Monday, January 9, 2012

Point Blank

At my bank, I've tried not to go to teller number four. It hasn't been a totally conscious choice, just a small avoidance. One tends to avoid dour, unfriendly service people when possible and teller number four had a fixed expression that said, "Stay away." Then, one day, about a year ago, it was my turn in line and teller number four's window was open. I stepped up and said good morning with no expectation of a return greeting as she never spoke to me outside a business exchange. But today, while counting out my money, her hand paused and, with her head lowered, her eyes looked up into mine. "My cat died," she said. I said, "I'm sorry. I know how painful that is as I have cats myself." She lowered her eyes and pushed the money through the window. For the first time, I noticed her name tag. "See you, Judy. It's really sad abut your cat."

That moment has stayed with me for a couple of reasons. In those three words, "My cat died," and in the pain Judy's eyes expressed, was a life story. I don't know the details but I recognized isolation and loneliness, loss and meagerness. And I was reminded in a new way that deep, raw emotions, when fully expressed, come out in few words.

When trying to express how you feel (to yourself or to another) it's not good to move too quickly away from the core, simplest expression of a feeling and into the reason or source of the feeling. Words pile up quickly and, before you know it, you and the listener are in a word-tangle. Communication feels unsatisfactory when we don't hear or state a feeling in a simple (exposed) way and give it room to exist before looking to explain or defend it.

Last week, I was reminded of Judy when I stopped at a pet store to get a new Da Bird for Stokes and Toony. While poking around, I notice an older woman, dressed in a long skirt, a rough looking jacket and a fuzzy winter hat. I had seen her in two other aisles and now had a sense that she was hovering. Sure enough, she approached me as I was leaving the store and with a shy smile handed me a pamphlet, saying, "May I give you this?" I accepted and thanked her. Relief and mission-accomplished were written on her face.

In my car, I glanced at the pamphlet. "Tired of being depressed?" I read, along with advice about a particular selection in the bible to read. I thought it likely that this was her way of telling her story and, like Judy, how important it is to tell one's story, no matter how briefly, no matter that the listener is a stranger. I also thought that she was courageous in dealing with her depression by trying to help someone else. I admire courage.Wish I had asked for her name



M t C said...

Very moving and true. A lesson for us all.

Aileen said...

I've been thinking about Judy for a day now, and her cat. I'm afraid of that kind of meagerness and isolation and I feel myself drawing away sometimes when I sense it in someone near me. Other times I don't draw away, I guess when I'm feeling more solid in myself.

Bridget said...

MtC, Yes, and two people I saw as on the fringe enriched my life.

Bridget said...

I understand that. When you're feeling strong yourself it's easier to give a bit more, and to think about the other.

Anonymous said...

Hrmm that was weird, my comment got eaten. Anyway I wanted to say that its nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer. Thanks.

Matt@ Orlando Massage said...

I was just reading on this exact topic while at an Orlando Spa . I find this fascinating and thought provoking. Thanks for the valuable content.

Bridget said...

Hi Matt,
Glad you liked "Point Blank." "Brevity" is a parallel piece. Seems I keep talking about using fewer words. H-mm.