My father was at mass complaining about his side again. How it hurt. He was convinced he had cancer, but every test had ruled that out. I’d been hearing about the phantom pain for almost a year now, it was his constant conversational piece.
And I was annoyed because…there was nothing wrong with him, he had been through every test, and that’s all he talked about, and he refused to go to family events, and everything revolved around how badly he felt, he didn’t participate in life, my mother dropped everything to cater to this phantom pain. I can’t remember the last time I heard him talk about anything else other then how much he hurt, and how life was hard; he was walking energy sucking raincloud. Being around him was difficult.
Recent events and understandings about people and myself, allowed me to begin viewing my father differently. He just wanted to connect and he didn’t know any other way to do it then talk about how much he hurt.
In stead of seeing the constant complaining as an annoyance meant to be departed from as soon as possible, I leaned into the conversation, I asked if he had any more tests done, the specifics of his pain, where it hurt the most. I saw him brighten as he continued with his gall bladder, and knees and everything in between. And I listened because, I really wanted to know. It wasn’t the pain…I wanted to know how my dad felt…it didn’t matter if it was all in his head or not…to him…it mattered, and when you love someone…you give them your presence.
My father wanted someone to listen to him and the only way he knew how to do this, was either through talking about his pain or making some offensive statement revolving around politics. Both were ways to bee seen and connect.
With this in mind, I was able to converse with him much easier. Instead of seeing his completely offensive political jabs at me as hurtful, I didn’t get offended…it wasn’t the politics that mattered, it was seeing that this was a man that was trying to connect.
I think that is what we all want, to be seen, heard, and known…validated. People who yell or say hurtful things…sometimes just want to be seen or heard, and they haven’t actually paused enough to figure out…what is it that they want someone to know?
Maybe it’s something simple like…”I’m afraid. Or I’m hurt.”
Being present for someone…even when they are difficult, is easier when you look not at what they are saying…but look at their human need to connect.