Like many a preteen, I sometimes feel like wailing, "No one understands me!!" However, because I'm an adult, I don't wail it, and I don't flop down on my bed afterwards. Yet, growing up, and being misunderstood so frequently, has shown me how much I value the small core of people who do understand me, who 'get' the kind of person I am, for better or for worse
My extremely affectionate baby sister Sarah decided in the past that she liked stroking my hair. Now, I don't like people touching my hair at all. That's part of the reason I don't get it cut often. I cringe when people touch my hair, and there's a reason for that. But Sarah is my precious baby sister, she's young, she doesn't know, and I determine that I'm not going to push her away by telling her. My mom yells from across the room, "Quit that, Sarah! Rachel hates it when people touch her hair."
I was surprised for a minute that my mom knew, that she remembered. And then I reminded myself, she's my mom, she gets me, of course she remembers my quirks, for good and for bad.
In my freshman year of college, I attended a banquet. I was sitting next to my friend Angel when the speaker said, as an introduction to her speech, "I'm not the smartest girl at Calvin. I'm not even the smartest girl in this room." I was just thinking to myself that I would never start a speech with those words when Angel leaned over to me and whispered in my ear: "If you were up there, you'd probably say 'I AM the smartest girl at Calvin and in this room.'"
I told that story to my mom, and from that point on, she knew Angel was the one to watch. Why? Because he understood just the kind of person I am, and Mom knows how powerful that sort of understanding can be.
Some time ago, my sister wrote to me: "How does Angel know that you say "X" and draw an X with your finger in the air when you don't like something?" She was surprised. She knows that little idiosyncrasy, but she was surprised Angel knew it too. The fact is, Angel lives with me. He gets me. He pays attention and understands me--and I cherish that understanding because I know it's a treasure of great worth. He knows that some things are much harder for me than they might be for others, and that other things are much easier for me than they are for others--his expectations and understanding of me are not based on the arbitrary roles I might fill: "This is what a wife is like." "This is what a 25 year old is like." "This is what a woman/American/Caucasian/cosmetologist/etc. is like." Instead--he knows me as simply myself, with my own unique ways of thinking about and responding to the world. Do you know how seriously awesome that is?
I understand him, too. When he posts certain sorts of statements on Facebook--I can just roll my eyes over at him and say, "Everyone's going to think you really mean what you said." He'll grin that crazy grin and say, "I know! Isn't it hilarious?" I know when he's being truly himself and when he's switched into some alternate version of himself that he thinks is appropriate to the current situation. I know when something's actually bothering him or when it's just his fierce eyebrows contributing to his overly serious expression.
Not everyone will understand you all the time, and that's perfectly okay. When I write satirical blog posts that are taken seriously--it's obvious that not everyone understands my writing style. We all experience misunderstanding constantly. People who don't quite get us make assumptions about our inner motivations that are entirely untrue, that lead to awkward conversations, strained relationships, and feeling like we have to walk on tiptoe around someone else or pretend to be people that we are not. Many in our lives will never really understand us, our inner motivations and the way our brains work and process information. Instead, because it's simpler, they put us in categories (by race, gender, age, job, education, role in society), and assume that we have the same motivations as others in our general category. It would be unreasonable to expect everyone who interacts with us to 'get' us--so instead we learn to get along in a more surface-level relationship, navigating differing expectations of motivations and actions in order to preserve balance.
To be truly understood, deeply known and simply accepted for being the person that we naturally are is a longing we each have. Hopefully, we each have at least a few people who fulfill that longing, and we ought to meet that need in a few other peoples' lives as well. People who understand us in both the really important ways--motivations, deepest loves, goals--and in the little ways--habits, idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes--are just the best ever. When you find those rare people who do 'get' you--don't let them go. Write down their phone number. Stay near to them. Get your advice from them. Marry them, if need be. They are too precious, so hold 'em close.
Who are the people in your life who 'get' you? Have you ever had experiences or relationships where you felt as if the other person did not even begin to understand you, and you didn't understand them, either?