Misunderstood.

by Susan Pogorzelski on May 12, 2011 · 10 comments

Well, I suppose you think that I’m so flattered to hear
That I’m a whispered conscience in your ear, yeah
And that’s exactly the reason that I never fit in here
Well nothing’s ever that black and white my dear…
-Kate Voegele, “Angel”

 

This blogging world can be amazing in its ability to connect people.

It can also be disheartening at how easily you can become misrepresented, misunderstood even by your own hand.

There will be people who will acknowledge that these platforms are but a small piece of you that you consciously choose to share while aware that you’re shaped by still so much more.

And there will be people who won’t.

Maybe that’s the downfall of it all – maybe people are too complex for one simple blog, in this world where we pick out tiny snippets of our lives and subtle pieces of our beings to share in a post and tweet…

These are only snapshots of us — where we’re one person in the moment, only pieces of a whole. Moments, but not the whole story, not the whole timeline, not all of us. How tiresome that would be, anyway, for those that choose to cultivate a relationship, to know that everything you are is already laid bare, descriptor by descriptor, label by label, with nothing left to be discovered.

(With nothing left to surprise you.)

Maybe it’s comfortable to believe someone is only one thing and leave it at that. Maybe that vague, “she’s sweet” dismisses any other flaws or strengths or attributes and, because of that, you’re able to dismiss the person, make her forgettable. But by doing so, by relying only on this one feature and filling in the rest with what you only imagine someone to be, without taking the time to really get to know them, it diminishes them, makes them less than the whole that they really are.

Maybe it’s enough for you to know who you are and to be comfortable in that knowledge. Maybe it’s enough to surround yourself with the friends and family who have been there, who have taken the time to uncover those layers – who know that you’re something special, something more.

When it comes down to it, I can’t blame anyone for not getting to know me, at least, not all of who I am. How can they, after all? Despite the walls I put up to protect myself, despite the snapshots that I choose to share here in this space, there’s still so much more that goes unspoken…

I’m not just my sense of humor – the way I can tease and be teased, the sarcasm bleeding through utterances that keep my family and coworkers laughing. It’s not just my fire – the blood that boils, the heat that stirs, and the fight that rises when I’m mad or offended or feel like an injustice had been done. I’m not just my flaws: my impatience and complete and utter stubbornness, my high expectations for myself and, yes, even, wrongly, those high expectations for others. I’m not just my strengths.

It’s not just my willingness to compromise and accommodate until it’s something I feel strongly for and then, it’s no holds-barred, and it’s not just my ability to stand up for myself because there’s no way in hell I’m letting someone walk all over me. And it’s not even really the stupid remarks and questions that come out of my mouth that make my friends tease me mercilessly, albeit good-naturedly, and my family look at me as if I’m adopted.

I’m not just my loneliness, my happiness. It’s not just my loss and grief and eventual acceptance. I’m not only my denouncement of and anger at God or my finding my way back to faith again. It’s not only who I love or how I love or why I love.

Do you see? I’m not just one of these things.

I’m all of these things.

And there’s so much more.

I’m so much more.

We’re so much more.

But how can you know? How can you know the smaller pieces, the details and little moments? How can you know how often I replace “fuck” with “shit” because, while life is ripe for the cursing, words have their meaning; how can you know how often they both slip through. How can you know that some of the best experiences of my life were based off intuition, that some of my favorite memories were based on a whim — the times we skipped class to play video games and try learning guitar; 2am Sheetz runs when we’re kind of drunk and craving nachos; promising to get up at 6am to write a paper that’s due at 8 just so I can hang out at the diner a little while longer.

How can you know that I miss that spontaneity, but the people in my life — married or getting married or with children of their own now – don’t have a place for it. And so I stifle that part of myself and give into responsibility and grow up a little more, embracing the times when life can offer its surprises again.

How can you know that I live life the way I choose to live it, that I live my life to the fullest on my terms, though I don’t divulge every detail, though it seems tame compared to those that sensationalize.

