I've coined this term to try to put into words that awful feeling experienced when a relationship goes awry. Something was said or done either with or without intent, and a friend or lover becomes offended. Depending upon the relationship of the offender/ offendee, and the nature of the offense, this can cause us to enter "Relationship Purgatory," that period of cleansing which consists of awkward silences and averted gazes. Unspoken words and general tension sometimes resulting in physical symptoms which I can only describe as the sensation of two Koi fish wrestling just behind the belly button. Knees feel like they've been over oiled, like they could give out without warning. A mere thought about a possible confrontation causes the heart to pound for hours on end, even before drinking a double latte. Why, it's almost like falling in love but without the endorphins!
This state of Relationship Purgatory can last anywhere from 15 minutes to a lifetime. Some folks choose never to enter it and instead opt to simply terminate the relationship in question without further investigation. Other folks seem to enter it on a daily basis, as evidenced by their constant need to clarify every questionable comment, for example, "Sally, your hair looks really pretty today!" and Sally replies,"What do you mean by that? It looked crappy yesterday?" I can't even count how many times I have had that sort of response to an innocent compliment. I don't get it. I don't like dealing with defensive types. They make my innards feel abnormal. If I have to censor what passes from my lips, my entire communiction process becomes uncomfortable and unnatural. Sometimes, no matter what I say, or how I say it, it just doesn't come out right. Sometimes, the mere fact that I said anything at all is the problem. There's no going back, and now I am in Relationship Purgatory, that time of cleansing, until things settle down and return to normal.
Other folks choose never to be offended, realizing that things are rarely about them anyway, and giving the benefit of the doubt when unkind comments are aimed in their direction. These are the truly enlightened folks, but I must say that I haven't run into many folks who possess this quality, just that Buddah Boy of mine. He was born with this gift. He lives in a constant state of gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, and well, enlightened grace. I have so much to learn from him. The older he gets, the more profound the utterances that come from him. Soccer Boy is one of the few who knows how to rattle his cage, though. He does it just for the sport of it.
For the most part, if an ambiguous comment is made, I try to give it the benefit of the doubt. Especially if it was said to someone else.... I refuse t believe that most folks go around intentionally offfending others. Purposely neglecting to say, "Hello," and refusing to say, "Thanks for a job well done." After all, words are simply the tools for communication. Once the intent of the thought has been communicated, why do we choose to get so hung up on the words that were used? It's kind of like dwelling on the size and color of the twigs used as kindling for the fire. (Okay, I admit that that wasn't my original analogy- I swiped it from a cool little purse book called WABI SABI- The Art of Everyday Life, by Diane Durston, that I recently purchased at a really cool bookstore in Little Tokyo .) Now that I've fessed up, here is the entire quote:
The fish trap exists because of the fish.
Once you've got the fish, you can forget the trap,
The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit.
Once you've got the rabbit, you can forget the snare.
Words exist because of the meaning.
Once you've got the meaning, you can forget the words.
Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?
How many times have we gone in circles with someone who keeps saying, "But you said...." and the reply is , "But I meant......." For example a child says, "But you said 5 friends could come over!" and the mother replies, "But I meant on Saturday, not Tuesday!" Mom knows that her child knows she meant on Saturday (intent), but since that's not exactly what mom said, child thinks they can hold her to her exact words. I think, as grown ups, we have to make a conscious choice to go with the "But I meant" over what was actually said (is this where lawyers come in handy?), unless it is being manipulated after the fact, like when someone purposely says something offensive, followed by the trite, "just joking!" Again, look at the intent. If the comment was so outlandish that the intent was surely one of humor, then fine. But if the intent was to communicate something uncomfortable, and then try to wriggle out from the responsibility of having to explain oneself, well then, I guess it depends upon whom one was joking with.
Miscommunication accounts for so much Relationship Purgatory. Watching 60 Minutes last week, I saw an interview of the guy who was assigned to Saddam Hussein while Saddam was incarcerated. After months and months of building a relationship with Saddam, the FBI agent asked him why it was that Saddam invaded Kuwait, and Saddam replied that it was because of an unsavory comment that the ruler of Kuwait had made regarding the people of Iraq. I don't know the intent of the Kuwaiti ruler's comment. I imagine it was to offend, and offend it did. Seems to me, the whole thing could have been avoided, but we'll never know for sure. Words are powerful tools no doubt, but intentions are what is important, and words do not always mirror the intentions of the speaker. This is where perception comes into play. And we all perceive things uniquely. So on that note, I wish you all a festive Valentine's Day- do something kind for your sweetheart. Make sure your words reflect what you wish to convey. And do your best to stay out of Relationship Purgatory!
