Posts Tagged frustration

The bitter taste of unmet expectations

A good friend of mine, who also lives abroad now, has texted me last week with an unpleasant (for her) piece of news. She has been fancying this guy at work for quite a while now and even felt a connection, but they never dated. However, apparently he told her he wasn’t in a relation, only for my friend to recently find out he is moving in with his girlfriend. She wrote me “how do I get over this bitter taste?”

The first thing which sprang to my mind was that, actually, he’d done nothing wrong. Many men, especially at work, prefer not to discuss or give much detail on their personal life whatsoever. Many of them only talk about any such matters with very close friends. Although I do feel for my friend, I see how her disappointment has little to do with the guy himself, but more with her own unfulfilled expectations. He probably didn’t even lie to her, considering, as she’s also told me, that he valued setting a clear limit between personal life and work.

Now I need to say I have known my friend for many, many years. She is the sweetest, most delicate introvert, with a sparkling sense of humour, which actually shelters a very shy, sensitive and emotional person. And, after years of not being in contact, we found each other again on, yes, Facebook and have kept in touch better via Viber and Skype. It feels just the same as in those days past when we sometimes confessed to each other by writing letters.

The bitterness which she possibly felt quite overwhelming we all experience, heavier or lighter, over and over. Every time an unmet expectation strikes us, it seems like the natural feeling, a little less heated than anger and a little more obvious than frustration. But then, at the same time, whichever the range of emotions, we can stop and ask ourselves: does this actually have anything to do with somebody else treating us unfairly or not? Did they do anything wrong to us, after all?
The more we think they did, the more difficult will be for us to get over it and move on.

Of course I am speaking out of experience. I do know a lot about lingering in the drama, about feeding my own frustration and keeping the flames of my own anger high. But I have also come to realise what I have probably read over and over again, and was told by some of the most helpful people I’ve met, that others do not have to react, behave or relate to me in the way I want or would like them too. As long as it is not offensive, what they do is their own choice and has nothing to do with me.
Once we realise this, we do not take things so personally any longer. It doesn’t mean our first reaction would be different or we would lose all of the bitterness, frustration or anger when our long learnt and practiced pattern has been to feel hurt, disappointed, mislead (if not, plainly, lied to), pushed aside.

However, in time and with good practice, we can come to understand that the way people behave has little to do with us. It has much to do with themselves, their life circumstances, their past and background, their life experience, their own state of mind.
Wherever we are, whatever the situation, it comes to us to consider our options and where we want to shift our attention to. Just the same as it is the others’ own business to deal with the consequences of their own behaviour, choices and expectations.

Writing about this made me think of a Paul Valery quote, which I knew in an approximate form in Romanian. According to Goodreads, this is what the French writer said: “Our judgements judge us; and nothing reveals us [or] exposes our weaknesses more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.” 

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Lost in London

An old man, Vasile Belea, got lost on London tube while visiting his son. The poor man had been drifting God knows how and where before he had been found and reunited with his family. You can read all about the news here.
This is one of those stories which, when you read them, make you laugh and feel sorry at the same time. Well, if you’re British or any other nationality, the funny detail would most probably escape you. But for Romanians, the poor old man’s name is the reason. In Romanian, if you emphasize on the first syllable of Belea, it’s a family name, well known one. But if you place the accent on the second syllable, it becomes a completely different word, meaning trouble in a somewhat funny way, the kind of innocent trouble people sometimes get into. I can only but imagine people back in this man’s village or small town talking, when he goes back, a celebrity by now: “Old uncle Belea got himself into belea while in London”. And this sounds really funny.

 

On the other hand though I can’t help but think of how terrified he must have been. Apparently people have been nice to him, but still. By looking at him and the way he is dressed I can tell that he seems to be a countryside man, who maybe lived and worked his whole life as a farmer, tending to the vegetable garden, the poultry and probably a pig in his own backyard. He wears a typical lamb fleece hat and a typical vest called cojoc, which you wouldn’t really see elderly in the city to wear, unless they are just retired there with their family, after a lifelong spent in a village.
Then I wonder how he lived for three days while he was lost and completely cut out from his family. Did he sleep in a park? Did anybody feel sorry for him and gave him some food? How did he feel being lost in such a crazy busy city like London?

