Wednesday, August 07, 2013

epic fail on the first assignment

i'm participating in kylie bellard's fortnight of self-adoration for the next two weeks. she sends a daily "assignment" and there's a facebook group that's full of good, positive energy. i'm enjoying it. although i've already utterly failed at the first mission.

here's what it was (quoting exactly, capital letters and all):
While you’re going about your day today, look at another person whom you’ve never seen before.

Take a few moments to glance at them, and contemplate the fact that this person has had hard experiences, just like you have. This person has cried, and felt angry, and felt like they messed up, and been self-critical at one time or another. This person has felt afraid, too.

What’s it like to take the time to notice that someone else has an inner life that’s just as nuanced as your own?
my first failure on it was that i didn't do it on monday, as assigned. i've lead a hermit-y life for a couple of days and haven't really left the house much or been in contact with any people i didn't know (it's a small town i live in, so sue me). this failure i can forgive myself for.

today, i had a chance to try to do this and i even had a perfect opportunity, where to be able, even if just for a moment, to understand where the other person was coming from would have really helped me. but i simply was unable to do it. and not to defend myself, but allow me to explain.

we moved our horse to a new stable at the beginning of july. the main reason being that it's much closer to home, so it's much easier for us to pop over there. matilde spent the summer out on grass in the pasture and we haven't been over to ride much since we moved her. she needed time off and so did sabin. since school starts tomorrow and there's a nip of fall in the air, we decided it was time to, quite literally, get back in the saddle again.

we didn't really see anyone there when we arrived. some girls were being picked up from a riding camp, but then it was pretty quiet. we saddled up and sabin rode in the outdoor arena. as she was nearly done, a woman walked towards us. she was still some distance away, but i turned and said "hi." to which she responded by turning around and going the other way. i heard her daughter say, "who was that, mom?" and she said, "they must be the new (people)." (people is in parentheses because she didn't actually say it, she just said, "they must be the new," which can be said in danish,  tho' frankly, it isn't very nice.) but we apparently didn't rate a greeting or a chat or even a direct question to find out who we were. apparently that extra 20 feet she would have had to walk to have a small conversation with me was too much.

now, i'm quite accustomed to this sort of treatment after 15 years in denmark, but honestly, there are days, like today, where it really gets under my skin. mostly because i can never make myself understand it. she was walking in our direction, looking fully like she intended to say hello, but when i turned and said hello and she realized she didn't know me, she turned heel and went the other way, without so much as saying hello back. this isn't unusual. but it makes no sense to me. we are both at a stable, we both have daughters, we must both live in the area, so we actually have quite a lot in common, even if we don't know one another. so why couldn't she even say hello to me? especially when i said it to her first?

i tried to put myself inside her head, to contemplate what experiences she had that brought her to the point where she's unable to even have a common sense of politeness towards someone that she's never met before? is it shyness? is it arrogance? is it not wanting to be an inconvenience to me? or to herself? is it that i look like i would bite? or that i might smell bad (she was too far away to know that when she turned back)? was she afraid i didn't speak danish (sabin and i weren't talking at that moment, so she couldn't have heard us speaking english)? is there just a cultural chasm i can't cross? what was it? why couldn't she even say hello to me when i said it first to her?

i feel it as such a negation of my humanity. even as i try my hardest to fight that feeling, reminding myself that it couldn't possibly be about me, because she didn't know anything about me at all. but the fact is that she also didn't want to. she had no interest in me once she realized she didn't know me. and i can't stop myself from feeling hurt by that. nor can i get inside of her head and try to understand it. i simply don't understand. but i also have a hard time thinking that it's really my failure. short of running after her and insisting on introducing myself, what else could i have done?

worst was, it didn't just ruin that moment, but it put me in a bad, irritated mood for the rest of the evening. i snapped at my family. i sighed big sighs. i was exasperated with everything. i felt impatient and restless throughout an evening meeting. it made me uncomfortable in my own skin. i'd love to be able to let go and to understand, but it feels pretty beyond me at this moment in time.


