Have you ever encountered that ONE person in any given conversation who SWEARS whatever you’ve gone through, not only have they gone through but ten times worse than you? I can’t count the amount of real tears I’ve witness cease from the audacity and incredulity this insensitivity brings about.
Everyone notices it except the narcissistic culprit committing the crime of stealing your pain.
Grieving, suffering and pain, by nature are already selfish endeavors. People only associate with their personal level of hurt and tend to get angry at the intrusion of yours into theirs.
And there seems to be this “thing” some people do with regard to pain and suffering which requires comparing degrees of hurt to win some macabre emotionally dysfunctional competition. I cannot stand this practice and I habitually speak on it every time it occurs. I am what is known, in the inner circles of my mind, as a conversation cock-blocker.
I prefer to weigh my thoughts and words carefully so I tend to listen to what people say. This typically makes me the third wheel in any given exchange.
Picture this: There sits the selfish bastard, arms casually draped over the subject at hand; trying to convince another someone they are the most Royal King of Sorrow.
Here I am, the deceptively nerdy friend who keeps coughing loudly every time they make an inane point in their attempt to bring the emotionally damaged crowned jewel home. You know, the extra-assed irksome friend they try to convince might have more fun if they just left the hell from their face and went any gawd-damn where else. Because they know that I know that what they’re really trying to do is “get with”, “get over” or “get on” my friend and my presence and eyeball rolling is jacking up all the chances.
It doesn’t really matter what the topic is, this person will FIND a way to usurp the pain trophy from your very hands. You say “Yesterday, Lillian was hit by a car; she suffered a broken leg and had to go to the ER.” They say “Oh that’s nothing…” (This is the selfish bastard’s mantra) “I remember the time…” (They have very vivid memories of every single solitary thing that has ever happened to them since conception) “I was hit by a guy on a skateboard and had to have stitches in my leg because the cut went all the way to the bone and I hit my head when I fell and had to spend the day at the hospital and lost part of my memory and sometimes I forget who Lillian is and then it just comes right back to me.” The room falls into an awkward silence because we all know what’s coming next. “The doctors said they’d never seen anything like it.”
Uncomfortable silence does indeed make a sound. It is the lilt of throats inconspicuously clearing, the flutter of eyes down casting and if I am in the room…actual speaking noise:
“Are you f*cking serious right now?”
Yes, as I stated earlier, I weigh my thoughts and words carefully and I am fairly certain these would be the only six words I would be able to dredge up in this instance.
What IS That?
How can your personal life be so voided that you are reduced to hungry infant desperately suckling life milk from the nipple of other people’s pain?
Leave our teats alone!
These thoughts bombard my brain today because at this moment, in my life are an innumerable host of family and friends who are coming up on the 2nd Annual Remembrance of the murders of two individuals and the suicide of a third.
I am not looking forward to this Remembrance.
I’ve gone through great pains to situate myself into a new work environment, into a new city where it wasn’t headline news and with the exception of the occasional blog to clear my mind-tears, and one co-worker I felt comfortable enough to confide in, I tend to keep the incident to myself.
I too, am selfish with my pain.
I’ve protected myself well, cocooning my world into a buffer from rehashing and remembering, but nothing protects me from hearing. I hear everyday. I listen every day.
I listen to people talk about their relationships or lack thereof, I hear how he or she is “the worst thing that happened to them.” I listen to people speak about how they “can’t handle this or that.” I hear about struggles and issues, problems and general bitching. I hear warning signs that alarm me, I hear relationships being wasted in foolishness, and I hear arguments that mean nothing in the grand scheme of loving each other.
Inside I am churning and hurting and thinking “if that person was murdered, what would you feel then?” But I keep my pain to myself because to catapult my situation on them would be tantamount to saying “oh that’s nothing, I remember the time…”
But another year has passed and this week I sit in solitude to remember the time.
Once a month I attend a homicide support group called “The Courageous Ones” and I am reminded that I am not the only one suffering, that my situation is not the only one that exists and sadly, when a new family joins the group, I am reminded that I am thankfully two years into a journey of healing whereas others may be two days into the same oblivion I just passed through.
Fresh pain has no recourse.
On April 17, 2010 we suffered the loss of Sandra K. Stewart & Charles Markay Stewart, brother and sister who were murdered by Supreme Shabazz; Sandy’s husband. Supreme killed himself after taking the lives of his wife and her brother.
I say “we” because I can’t count the number of people who loved these three individuals. I can’t see or touch them all because we span cities and even countries. I say “we” because there is a threading that connects us as closely as six degrees of separation with Kevin Bacon. You could probably name one grieving person and literally link them to Sandy, Charles, Supreme, or anyone who knew just one of them.