 

What worries me is that he tried to approach police and that was unsuccessful. Chatting to one of my house mates last night, he said something like “people don’t care” and reminded me of the movie “The Terminal” saying a true story about a man who lived for about 5 years in an airport, they all knew he was there and nobody really cared, until they’ve decided to grant him political asylum. While it can be understandable that people would think a grown man, fit and healthy, could take care of himself one way or another, I find it concerning that police would just ignore an old person trying to approach them.
Of course we can’t tell how it happened. But think about it: in the end, Vasile Belea took a newspaper with his photo in it and went to show it to the police. This underlines couple of things: the old countryside man from Romania found a way to help himself, in a world completely different from the one he’d known so far. And also, he wasn’t afraid of police and he knew that they would be the ones to finally help him. So I doubt it that the first two times he tried to get their attention he’d been too bashful or hesitating.
When police ignore or fail to help an elderly person, who clearly doesn’t look like a London regular, just because he doesn’t speak the language, I find it concerning. This man could’ve been from any country in the world, doesn’t matter. They couldn’t understand him? Keep him around, get somebody to take him to the police station, show him a map of the country, then Europe/the world and he could’ve said or indicated to Romania. Get him to the Embassy and problem solved. No need for the vulnerable elderly to spend three days and nights on the streets of London, all alone and miserable.

 

Compared to the police failure to help him, some people’s comments on the discussion board of Huffington Post seem mere frivolities. But they aren’t. When frustration has grown to such a level to which they mock a vulnerable person’s traumatizing experience just for being Romanian, it means it’s the same old story of a still immature society. Society as a group still functions for some to take advantage and for others to take their frustrations over others.

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Me happy, dad tired, after six hours of strolling through London

This might be quite a strong statement, but it literally made me sick to read comments like “so when is he going back then?”. Yes, I find these comments oozing with racism. I mentioned it, and I got in reply the very intelligent and refined answer “stupid woman”. Right.
My father visited me here in October. It was his first time in the UK, but he had previously travelled to Austria and the neighbouring countries, former Yugoslavia and Hungary. Although he’s been brought up in a countryside household and he keeps a vegetable garden, poultry and all the rest, he is a priest, with four years of University studies. He’s a big fan of British documentaries on history, he watches old movies (without subtiles) on TCM and he’s a person with a certain degree of cultural information. He can speak basic English, although he is quite bashful when it comes to this. But he could manage if he’d get lost.

 

When he was here, for two weeks I took him all around the area. We’ve visited Hurst Castle, which was lots of fun for both of us, of course as a big history lover he thoroughly enjoyed it. We even faced the very strong winds on the spit with smiles on our faces. We went to Southampton and he could admire the old fortifications there. In Bournemouth we took a stroll on the beach, we’ve visited the old priory church in Christchurch. And we went to Beaulieu National Motor Museum for one day. Then, before him flying back home, I dragged him all around Central London, to all the important landmarks.
During those two weeks, none of the people who served us Chinese, Mexican or pub style food (The Harvester), who sold us tickets or were just around us in any of those place asked us “so, when is he going back?”. It would’ve been quite stupid, really. My father was here so I could spend my money showing him around, so why would they?

 

I want to conclude this article by saying the following: people who can make such comments to such a story show not only a big load of frustration, but also being insensitive and lacking in that human trait that makes us more than animals – empathy. They have probably never thought what if it was their father, lost in a city like Bucharest, all foreign and crazy for them. But I realise it would be difficult to find a place which could put their fathers in the same kind of situation. Fortunately, if an English elderly person would get lost in Bucharest, almost everybody could understand them saying that they are lost and need help and could offer them help. Lucky that English is spoken by so many people in today’s world that people from English speaking countries don’t even need to bother learning any other language.
Well, for an old countryside man from Romania being unable to speak English meant three days on the streets. I bet he never imagined he would get in such a situation. Him being safe and back with his family can even make us smile when reading about his story.  

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