that too--that he had to let go of his mother's hand before he could take someone else's. But without that cushion of understanding, the blows of being misunderstood can feel even weightier. So I stand farther back.
Probably a good thing. Or, anyway, it is what it is.

Later in our conversation, my friend, who's very interested in psychology, asked me, "What's the question you've always wanted to be asked?"

I thought a while and replied that she had asked one of them: how did I stand my mother's death. But, I said, I wouldn't want most people to ask it. It's more that I want the sort of friendship where the person feels comfortable asking it, and I feel comfortable answering it.

That's actually the point of that question, she said: it reveals not the question we want but the relationship we want.

"So, what about you?" I asked her. "What question have you always wanted to be asked?"

"You just asked it," she said.
I was only the second of many people she's asked who has asked the question in return, she told me.
Which isn't to say that all those other people were insensitive but that there aren't that many people who get you.
Speaking of which, this video won't embed, but I love this song:
Everything But The Girl's Get Me.


deanna said...

I've been feeling that bag of oranges in relationship to someone lately, and so I appreciate your thoughts on this. Much sense it maketh.

Fresca said...

I'm glad this makes sense to you, Deanna.
It surprises me how hard it is to withstand being misunderstood...

momo said...

How lovely to have had this conversation. Being seen and heard is so fundamental, yet so seemingly rare.