Wednesday, July 16

tell your story

                                        Margaret Bourke-White - Hats in the Garment District, New York, 1930 

I was in Queenscliff on a piercingly cold wet day to celebrate my sister’s birthday. Mum and I spied a decrepit old man across the street. He was hobbling and hopping down the footpath, crippled with pain. He couldn’t traverse much ground before needing to break, and he was alone as the rain drove into him. He’s probably on the pension, I thought, without the money for a scooter, and perhaps his pain is incurable, and perhaps he lives alone. I struggle to cope, and I am supported from all sides. How on earth does he endure? How bleak is his existence? And then I felt the sudden urge to cry rise up inside me, which is extreme for a stranger across the street. You’re really not meant to cry when you just look at someone. I didn’t give in to the sensation, but his pain sat heavily on my heart for a long time.

In the op shop I heard a lady in her 60s telling the cashier that she was looking for a very thick warm jumper for her mother in law who was in a nursing home. Apparently she just couldn’t keep warm this winter no matter what she wore. What should have been an endearing exchange to overhear produced the same effect on me: I wanted to cry. Because this woman was always cold, and obviously frail, in a place not her home. Actually, I didn’t want to cry. I just wanted to carry on looking for fabric, but this emotion bubbled up from I-don’t-know-where.

My response is absurd. Over the top. And it’s not pregnancy hormones. Can you imagine what I will be like if I become pregnant? Ben can’t.

It seems to be the kind of heightened response common after trauma.

Last year, Wolfgang was pinned and attacked by a dog, and with wobbly knees we carried home our bleeding dog. His wound healed, but he is now violently distrustful of all dogs and men. He is so utterly changed from that incident – and I think I’m like Wolfie, affected by it all.

I am feeling normal empathy to an extreme degree because of the pain I know. I will definitely take this over depression and anxiety, it’s not a huge issue. It just reminds me that we are phenomenally shaped by the events in our lives. Sometimes I look at someone and think, “I do not understand you! Why do you do that?” And later, I learn about their life, their strongest memories, and it makes sense. I find a whole new level of acceptance and love after I hear their tale. Our stories allow us to make some sense of our own complex ways, and the complex ways of our loved ones. So we must tell them! And then we can get on with the very important business of ending judgement and supporting each other.  


  1. Even the young man in Aldi today who was behind me in line at the register. As I was walking out feeling ill clutching my box of goods I heard a scream from back inside. I braced myself, the the man sprinted past me, cash from the til in his hand. 'What is his story?' I wondered on my way home. How have things gotten so bad for him? Extreme I know but this man has a story too. Even he, addicted to whatever drug is worthy of compassion. If I could have cried for him and for the poor girl behind the til I would have.
    Thanks Dee

    1. I love this sad story. My innate reaction is to be all shocked and judgemental, but the kind of hard he has experienced is probably off my radar. Thanks for sharing X

  2. 'I am feeling normal empathy to an extreme degree because of the pain I know'.


    Beautifully put!