Elizabeth Halt said...

I find that I really just want to offer you a gentle permission slip to feel however you are feeling. Rejection, real or perceived, is not fun at all. Most of the time, I can remember that it is never about me, but I still don't like it and I still feel hurt about it.

I've been thinking a lot about expectations and assumptions this week, related to many things, but even with the simple hello. How I say it and then I expect other people to say it (or something) back. Except why? I wonder why I think they're supposed to, or why I feel hurt if they don't, and whether other people have that same assumption/expectation or what their assumption/expectation might be of the exact same situation. I have no useful thoughts on it, but whenever I think about this, it makes me feel like we're all just bumbling along, trying to do the very best we can.

To me, this doesn't read like a failure. It reads like someone who is thoughtful and sensitive.

julochka said...

Elizabeth - that's actually a very interesting point - my expectations - when i said hello, i expected her to say it as well. i wouldn't have been disappointed at all if i hadn't expected that. but we have been conditioned by our culture to expect that and perhaps that's the difference, the danes haven't had the same conditioning (could it be it took me 15 years to realize this?). i think sometimes those expectations are so ingrained in us, we don't even realize they're there. thank you for the perspective.

Spilling Ink said...

I was "outed" as a Swede by a young Swede the other day at a shopping centre. I don't spend any time around people from my country of origin a lot so it was great to just have a chat in my native tongue (45 minutes later....).

One of the things young Anton asked me was if I felt when I went back to Sweden that Swedes are really rude even if it's due to shyness or just being introverted as a people in comparison to say Aussies. I had to say yes, unfortunately. Scandinavians aren't particularly friendly compared to say Aussies or Americans.

I was watching an Aussie standup comedian doing a gig in Sweden recently. He was joking about how he was in a Swedish bar talking to some guys and they asked him where he was staying. He told them he had nowhere to stay. In Australia he'd be offered a couch to sleep on but the Swedes just went "Oh!". He also joked that it would probably take him a year in the same bar before he would get any of them to tell him their first names.

I don't know if we're suspicious as people,us Scandies or if there's something else going on. I do know though that when I arrived in this country people thought I was rude because I was behaving the way I was used to. It took me time to learn to interract and not be afraid of doing so.

I think I agree with Elizabeth, your conditioning is just really different. It's like me being driven nuts by Aussies always asking "How are you?" and never waiting for the answer. It's like they use it as a greeting and it's not an actual inquiry of what state your in.

will said...

How many people are there on the planet? I figure whatever the number, there's that many movies ... and, as with films, there might be similar scenes in all those movies but it's impossible to splice them together and expect it to make sense.

Molly said...

I wouldn't cope with that, South Africans are generally so outgoing and interactive that my conditioning certainly is to expect that.
I'm curious about Sabin's experience of making friends? Is it as hard for young people? Or in other words, are kids her age as closed as their parents?
That seems pretty tragic if it is the case.

julochka said...

Molly - that's a very interesting question. There are a couple of things in it - 1) Sabin takes it better than I do, because it's the culture/environment in which she's been raised, so her expectations are different. A big part of the disappointment I feel is a result of my expectations as to how people "should" behave. I find those expectations are seldom met. And I've been burned so many times that even when they are met, I still find it hard to be satisfied/believe in it, so I may have reached a point where I'm never satisfied. (weird, why did i use capital letters there?) 2) the friendship thing manifests differently among S and her friends. the main thing i've noticed is that these girls establish their BFF early and it's set in stone and cannot be changed. you might have people you hang out with all the time who are ACTUALLY your best friends, but you can't say it, because you already have a BFF and that's it. i do think this is the problem that manifests later in life for danes (especially danish women) and makes them uninterested in making new friends - they have (and will SAY SO OUT LOUD) all the friends they need and they made them already when they went to kindergarten together).

Molly said...

Shew, that's a sure sign of a small country! And a little sad. And I feel a little sad for you ... those a*holes don't know what they're missing out on by not getting to know you!