It was a while back, during the grieving process following the death of my father, that I coined the title of a yet-unwritten piece “Limitations”. At that time, I was faced with people’s limitations in a more pronounced manner than usually. Specifically, I was very disappointed with my “friends” who chose to communicate their condolences to my and my family’s loss through email instead of through a telephone call.
I blamed the Internet, people’s laziness or lack of comfort in conveying sentiments of sympathy directly, and I also blamed myself for not being successful in endearing myself personally to these people to the point where they would want to bother calling me and speaking to me in person. “People are so limited,” I thought. “I am limited.”
(The one person who called – actually, left a message on my answering service at my home in the country – isn’t even a close friend, but I felt touched that he, of all people, went to the trouble to attempt to speak to me on the telephone. He knows my email address as well, but must also feel that an email message does little to assuage feelings of grief.)
Later, during the funeral, when I was able to hug a few of these friends and relatives that I so badly wanted to hear from earlier, some of this anger and hurt dissipated. I held onto them tightly in that moment and thought, “So you care for me after all”.
I think of limitations when I think of people I know who cannot help themselves being unkind to others. Their limitations are invisible to them; there is almost a lust to express themselves in the way that they do. Obviously, few people point out this quality in them – we Canadians are not a brave and forthright people (at least the ones that I know) – and they live their lives perhaps (or perhaps not) wondering why there are fewer and fewer friends in their lives.
I know why I have few friends: it’s because of my limitation in seeing qualities in others that I appreciate; in my sensitivity, I am too aware of others’ stresses and this turns me off them energy-wise. I have put, in the last 16 years or so, tons of energy into my relationship with my wife, and I do not find myself too lonely. I miss a close friend (I would say “or two” but I really don’t) and hope that one day I will find someone who I really, really appreciate. I guess that this is another of my limitations.
Which brings me to a complete stranger, someone whom I see almost every day here at Decarie Square. Her office is not too far from mine and her existence has brought into conflict my innate ability to feel compassion and my more-limited need to scorn.
This person is overweight and usually walks quite slowly. She’s not that old – I would put her in her early to mid-40’s. On the 3rd floor where I work there are stairs leading to the 2nd floor and also an elevator. Although overweight and usually wearing a serious sad, tired expression on her face (a “fact” which, I understand, can be quite misleading – she might be a joyful, happy person for all I know) this person absolutely never takes the stairs, to go up or down, even though I believe that beginning such a regimen would do wonders for her health – and might even help in her losing some weight.
So I feel scorn. I feel like giving her a lecture, dropping a note off at her office. She inspires fantasies, for God’s sake! There must be something good and open in her vibe to inspire these interventionist daydreams. Another part of me feels compassion and thinks, “Oh, she must be too ill to even try the stairs”; “She is depressed and has tried many times to lose weight and has given up”; “There are good solid reasons why she doesn’t want to take the stairs. You just don’t know what they are, and if you did you would understand”.
Which explains my particular conflict when I see this person and have to deal with what I believe are her limitations. This is my projection, of course. Perhaps she has no limitations in this regard and is doing fine. But, being the physical type of person that I am, I usually fall into “scornful mode” when I see overweight people who don’t seem to be trying to make a lighter and healthier life for themselves.
Limitations — how wonderful life would be if we didn’t have any!