Unspoken

ScanWhen I was a young child, I loved going for a pony ride.  In those days, even big cities had “pony tracks” where kids could ride a pony a few laps around an oval track, and my parents took us to one on a regular basis.  The ponies would line up at the rail at the end of the track, and we would go stand next to the pony we wanted to ride until the track manager lifted us up into the saddle.  When everyone was ready, he would signal to the ponies and they’d all walk or trot around the track while he stood in the center, directing them.  It was usually the highlight of my week.

My favorite pony was a sweet brown one named “Cricket,” and I always headed straight for him.  But one day I was shocked to find myself being scooped up and plunked down on the pony next to Cricket.  Before I knew what was happening, I was riding around the pony track on a strange pony while poor Cricket was still standing at the rail, riderless.  It wasn’t long before I started crying, for myself because I wasn’t on my favorite pony, and for Cricket, because I was sure his feelings were terribly hurt by being left behind.

The man in the center ring asked why I was crying, but I didn’t answer him.  Worried that the ponies were going too fast, he had them go slower and slower, but I just kept crying.  I could tell he was getting frustrated with me, yet I just couldn’t manage to tell him what was wrong.  I cried for the entire ride, and for most of the car ride home as well, but I never told anyone that I was upset simply because they had put me on the wrong pony.

That was a long time ago, but there have been many times in my life when I just couldn’t find the words to tell people what was bothering me, no matter how much I wanted to.  Sometimes I didn’t even understand exactly why I was sad or upset, and other times I was embarrassed or worried that I’d hurt someone’s feelings.  And I think this is a problem that most of us have now and then.  How many times have you noticed someone who is obviously unhappy, but when you ask what’s wrong, they tell you they’re just fine?

The truth is that everyone faces challenges from time to time, and everyone is struggling with something almost all of the time.  We can usually talk about those things with our friends and loved ones, but there are times when that struggle is something that we face alone, at least for a little while.  But even when people don’t talk about what’s bothering them, their behavior almost always reflects it.  Which is something we need to bear in mind when we’re dealing with people who act in ways we find baffling or annoying.

It’s so easy to get frustrated when people say and do things that make no sense to us, and it’s even easier to lash out at them with ridicule and condemnation.  But I think we need to remember that at one time or another, we were all that little kid crying on a pony for reasons she couldn’t begin to explain.  And all that kid really needs is a little patience and compassion…….

89 thoughts on “Unspoken

  1. Wonderful. At one point in my life I was badly injured in an auto accident. I didn’t look injured, but I could barely use my arms–and if I did, I paid for it in spades. So I adjusted. I bought dictation software, I quit a number of hobbies–and took up teaching night school instead. I was strong enough to keep pushing forward, but not strong enough to speak a word about how bad it all was. If anyone asked, I just wept.
    Ultimately, it made me a nicer person. When I saw ‘out-of-kilter’ behavior, I was reminded that often good people react badly when in pain, or under pressure. Instead of judging, I made the effort to soften my approach, often with an offer of help when they didn’t even know they were asking for it. Because, you never know when it might be a case of a little one, sadly riding the wrong pony.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a wonderful example of how someone can be hurting, but just not able to share it. And I’m glad that you’re able to use that experience to be more empathetic towards others. I really do think that we’re far too quick to judge, when what is really needed is a helping hand and an understanding attitude. Thanks for this comment!

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    • Yes, I think many people still are, and once we open our eyes to that, it becomes easier to be tolerant toward others. And thanks for letting me know about that! Sometimes Word Press gets some strange glitch and it takes a while to iron out. I know that sometimes when I want to like someone’s post, it either doesn’t “take” or it just says “loading” where the like button should be. Very frustrating!

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  2. We all need to practice more patience these days. People all react differently to stressful situations or situations where their routines are disturbed. I need to learn this more than most, as I tend to be impatient. Stay well Ann. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Ann – I really like this post. Sometimes I need to think about why I’m sad or upset. Anytime before that, I can’t put it into words. Often it will take me a couple days to really work it out. Your advice is exactly right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same way! I have the emotion before I realize the reason for it, so I can’t possibly explain to someone else what I don’t understand myself. And I think that’s often the reason for people who act a little bit odd…something is wrong, but they can’t share it just yet.

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  4. This is such an important reminder, Ann. Especially now, when emotions are high for so many reasons, but they are often hard to articulate. Maybe if we all just remember that everyone has a pony they are crying for…. This post also reminded me of one summer when I was very little when we would ride ponies in a ring on Saturday mornings. I’d forgotten all about that.