What I share is what I choose to share – not to uphold any “brand” or “good-girl image.” This is who I am at the core, yes, and I’ll be damned if I change that for anyone but myself, but it’s not all of who I am. I don’t have to talk about sex to have it. I don’t have to talk about drinking to enjoy a glass of wine or summer beers with friends. And I don’t have to claim anyone or anything to find value in my own life, in what I do, in the places I go.

Just because I’m not writing about it, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Life is happening.

And we happen with it, every moment of every day —  all of these experiences playing their part, every piece shaping you into something more complex, something more detailed, more layered.

We are more than what we seem.

I bare my heart on Twitter and on my blog and even through emails. Compassion is how I connect with people; passion is how I connect to life, and these forums showcase some of the deepest parts of myself because this is my way of expression. This is a part of who I am, this is who I am as a writer, this is who I am in my deepest, secret heart of hearts, this is who I am at the core of my person. But this is not all of me, not by a longshot.

But how can you know?

You can’t. Now when I haven’t told you. And that’s where I’ve failed. Because in all this writing on my blog, in trying to understand myself, and by sharing those deeper parts in order to do so, I’ve failed to show you the light parts.

In trying so hard to understand and be understood, I’ve become misunderstood.

In trying to connect, I’ve become disconnected.

In trying to let go, I’ve lost it all.

That’s the danger in this blogging, tweeting world. Maybe as writers we showcase only one part of ourselves when we’re really more layered than that; maybe as readers we focus on only what we want to see.

Maybe, until you really choose and consciously make the effort to get to know someone…

you don’t know them at all.

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tatiana May 12, 2011

I have mixed feelings about human complexity. Do I believe that humans are complex? Not really. The motivations people possess are rather basic. For example, I was watching “He’s just not that into you”, and I realized that all these dysfunctional relationships were out of insecurity, fear, anxiety, frustration. These emotions are not complex.

Why do bad things happen? Because people are full of fear, and this fear creates hate, which breeds violence, ignorance, hate. Why do good things happen? Because people are full of love, which breeds compassion, understanding, sympathy. These two things are the bases of which humans exist, because as animals, humans are no more complex than a cat or a dog. But because we’re conscious of our existence and our interactions with one another, this creates the illusion of complexity.

It’s difficult to know someone because oftentimes people don’t know themselves. This is reflected when people don’t know what they want, who they like, what they’re passionate about. When you lack self-identity, you wind up constantly changing, trying to find the perfect mold that fits. The greatest thing about people who have become renowned for their contributions to the world is that these people constantly chose the same thing. They didn’t choose different responses to the same problem. In knowing who they were, what they valued, they continued to grow into themselves instead of trying to metamorphose into something else.

In nature, everything does exactly what it’s meant to do, in exactly the way it’s meant to do it. Life shouldn’t be complicated- it should be very easy, and straight forward. But, for some reason, humans enjoy the drama of complexity. Maybe because it’s interesting? Maybe because complexity is highly romanticized. But life is supposed to be like what Mufasa talked about in The Lion King – the circle of life. Interconnectedness, everything knows its place in nature. To some, this might be a terrible notion. It’s not about destiny or anything, but it’s about being in the flow of who and what we are.

As animals, humans must understand their unique relationship to the world we live in. But humans have created this complexity and it’s really distracting and highly inconvenient.

And I said all this to say that when it comes to blogging, you are what you blog about. This probably sounds really narrow, but, to me, if you wanted to write about sex or partying – then you would. Your blog, I think, is in some ways the face you want the world to see and associate with you. The identity you embrace, that you resonate with the strongest. Sure, there are probably varying levels of interests, but when you keep making the same choices, choosing the same things – that enhances you identity, instead of taking away from it.

Reply

Susan Pogorzelski May 13, 2011

Tatiana: Thanks for the comment! I think your reply-lengths are starting to rival my own! =P

I have mixed feelings about this. Do I think that humans unnecessarily create the drama in our lives and it could be easier, much more simple, with better communication and without the drama? Yes. However, I don’t believe we’re that primitive to say that we’re not complex on our own — I don’t believe it’s ever black or white or even shades of gray — but rather we can encompass every color at any given time. And way I say every color, I’m relating it to emotion. Because I think we are emotionally charged beings and that’s what differentiates us from other species.

