Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The World Is Bored With Your Problems

We've all said it. I can't actually remember a time when I've said it, but I can sure remember feeling it, then feeling guilty about that. And before I really started paying attention to what came out of my mouth, ie, before impressionable little people entered my life, I'm sure it would have been something tactless, empathyless former me would have spouted.

"I'm totally over hearing about (insert latest natural disaster/war here)"

I've heard it plenty, and it's always said with complete obliviousness to the merest idea that others might be feeling empathy for the continued suffering of victims. Or even that the victims may still be suffering and there's a chance that they'll never "get over it."

It's a wobbly old world. This time 2 years ago, I was probably holding onto a door frame and waiting for yet another aftershock to pass. "The Big One" hit that morning - a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, just 10 kilometres deep and we considered ourselves lucky!

Nobody died.

Lucky indeed; the quake happened at 4.35am and most people were in the relative safety of their beds. Boy did it make the news though!

People weren't unaffected. Liquefaction rivers drifted through dining rooms, water was undrinkable (for those that even had any), the power was out, sewerage lines broken and shops and petrol stations were understandably closed for business. But we knew people cared. Of course they did. It was new news and for that day, there was a whole television station (maybe two!) dedicated to constant updates on the well being of Christchurch citizens. We were in a state of emergency, and people cared. For a bit.

Just about six months later, it happened again, but this time in the daytime and we did not consider ourselves lucky. It killed 185 people. Injured thousands. But we knew people cared; search and rescue teams from all over the world flocked to Christchurch and we felt cared for and loved. Everything that could be done, was being done.

Three weeks along and it was Japan's turn. A magnitude 9 quake followed by a tsunami. A complete tragedy - never ever have I felt for the victims of a natural disaster more than this, with our own so fresh and recent in my mind. I was very pleased to know New Zealand's own SAR team immediately went to help as theirs did for us. I watched it nightly on the news and thought often about the people there.

Then it happened.

I overheard it around the end of March while walking down the street. A street in my town! Where we couldn't walk near some of the buildings for safety's sake, and the roads were still decorated with cracks and liquefaction!

"I'm totally over hearing about that tsunami"

I'm glad it wasn't one of my friends, or even acquaintances.
I don't think I could have remained friends on those terms.

"I'm totally over hearing about (insert latest natural disaster/war here)"

It affects me when I hear it.

I'm not short on problems of my own, some of which may seem pretty trivial, others less so. And they don't always play nice in my head, which has led to depression (crying in the bottom of the shower because it feels too hard to turn the shower off and get dressed kinda depression), self-medicating with food, and self-hate. THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT THE FAULT OF THE PERSON SAYING FLIPPANT COMMENTS. There has to be fertile ground there already for tiny seeds like that to grow into brambles from hell. But it seems that every so often, no matter how much I try to sweep up those seeds, some will get lodged in a crack somewhere and take root. I start thinking Did I talk too much about what's going on for me at the moment? Are they totally "over" hearing about me too? My current problems are nothing compared to tsunami/drought/wildfire/hurricane victims... and I dial back the depth of my conversations with them to just trivialities. I can't help it.

Paranoid? Maybe.

Except now my friends are an empathetic bunch. A lot of my long time friends always have been, but I have managed to just drift away from some who might just be "over" hearing about anything that isn't them. I believe my world is a more optimistic place because of it.

Do flippant comments affect you?

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Top photo supplied by Chris Watson.

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