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    • Yes, that’s what this pony track was like! They were common when I was young, and I loved them because as a city kid, they were my only contact with ponies/horses. But yes, we all have something that is bothering us, and some of us handle it better than others. Still, realizing that makes it easier to be compassionate. Which is needed now more than ever, when so many are being encouraged just to lash out and hate.

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  5. Oh, Ann. I would’ve cried, too. And I would’ve pictured Cricket crying about it all night in his barn. But yes, too many of us hold stuff in. Some of us do so at the risk of our health. I’m guilty as charged. Loved the pony picture. God’s grip – Alan

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    • Thanks, Alan! Sometimes holding it is is all we can do, but there comes a time when we also have to share it, for our emotional health. It’s a fine line to walk, but all we can do is work at it. And remember that there is always someone around who cares enough to listen and help! Best wishes to you and yours!

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  6. That bittersweet incident from your childhood holds within itself a valuable lesson in human relations and condition. While we may be at our empathetic best, there will still be the times we may not be able know what could be bugging others and why they may be acting strange. It’s a golden life lesson for ever!

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    • I agree! It’s easy to be empathetic when we understand what someone is going through, but much harder when we have nod idea what is going through their minds and they are acting in ways that we don’t think they should be. But compassion is needed just as much at those time, even though it’s harder to give. Thanks for that insightful comment!

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    • That’s exactly it! Sometimes event he most obnoxious person just needs a little understanding, and once they open up a bit, we realize they aren’t trying to be obnoxious at all. They’re just hurting and need someone to reach out.

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    • Thanks, Miriam! And yes, these times have more people hurting more than ever, and I think it does explain why we’re seeing so much negative behavior. It can create a downward spiral if we’re not careful. Compassion is needed so much today!

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  7. so many are fragile right now with all this unknown around … we all need to be extra patient and kind!

    Your post is reminiscent of Carolyns about her Aunt Anna … I thought of you as I read it a few days ago 🙂

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    • I think most of us have had something like that happen at one time or another. I remember reading Agatha Christie’s autobiography, and she wrote that as a child, she was admiring the butterfly’s in someone’s garden, when the gardener asked her if she’d like to have a butterfly. She said yes, so he caught one and pinned it to her hat..while it was still alive. She was horrified and crying, but could never tell her mother what had happened. (That is me remembering the story I read a long time ago, so a few details may be wrong, but that’s the gist of it.)

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  8. So true!
    And I think asking if someone (once) is doing ok is another way of choosing kindness. Even if they can’t answer, even if they’re really ok, the fact that someone cared and asked leaves a safer, warm spot in them.

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  9. Such a great post, Ann! We do need to be so patient with one another. I certainly understand how you felt being placed on the wrong pony and not being able to express yourself. I was very shy when I was younger; shy people do not like to make a scene or complain vocally. I think that is why I liked to write from a very early age. I could put my feelings down on paper with a much greater ease than talking about them.

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    • I was a very shy child too, around people I didn’t know well. (Although I’m told I had plenty to say to those I did know!) So I understand what you mean about writing. It’s so much easier to express ourselves in the written word, and it always has been. Maybe that’s why we love writing so much? It gives us a freedom we don’t have with the spoken word.

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  10. Riding on a different pony, not getting the Christmas present we were expecting, a friend moving away to another town, these are all bitter childhood memories we all have. As you so wondrously expressed in your story, the main problem has always been that we were not able to tell what was bothering us. A good lesson for us adults as well, Ann!

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  11. Ann, I’m happy to hear we shared this love of pony rides! I well remember my sister and me lining up and gravitating to our favorite ponies (mine was “Noodles”!) Such a happy time, wasn’t it? But my heart aches for Little Ann, who wasn’t able to express her sadness at being on the wrong pony, when the right was was right there and available. Something tells me I’d have pitched a hissy-fit until they put me on the right one (see? I was “writer-temperamental” even then, ha!)

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    • Weren’t those pony tracks the best? To this day, when I drive down the street where it used to be, I think fondly of it. My idea of a perfect day back then would have been to have a whole handful of tickets for a pony ride, so I could have ridden around that track on Cricket all day long! But trust me, I’m sure I knew how to pitch a fit back then too….for some reason, I was just so sad and embarrassed about it that all I could do was cry!

