Not Being Understood

The other day Begum and I watched an art documentary that focuses on the relationship between mothers and daughters. The film was shown at a small and intimate venue. After the film, we stayed for the talk that the viewers were invited to. We heard such different comments from the women in the crowd that we realized we were all affected in different ways by the way in which the director had represented her own relationship with her mother. There were some who felt the need to call their mothers after the film and there were some who were questioning their relationship with their daughters. Some believed that it was crucial for a child to feel that she is the most precious thing in her mother’s life while others thought that it was possible that a mother might value other things more. Some wanted to understand, some wanted to be understood. At some point, one of the viewers asked: “Why do we expect our mothers to understand us just because they gave birth to us and brought us up?” This was the most compelling question for me.

Really, why do we have such expectations? And it’s not just from our mothers. Yes, first and foremost, we expect our mothers to understand us. But also people who we spend most of our time with, people who are ingrained in our lives. We expect them to embrace us with their understanding, we expect them to understand us without even explaining ourselves. I can hear you say, “That kind of intimacy should have such luxuries.” Trust me, I completely agree. But life is in its own kind of flow and doesn’t necessarily agree with us. We expect to be understood at all times but sometimes we change in such ways on the inside that it becomes impossible to spot from the outside. The people whose understanding we long for also go through changes in their own rhythms. Just as a daughter might be registered in her mother’s mind as the five-year-old who doesn’t like celery, the mother might be registered in her daughter’s mind as the woman who doesn’t like the color yellow. Even after the daughter is drooling over the celery that she is cooking and long after the mother is wearing her lovely yellow scarf.  

We are two seperate people, even with the person who is closest to us. Understanding and being understood are only two possibilities. And I think, most of the time, they are the most difficult and miraculous ones. That is exactly why we need to find a way to make peace with not being understood. Mostly for our own peace of mind.



Translated by Talya Arditi

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