>Are we listening or jus mentally attending to quotidian chores.Today she called and before I could even exchange pleasantries, she began on her grievances (again!). “I am at my wits end, trying to manage work, home, unwanted calls and guests, relatives and if that were not enough, I am on the wrong side of the month too!”
And as she poured out on how hard life was, my mind was reeling. The strain in her voice was apparent, her anger was justified and I agreed with her reasoning too, but I could not (at least not substantially) feel ‘sorry for her’. The predominant thought ringing emphatically in my ears was, ‘there she goes again’.
“Why should everything be my responsibility, it is so unfair!” She screamed in utter frustration. Thank god, phones do not have eyes; for right then, I was looking at my watch and trying to gauge how further delayed I would be in getting on with my day. A part of my mind was also scrutinising the conversation for an opportune moment to excuse myself and be off the hook, as politely as I could. Well she is a good friend and this sounds mean and cold but I am stating facts here.
As I observed myself observing her, it hit me! No one really feels or truly cares, because we can’t (unless it is really tragic like a disease or a death or a huge failure)! That we just pretend we are listening while we mentally tune out and attend to quotidian chores- what to wear for the day, should supper be rice or roti, how to handle the customer, what to focus on the meeting, was he lying to me… Or maybe, we listen with customary validations of ‘mmmm’ but in our minds think, ‘I am dealing with my shit, so?’ Or maybe our lips curl up at edges for, ‘at least today I am dealing with less than her!’ But we ‘do not’ or perhaps it would be fair to say that most of us ‘cannot’ truly give a damn!
I remember another time with another friend. We were playing a card game that she loved more than we did, but she had to prepare dinner(after an eight-hour gruelling work day). Though I could understand that she deserved to play the game and enjoy without having to strain her ears for that 3rd whistle of the cooker and perhaps for a few fleeting moments even sympathised with her unending list of chores, but I confess, that I felt better about me enjoying the game than feeling bad that she was not! And hearing us chuckle (in the game) if she did mouth ‘ the unfair mantra’ we all went ‘uff’ (in our minds at least). This is our reality, or least it is mine!
And it struck me yet again that we all have our ‘to do’s’ and that is what we care about.
That brings me then to a subsequent question. What are the benefits of venting out for oneself (because clearly there are no pros of it in regards to the others’… not even genuine sympathy)! Perhaps we do so because of two reasons, it is relieving and secondly it is a validation of our personal account sheet in another’s eye. To have another know the extent of my (extra) efforts vis-à-vis others kind of makes it little worthwhile. For what is the point of working more when no one acknowledges that I am doing so?
Though venting may feel cathartic, it eventually adds more than it takes away! A verbal listing, point by point of every issue that subsequently tips the scale to the ‘unfair’ side is like reliving not just the tipping but the issues all over again! The unfairness stares at your face!
My friend, in narrating how much more she had to do, felt even more wronged than while she was doing them! I saw her indignation rise, making her even more miserable, hurting and frustrated. Did it seem unfair to me? Yes, it did, but so do a hundred other things everyday — the dog on the street with its ribs jutting out, the merciless heat in the month of NMarch, the little children begging barefoot on busy crossings, the buses emitting black clouds of smoke despite all our regulations, my domestic help sweating next to the kitchen fires while I lounge in the balcony! Aah! But I am deviating here. Let me get back to my story…
I remember being where my friend was, narrating with meticulous details of how ‘unfair’ life had been to me to many an unwilling ears, yet most of the times, those outlets only took away more of my energy, tempting me to hate and rage more, wallow in self pity as I flashed my balance sheet to the other uncaring eyes and ears.
I am not saying we don’t care… I am saying perhaps we can’t care… or maybe don’t care enough to commiserate the negative chain it gets us into