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  12. Hi Ann, as soon as I read your post – I pictured myself on a pony ride. I have an adorable picture from when I was a little girl and the memories come flooding back.
    Your memories of that disappointing pony ride are vivid. What an ordeal that must have been! But what is clear to me is that you have deep compassion. That is a gift – to all your loved ones and people that come in contact with you. Your post could have focused upon other things such as: frustration, disappointment, inability to find words etc.
    Instead, you turned it around and shared a concept of empathy and understanding to others. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Judy! I do remember that day so vividly, although I was at that track riding dozens of times as a child. I think what stuck with me was not being able to tell the man what was wrong, even though he was obviously concerned and trying to help. I even realized he was frustrated, but I still couldn’t speak up and say I wanted to ride Cricket instead. I knew I’d write about it someday, and it seemed like the perfect example to use in a post about how we need to be more empathetic and understanding, especially in times where snap, harsh judgements seems to be becoming the norm.

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      • My autistic son had frequent meltdowns and I knew it was related to his frustration over his inability to get the words out. When he was older and truly able to explain it to me, I felt so sorry for what he had gone through. Was your hesitation shyness? Were you worried about being demanding? I’m so curious.

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        • I think I was just young and shy, and didn’t know how to speak up for myself to an adult I didn’t know. If he has asked, “are you sad because you’re on the wrong pony?” I think I could have said, “yes.” But I couldn’t just bring it up.

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  13. Your photo is adorable and your story is sweet. It’s an excellent reminder to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least for a while. [The child in me wants to say always, but the adult in me knows otherwise.]

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  14. What a lovely post and beautiful lesson in compassion, Ann. I tend to do well with this stuff, except when it’s my husband! Lol. He gets grumpy at times and his response is frequently, “I’m fine” as he closes up tighter than a bank vault. It’s important for me not to take it personally and let him work through what’s bothering him. Even better is to follow your advice and view him with compassion. Wonderfully sweet post. I felt for you as you missed riding your pony.

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    • I know what you mean! But the ponies seemed happy to me (I was a child, who knows how they really felt) because they seemed to know the drill so well. Plus, I was having such a good time that I assumed the ponies were also enjoying it, and face it, ponies often seem rather cheerful. But I was the same way at the zoo, especially the way zoos were when I was a kid. The animals were often in plain cages made from bars, with little to hold their attention and often one to a cage. I did feel sorry for them! I’m so glad zoos now make the effort to put animals in a natural-type habitat, and with companions whenever possible.

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  15. I remember my youngest sister loving horses…and wanting to be a cowboy. For a time, she even insisted we call her Cowboy Sam. And while she isn’t one to show her softer side, reading your post prompted me to pick up the phone and call her. For that, I am grateful.

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    • I’m glad my post reminded you to call your sister! And I understand how she felt completely. I was so crazy about horses and ponies as a kid (and I still love them, although not with such intensity), that getting to ride one was the greatest treat I could have. I used to watch westerns just to see the horses, and would get so irritated when the cowboys would get off the horses and the camera would follow the cowboys. I didn’t care about them, I wanted to watch the horses!!

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    • I know what you mean! Sometimes we forget that our emotions often show even if we don’t vocalize them, and so people have to deal with our behavior without understanding why we’re unhappy or upset. And to make matters worse, when we’re acting like that, we’re sending out strong “leave me alone” vibes, so people tend to avoid us just when we need them most! Personally, I’ve learned to sometimes say I’m not feeling so great, but am not quite sure what’s wrong. That way, others are clued in that I’m not trying to act like a jerk, and also that I’m not ready to talk about it just yet. Sometimes that works!

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  16. That is a sweet pony story and a lesson that can be applied even now. How easy is it to get disappointed when things are not the way we want them to be. But I do hope that you were able to enjoy riding on Cricket after that day and even appreciate him more.

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    • Thanks, Svet! I did ride him a lot after that. And actually, I learned from watching some of the other children to actually put my hand on him so that the workers knew which pony I wanted to ride. Once I learned that, I never had the problem again, which was good thing!

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  17. I can understand your heartache at hurting cricket’s feelings. You two obviously shared a special bond. Whether you felt silly or embarrassed, I can also see why you didn’t want anyone to know why you were crying. My sister loved riding the ponies too. My brothers and I preferred the go-kart track. Tears only flowed when the slowest driver faced relentless sibling ridicule on the drive home.

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    • Yeah, I definitely thought of Cricket as “my pony” and imagined that he was quite fond of me as well! As for siblings, I know what you mean. We even had those issues on the pony track. My younger sister was so small that they used to put her on what we called the “baby pony.” The manager would hand lead that pony around the inside ring while he directed the other ponies around the track. Once we were making fun of my sister for having to ride the baby pony, and I guess the manager felt sorry for her, because he told her to hold on to the saddle horn and then let her pony join ours on the track and cued them all to go faster. Our ponies trotted, but her little pony ran ahead of all the bigger ponies and she “won the race!”

