Misinterpretation – Falling for it

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Liberation
Louise Glück

My mind is clouded,
I cannot hunt anymore.
I lay my gun over the tracks of the rabbit.

It was as though I became that creature
who could not decide
whether to flee or be still
and so was trapped in the pursuer’s eyes-

And for the first time I knew
those eyes have to be blank
because it is impossible
to kill and question at the same time.

Then the shutter snapped,
the rabbit went free. He flew
through the empty forest

that part of me
that was the victim.
Only victims have a destiny.

And the hunter, who believed
whatever struggles
begs to be torn apart:

that part is paralyzed.”

It’s rare that I misinterpret another’s feelings, reactions and actions. Even when a person says one thing – s/he acts in ways that not only contradict the words but also make the real intent and underlying feeling perfectly clear. S/he may make excuses, offer explanations, justify and even (try to) believe something else. But actions almost always do speak louder than words. And what speaks louder – screams, even – than inaction?

I may not always correctly interpret the source or reason for inaction, but the existence of inaction means that the underlying motivation or impetus must be, in some way, missing. And isn’t that all that matters?

On rare occasions, though, I have been surprised by my misinterpretations. Once, someone asked me to listen carefully as a strangely disconnected, out-of-nowhere story unfolded, and didn’t contextualize why. It felt a bit, as I listened, like a pre-emptive accusation, but it was actually an invitation to understand something – him, in fact – more deeply. It was him cracking the door open, him starting to let me in. I had been suspicious, and I was wrong.

It is in large part because of this slight possibility of misinterpretation that I am still here, asking all the questions and feeling all the feelings. Every action or inaction is not about me – in fact most of them are not. I return to the source and find patience, compassion and love without analyzing anything through the prism of my own self-involvement. (And find the delicate balance that enables self-preservation.)

In a completely different situation, one fraught with years of on/off frustration, there should be no mistaking intent when someone issues you a direct invitation. He literally says, “Come here this week. I will be at the airport waiting.” And yet, everything about it feels false: on one hand, pushing and eager, “Here’s a link to the airline – direct flights daily – just come – now”; on the other hand, how many times have I fallen for that? Black-and-white failures to follow through, leaving me stranded and making excuses later – I should not hold these failures against someone else, but it’s a case of fearing fire once burned. It leads me back to questioning inaction and desire… succumbing to doubt or naively falling for what I want to believe.

And around and around we go.

Photo by Sebastian Davenport-Handley

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