Together or Apart

Sometimes being around people who don’t understand you is worse than being alone; Jean Paul Sartre went as far as to say that “Hell is other people” in his play No Escape.  Being stuck with people who do not appreciate or listen to you, or maybe, operate at a different speed than you, can be a trial. But it’s part of being on earth, being human, I suppose. We are born into families and later have roommates and colleagues and a spouse and children who are separate from us. The clink of the spoon on the bowl, the chewing in mouth across the table, the cell-phone conversation on the bus next to you, is more grating because it comes from an external and uncontrolled source. Psychologically, self-created-noise versus external noise, is a difference of order to chaos.

Some people need special diets, having to avoid too much of certain foods; and some people need to avoid environmental stressors. Too much noise, touch, scents, lights, all can be a hazard for someone with a sensitive nervous system–someone like me. I get headaches from too much light, I’m easily chilled, I need frequent snacks and bathroom breaks, need space away from it all sometimes. What can you do when your most basic needs speak so loudly–but listen?

But not everyone understands this inner urgency: they don’t know how blank and empty you–the extreme introvert–feel if you don’t have books and music and time to yourself. They don’t know how hunger pangs turn you upside-down; how the sound of chips crunching is equivalent to a building-demolition for your senses. And your husband doesn’t understand when you don’t want to be touched, because instead of being turned on by his caresses, a touch to your thigh alerts you to the contents of your bladder.

Misunderstanding is at the root of so much strife, annoyance. We don’t understand why; we can’t put ourselves in another’s shoes, so instead we stand exasperated, asking questions. Why do you need to go to the bathroom so often? Why does it take you so long to get all of your things (sweater, sunglasses, a water, a snack…etc…, when you go places? All these questions seem to boil down to the question of, “Why must you be so much trouble?”

I don’t know why. But I can’t avoid being myself. I can’t avoid suffering. The truth is…life is full of it. But didn’t those of us who got married sign up for a challenge? Didn’t we commit to respect–which is to say, to appreciate that others may have a different angle–and to love the other–which is to consider another’s needs sometimes above our own? Why should people be together if they only tear each other down?

For a short time, we were apart due to failures of love and respect. Now we’re together, and our together better than it’s ever been. He seems to understand my needs. And I still need alone time…but now he understands. Now we feel a little less repelled by all that annoys, more at peace with the humanity that we share.