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  18. Bless you, Ann, for optimism in the face of sheer bifurcated insanity. (And I’m not picking sides on this one–both of them have areas that definitely need improvement.)

    I think, though, that it’s important to remember that while your point of view is a great starting place, some people are just too toxic for it. If you let them into your life, they’ll do their best to wreck it. It’s also important to be able to pull back. Believe me, bitter experience isn’t the teacher you want in this area.

    I’ve taken in homeless people, for instance. I’ve been stolen from, lied to, and made to feel uncomfortable in my own home. It’s important to have limits. If I take someone in now, they stay in my camper. If you’re going to do this, it’s the only way, IMO.

    Not that I want to gainsay you in your own space, but…I just want people to be careful. Reach out, but protect yourself, too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I agree that both sides need to clean up their act, pronto!
      And believe me, I completely agree about boundaries and self-protection. I just meant don’t observe someone behaving strangely and automatically assume the worst about them, as it’s possible they’re just hurting and that hurt is reflected in their behavior and attitude. I’ve found that most people have reasons for their actions and beliefs, and that it’s better to try to understand that instead of simply dismissing them. But in some cases it’s essential to have boundaries. For instance, I know a person who is extremely negative, always finding fault, and constantly complains about everything. He has a reason for that outlook, but there are days when I can engage with him, and there are also days when I have to keep my distance and don’t give him a chance to “drag me down.” And I know there are far more dangerous people than him in the world as well. Caring for others doesn’t mean putting ourselves in danger, either physically or mentally, I believe. Thanks for clarifying that….it’s a good point to bring up!

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  19. Ann, when I read this post some days back, my first thought was that God might be telling me to go gentle on others – given that I can be pretty impatient.

    Today, stopping by once again, something else comes. It is that not all pain should be shared with others. No matter how bad things are, sometimes we have to go it alone. Years ago, I felt St. Joseph draw close to me. In the days and weeks that followed, I prayed often to him and sought his divine guidance. At about that time, my cousin who lived on another continent began experiencing marital strife. I felt so helpless that I couldn’t reach out to her and help in a more concrete way. Suddenly, I recalled St. Joseph and how much he had helped me. So, I began to exhort my cousin to intercede to St. Joseph, confident that he would be there for her as he had been for me.

    Imagine my consternation when it didn’t work out that way. Upset and disappointed, I asked St. Joseph why he hadn’t helped my cousin as I expected him to. It was a wow moment as ever when he replied,
    I am your journey – not hers.

    Your post here brings back the same message, Ann. We’re not meant to be part of everyone’s walk. And in the same way, sometimes we just need to walk alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point, Caitlynne, and you’re right, my post was about both of those things. Yes, we need to be more patient and understanding with people who can be difficult, because they are often acting out of their own hurt. But there really are some things that we need to handle alone, and sometimes that takes time. In the same way, we can’t solve every one else’s problems either. We can be supportive as they solve their own, but some things people just have to do themselves. Thanks for bringing that up!

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  20. I know the feeling, Ann. That happens to me a lot. I’m not the kind of person to unburden my feelings on anyone, so I usually say “I’m fine.” most times.
    When I was a kid, I remember this farmer brought his horse around my street and allowed all the kids to climb on and ride a few paces forth then back. I remember the moment I sat on the saddle, I leaned down, closed my eyes and simply hugged the horse until the farmer took pity (maybe he thought I was strangling the horse?) and put me back on my feet. I never climbed another saddle after that.

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    • I’m so sorry! I think it is so very hard for children especially to express themselves sometimes, and often those moments come back as adults too. I’m not sure why, but I do believe it. And the sad thing is, that because we can’t say what we’re feeling, others don’t always know how to respond. I think that’s something we need to bear in mind when we’re dealing with each other and a reason to be as kind as we can.

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      • That’s true. My son has an English teacher he likes. He’s always talking about how nice she is, how she’s always joking and so on. A couple weeks ago when he went back to school, he came saying she’s no longer nice, that she keeps lashing out on students when they’d done nothing to deserve it. I told him to be patient, that maybe she has problems a home. It turned out she was getting divorced. So ye, sometimes people get weird, and it’s not nice to judge and forget all the nicer things because of it

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        • I’m sorry she’s taking it out on the students, but glad that you were able to provide that perspective for you son. It’s a good lesson for him to learn. And I hope that his English teacher is soon able to be back to her normal, nice self!

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  21. Patience and compassion are key elements in all our interactions with each other, or at least they should be. A timely reminder, Ann, with all our nerves being frayed, it’s important to remember this lesson.

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