Two years ago I stood behind the podium at Bethel Village AME Church to deliver “Reflections” for Charles on the day of his and Sandy’s double funeral. I recall looking around Pastor Odom’s Church, and embracing a sea of faces contorted in individual hurting.
There was no way for me to gauge the depth of pain each person was feeling.
All I knew is that we were all in a space where none of us would be able to articulate the emotion if our lives depended on it.
To what degree can one measure another’s pain?
When I look at Sandy and Charles mother “Mommy Carol”, their sister Missy and brother Bobby, a family who is left with nothing but the living breathing legacy of Sandy and Supremes son “Scoot”, I am reminded of the journey they must travel and the truths they must gather as this young man grows into maturity. How they will have to explain all this to him because ultimately he will come to ask.
And what of his father’s family? How will they navigate that rocky terrain when his son comes to them with questions?
To what degree can one measure another’s pain?
If two people are set afire, both receiving third degree burns, one on the face, the other on the arm, whose pain is worse? You can argue all day which person will be more grossly disfigured, or whose scars will be more visible, but whose pain is worse?
Our situation is so emotionally knotted on all sides that even the staunchest nautical expert wouldn’t be able to successfully untie us from one another. We are all forever tethered to this never-ending nightmare.
This question of whose pain is greater has floated silently for the past two years. Drifting, uncomfortably in and out of the atmosphere every time Sandy’s name is spoken, or Charles memory is brought up.
Who has the right to mourn or be mourned?
There are those of us who are angry at Supreme for committing the ultimate selfish act of double murder. I reside among the angry. I live with suppressed anger everyday. It seeps into my life in the most unexpected ways and it is a struggle I will wrestle for my remaining days.
There are others of us who weep openly at his loss; his death, as all deaths do, has greatly impacted his friends and family, the very same people who loved Sandy and Charles too.
On April 17, 2010 a great divide was created by Supremes selfish actions and as the ground opened up and swallowed each of our loved ones it created a Grand Canyon separating what was once a “United” family; now blasted into fragmented pieces, stumbling over unanswered questions, confusion while grappling with the absurdity of what society says is the correct behavior in these situations.
Bad guys are to be hated. Period.
Some of us fell into the chasm, breaking bones on sorrow and bonds on principle, unable to mentally handle the divide. Some people have been relegated into a dark corner where they feel they must mourn in solitude.
They mourn beneath the blanket of public shame because to openly mourn Supreme is to risk being subjected to our selfish grieving. Our “how dare you mourn for that monster” our pain is greater than your pain selfish grief that we are indeed entitled to.
The albatross tightening on the vocal cords of people in the privacy of their own minds is the question of whether our entitlement negates theirs.
Why should our entitlement push their pain into a retaliation type of grieving? A “phuck this, that was my boy, friend, SON and I miss him so I’m going to grieve” angry pain?
Neither Supreme’s friends, nor his family pulled that trigger. Supreme did. He was loved dearly by many the day before his crime, so you tell me how they are supposed to turn their love off overnight?
I don’t hate Supreme. It was the act he committed that I loathe, despise, and hate. It was his act that I turn my anger towards. I condemn the ideal of him. I condemn the circumstances which caused him to react then act in such a vicious and simultaneously cowardly manner. I condemn every out of control argument between lovers, I condemn every harmful word thrown like daggers, I condemn every tit for tat, under handed, scheming action people think is funny, I condemn laughter at adultery, I condemn laughter at weakness, I condemn power tripping, control, and fear of rejection. I condemn cruelty and despise domestic violence.
It is the idea that as human beings many of us do not take responsibility for our anger, jealousy, words or actions. We have repeatedly failed to respect the care we are supposed to place in our relationships. We do not argue with care and we certainly have no clue how to separate with care, respect or dignity.
Slavery is still alive and kicking as long as we believe we “own” another person and treat that person as our personal property to discard at will.
That is at the base of my anger.
I don’t hate Supreme. I do not begrudge people who mourn him. He and his memories simply disappeared from my life the moment he pulled that trigger.
That is all the care I could afford him without killing my spirit.
In the past two years I have learned that turning our anger towards those who grieve his loss is a distraction from dealing with our own pain. It gives us the protection of angry pain too. People would rather be mad than hurt. Anger is deceptively powerful, hurt is thought of as a weakness.
So when I hear that his friends are planning an event to remember him by, I stifle my own feelings and try not to inject my own selfish pain.
We were all set ablaze that day. Some in the face and some to their extremities. Where we were hit isn’t nearly as important as understanding that it was a third degree burning which torched all of our spirits.
We are all scarred.
I pray that we each hold the fact that an angry pain never has the opportunity to heal properly; closure is always going to be sealed off by a thin layer of resentment that only manages to set into a bitterness addiction which is a narcotic too easy not to resist and once hooked, too strong to kick.