For instance, with the example you provide of He’s Just Not That Into You — yes, each of these relationships may be dysfunctional based on these emotions, but the emotions themselves and our ability to feel them is what makes us complex, is what makes us human. I believe, when you strip it to its core, everyone experiences the same tenants of life — friends, family, love, loss/death and maybe a few more. It’s that circle of life, if you will. But why is every story different? Why are there thousands upon thousands of books in the world with the same theme and how are they all original?

Because we make them original, because we are original. Because we have different experiences, different reactions, different emotions that make them original and, to that end, complex. That’s what I mean by saying we’re complex — we’re human.

Think about love — you say it breeds compassion, understanding, and sympathy. If it were basic, there would just be love. Period. Yet compassion comes from that love — there are all these different emotions that make it so much less simple. I think that’s what makes us human, it’s how we evolve…Even animals have evolved when it comes down to it — look at a dog, the same species, even same breed, yet different personalities that no longer run on the prospect of the hunt, sleep, eat mentality. Maybe when you strip it bare, this is what we are, but our lives aren’t stripped bare. That’s what makes it beautiful.

Back to blogging: “Your blog, I think, is in some ways the face you want the world to see and associate with you. The identity you embrace, that you resonate with the strongest.” This speaks volumes and I agree wholeheartedly. This blog is a part of who I am and maybe even who I long to be and I won’t change it for anyone but myself — that much I’m adamant about.

But the point is, what I’m trying to say here, is a blog isn’t all of your identity, as people sometimes mistakenly believe. It’s merely a piece of you, a piece of your life that you choose to share, enhancing your identity, as you beautifully say, but never the whole of it.

One of my favorite authors quotes “There is no happily ever after because nothing ends.” I think, as readers, we sometimes read a blog like a book and take it in its context, forgetting that there’s so much more, that the characters keep living — that we keep living. And that there is so much more to us if you just read a little further.

Thanks for the comment, Tatiana. I love how you’ve gotten the discussion going, really respect your opinion, and hope to continue it!

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Tatiana May 13, 2011

Susan: Hah! I didn’t even know that my comment was so long until I hit “submit”! 😛

“However, I don’t believe we’re that primitive to say that we’re not complex on our own — I don’t believe it’s ever black or white or even shades of gray — but rather we can encompass every color at any given time”

Have you ever read the book titled “Conversations with God”? In the series (I forget which book), it’s revealed that humans actually ARE really primitive, particularly compared to other societies – non-human ones (but, you’d only be able to accept that premise if you believe in life in the universe, which I do). Humans are primitive because they don’t get it. Humans have all these disciplines to understand how the world works because humans aren’t aligned with the natural order of the Universe (so to speak). This pertains especially to emotions because humans use emotions to gauge how Other we are compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. If it’s discovered that animals possess the same level of emotional “complexity” that humans do, then people are in shock and awe, because people believe that humans are so complex and so different from the rest of the world. Humans are very similar to other animals, the same emotions, the same intelligence.

Why is every story different? Because Fear and Love are the only two emotions any of us feel at a given time. But fear and love manifest in different ways because we live in a world with a lot of cultures, societal rules and social obligations. How Fear is being manifested in someone’s house in Japan is much different than someone here in the States. But that doesn’t make us complex, just different. Our stories are different because people tell each other different stories. Like, I tell myself I hate myself, the story(ies) that created that mentality are different from yours, but emotion is the same, the EXPERIENCE of the emotion is the same (ie: that’s why it’s possible to have group counseling sessions, because they’re feeling the same thing, even though what brought them there will vary by story).

Why? Because all humans are the same. In the same way that all lions and elephants and tuna are the same. HUMANS ARE THE SAME. We are not different. We are not complex. We are really primitive, very simple organisms who operate on two emotions: fear or love. That’s it. The stories we create about fear and love differ for sure, because we each have our own personalities, our own histories, our own cultures. But we’re not complex. The human emotional response to situations is anything but complex.

