I used to have a conversation with myself and the Divine about ‘sins of omission’ versus ‘sins of commission’. I’d like to remove the ‘sins’ from there and replace it with ‘acts’. I too have found the unsaid, un-done things hard and painful. The times when a hand on my arm would have comforted, but it wasn’t there; the times when a single smile would have helped and it wasn’t there; the times when a card or a flower or a gift or a phone call would have meant so much and they weren’t there. Then I think of harder things – not having basic needs met and like Margaret, I think of children and poverty and also abuse. I look at the children here on the streets who have few of their needs met and wonder if they have just grown so used to it that they don’t seem to mind any more. At night when they have nowhere to go, they are laughing and playing with each round a bonfire, and dancing happily in their rags. So I wonder how much the ‘suffering’ aspect of it is about expectation, attitude, environment, culture and adaptation. I’ve often thought of how I would feel in burka, yet when I talk to Moslem women they sometimes say they feel safe and protected and cherishing the secret of their bodies for their husbands.
I feel I wandered off topic there but I’m going to leave it anyway – it was just to demonstrate how expectation and culture can dictate our interpretation of suffering, including absence and neglect.
When I was a young woman I used to approach relationships with a mantra in my head – ‘no strings, no expectations’. It stopped me falling in too quickly or making demands of anyone. But of course that changed over time. In any relationship I feel a need to be seen and not neglected and I expect respect and communication. I expect that if someone loves me, they will cherish our time together and therefore be present when they can and that means actually being with me when they are with me and not neglect me in terms of affection, kindness, and their presence. I expect that as far as possible they help me fulfil my emotional needs – or at least respect that I do have some. But if they don’t, they are still sharing an experience with me. It may be one that I wish I wasn’t having, but there’s teaching and the possibility of growth in it nevertheless, And as an adult I can choose to remove myself from abuse and it’s my responsibility to do so. When I was a child I had no option but to accept and suffer abuse.
I’m looking forward to more about this – you see, I do have both strings and expectations…