Princess's "Would You Rather Game"
(while waiting to pick up Computer Boy from his evening shift, Princess filled the 15 minute wait with this game! We took turns choosing which of two horrible or delightful situations we would rather. Here is a sampling....)
1. Would you rather have 4 or 6 fingers on each hand?
2. Would you rather kiss someone unattractive that you could see prior to kissing, or kiss someone that you do not get to see first (total blind kiss)?
3. Would you rather eat a small piece of dog poop, or hold your breath until you passed out?
4. Would you rather freeze to death or burn to death?
5. Would you rather be way to skinny or way too fat?
6. Would you rather be pretty but mean or ugly but nice?
7. Would you rather be rich and snobby or poor and thankful?
8. Would you rather drink water that someone spit in or sour milk?
9. Would you rather have one arm and two legs or two arms and one leg?
10. Would you rather go to China or Argentina?
11. Would you rather sky-dive or bungee jump?
12. Would you rather have a chronic problem of farting all the time or burping all the time?
13. Would you rather suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction?
14. Would you rather be thin with terrible acne or fat with a perfect complexion?
15. Would you rather go to jail for something you didn't do, or not go to jail for something you did do and suffer guilt forever?
16. Would you rather wear a ski jacket in the heat of the summer, or have to wear shorts and a tank top in the winter?
17. Would you rather eat flies or maggots?
18. Would you rather have been a passenger on the Hindenburg (Blimp that crashed) or the Titanic (ship that sank).
19. Would you rather wear glasses or have braces?
20. Would you rather be a phenomenal student or a phenomenal athlete?
21. Would you rather have a great body but ugly face, or a beautiful face but ugly body?
22. Would you rather eat your favor tie food every day for the rest of your life, or never eat it again?
23. Would you rather puke in public or pee your pants in public?
24. Would you rather have too many kids or no kids?
25. Would you rather stung by a wasp or bit by red ants?
26. Would you rather swim through shark or alligator infested waters?
27. Would you rather be forced to stay in bed long after you were awake, or be kept from going to bed long after you were ready to sleep?
28. Would you rather eat a bowl of Raisin Bran Cereal and be told that there was a dead fly in it after you had finished, or discover the dead fly while you were eating it?
29. Would you rather run or swim until you collapsed from exhaustion?
30. Would you rather have to type the same essay 6 times making revisions each time, or type six different essays, but not have to make revisions?
31. Would you rather be a fantastic painter or piano player?
32. Would you rather stir a pot of soup or chop potatoes for an hour without stopping?
33. Would you rather be a famous doctor or actor?
And- doesn't anyone know a J. Davis who lost an iPod? Email Jewel if you do. See the July 07 archive.
See February 07 archive.
Update to last Valentine's Day column: Beautiful Babysitter and gallant Math Tutor never did meet up for a Jamba. She went on to date a toad, and I have no idea about Math Tutor. I guess it wasn't meant to be!
» Pink Floyd
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care
Leave but don't leave me
Look around and choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be
Run, run rabbit run
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don't sit down it's time to start another one
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race toward an early grave.
A sharp tongue can cut my own throat.
Of all the things I wear, my expression is the most important.
The best vitamin for making friends.... B1.
The happiness of my life depends on the quality of my thoughts.
The heaviest thing I can carry is a grudge.
One thing I can give and still keep...is my word.
I lie the loudest when I lie to myself.
If I lack the courage to start, I have already finished.
One thing I can't recycle is wasted time.
Ideas won't work unless 'I ' do.
My mind is like a parachute...it functions only when open.
The pursuit of happiness is the chase of a lifetime! It is never too late to become what I might have been.
Life without a friend is death without a witness.
To have a good friend is one of the highest delights of life; to be good friend is one of the noblest and most difficult undertakings.
If you want an accounting of your worth, count your friends.
There is no physician like a true friend.
Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.
--Saint Thomas Aquinas
It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.
There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends. that magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first... when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.
When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.
--Edgar Watson Howe
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