But humans don’t understand emotions because we’re not trained from an early age to be connected to ourselves. We’re deeply connected to the physical realm – our physical differences for example – but not much more than that. It’s often not until something bad happens that people begin to reflect on their emotions, to stay in-tuned to how they’re feeling. I would bet that most people don’t know what they’re feeling. Does this mean our emotions complex? No, but it means we’re out of touch with our emotions, how they work and how we’re supposed to respond to them.

The comparison to the dog is excellent because animals know how to respond to their emotions. When my ex-roommate had a cat, I was often freaked out by the kitten because he was so insane. But my friend later told me that kittens practice being startled, they practice being cats. The kitten had an innate understanding of its Cat-ness. Pretty much anyone who owns a cat, understands how cat-like it is. How cats bring in prey as a present, or climb really tall places – cats never forget that they are cats. They don’t know how to act any other way.

How does this pertain to the human complexity of emotions? Humans don’t know or understand what creates or maintains humanity. Humans have forgotten who and what they are. So humans get wrapped up in each other’s stories because they don’t know what else they’re supposed to do. At their base, humans are living fearfully without any conscious awareness of what they’re doing. Look at the world: people cheering over the death of one man, people killing animals as a form of entertainment, the raping of women and children, the complete and total disregard for human life. What about this is complex? It’s fear and it’s primitive. And humans are primitive because they, unlike cats, don’t know who or what they are. So they get caught up in each other’s stories, in what those stories mean, in trying to decipher, create or destroy their emotions.

In my view, humans are the most primitive organisms living on this planet.

“But the point is, what I’m trying to say here, is a blog isn’t all of your identity, as people sometimes mistakenly believe.”

Yeah, I totally agree. And I must admit, I definitely end up doing this myself. It’s difficult for me to keep in mind that people are more than their blogs, and have LIVES and stuff when they’re not blogging. A blog is not the entirety of someone’s existence; I don’t know why I have such a difficult time keeping this in mind. o.O

“we sometimes read a blog like a book and take it in its context, forgetting that there’s so much more, that the characters keep living — that we keep living.”

I often times wonder what people do when they’re not on blogger or twitter. For example, I just got onto twitter today and there was a whole host of activity. It seems so weird that people would be up so early just to be online. And twitter and blogging are so personal, and you’re divulging some much of yourself on a near constant basis. Sometimes it FEELS like you know everything about them.

But when it comes to books, I’m always wondering what the characters are doing when the book is over. How was their summer? Did they do anything fun? I love to use my imagination to fill in the gaps. Even though it’s not real.

Oh no problem! I love coming here – our topics are really thought provoking. I had no idea that I felt so strongly about this. 😛 I respect your opinion too – this is great!

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@Audrey1119 May 15, 2011

Every piece shaping you into something more complex,something more detailed,more layered @20orsomething http://twentyorsomething.com/?p=4493

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william May 20, 2011

social networking and blogging is what people choose to reveal about themselves and despite privacy issues, it’s done at one’s own risk…In my opinion it shouldn’t be possible to know a person down to their DNA and genetic code through it man! But seriously, I can relate with you completely, I’m 25 and deal with the same stuff..it’s our generation caused by the MTV era wreckage of the 80’s and early 90’s…You seem like your analyzing everything too much which can be detrimental. I suggest reading up on Buddhism and similar philosophies, at least for when you need to clear your mind..nothing else in the world can or will be able to but YOU.

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Susan Pogorzelski May 24, 2011

Thanks for the comment, William. I agree — you shouldn’t know everything about a person, as one of the greatest things is that discovery of another human being — the little nuances, the memories, the likes and dislikes and who they are — that’s the joy. The point, however, is how misunderstood we can be within that discovery — if you don’t take the time to get to know a person — their character — there’s the threat of just placing a label on them and leaving it at that, when, in reality, there is so much more than a simple definition, and even a definition can be misleading.

It seems as if, in this time, we’re so quick to label and dismiss. Maybe it is due to how we grew up, maybe it’s due to the reality TV of today, where we classify real people as the villian, the sweetheart, the genius, the fill-in-the-blank. Whatever the cause, that’s what bothers me so much — that we don’t take the time for each other.

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