As I was sitting in the bathtub soaking my nether parts for reasons of my own, I started thinking about the word, “commiserate.”
The standard definition of this word means to feel pity or sympathy for, but I would like to focus more on the roots of the word:
[from Latin commiserārī, from com- together + miserārī to bewail, pity, from miser wretched]
Something about that touches me. Isn’t that the essence of humanity, that we sometimes bewail our lot in life together, and thereby make the burden a little less? When the weight of pain becomes so great at we are fair bursting with it, when we are near to screaming with the frustration of what is in our way, does it not relieve us to have someone to share with?
Is not the load halved when we choose to share ?
This has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. While I am pretty decent at listening, fine at advocacy, and a dab hand at fixing other people’s problems, I fail utterly when it comes to self-disclosure.
I think fear of ridicule has a lot to do with this failing of mine. I grew up never knowing when my failings would be thrown in my face publicly, when I would have to endure humiliation for nothing more than being human and making human mistakes. If I revealed something about myself, it would be fodder for conversation – things said in confidence related to near strangers as amusing anecdotes. It’s no wonder at I am reticent, more inclined to hold things in than to let them out.
But I am taking steps to change this way of being, to learn to fully commiserate. One step, obviously, is to write about these things. I can feel a bit safer if I can be somewhat anonymous. Another is to talk a bit to someone I am pretty sure I can trust. I’m working on that, and it is really hard.
That is how I am trying to put the “com” in commiserate.
I relate. It’s hard to reveal one’s self, isn’t it? For me (I wonder if it’s true for you) I can trace this back to my mother. Every time I revealed myself, that revelation was secretly stored in her own personal arsenal for a later launch date. It was a painful lesson, but I learned that it cost to be vulnerable and open. Betrayal costs, and it’s just easier to extend sympathy/compassion rather than open up and truly commiserate. Alas, I also learned that no one gets to share my burden if I don’t share it, too. So, I have to re-learn to trust others and take the risk. Hard stuff, but necessary. Nothing easy here. It’s all painful, messy, and mucky. I don’t like it. Not one bit. I admire your bravery. I know how hard it is.
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