People, I think I finally have it… pollen allergy!
Until last year, I was not at all affected, although I saw as many as one in four around me in agony, there was no way for me to know how they were feeling. The most I could do was to console them with “bless you’s” whenever they sneezed (but sadly, they had gone widely unappreciated, as it is an uncommon superstition in my culture).
This year, I have itchy eyes, runny nose, sore throat, and I think I am starting to get a rash. In addition to physical agony, I am taking quite a blow on my purse, with unplanned spending on masks over my nose and mouth to guard from pollen, medication to ease the symptoms, and air purifier to keep the air around me free of pollen.
Furthermore, I am feeling depressed because I had this belief (obviously a very false one) that I would not get affected by the pollens in my homeland because I grew up abroad and I have no antibodies that try to get rid of them from my body, and therefore cause symptoms of allergy. Can you imagine the devastation I felt when this belief crumbled to pieces?
Well, maybe not.
And maybe it was difficult to imagine for my people as well.
When I told the people around me that I may finally have pollen allergy and understand what they are going through, I did not get the reaction I expected – I was hoping to hear “we know how you feel!” but I was told “yours is nothing compared to ours!” Instead of finding a place among my people, I was rejected once again, and I was put through the agony of having them go on and on and on about how my suffering was different from theirs.
Can I never get a “we know how you feel” from my people because I grew up differently?
Will they never accept me as “one of them” because of my past?
Maybe not, because I am not yet able to tell them “I know how you feel.”
The feeling has to be mutual and shared to be able to say it, and I do not quite feel that way, so how can I expect them to reciprocate?
But, as I went to buy a new sheet of medication, the pharmacist said to me “I’m very sorry for your symptoms… I hope these will make you feel better.” I was blown by these words – although she does not know how miserable I am feeling, she guessed how badly I may be wanting to feel better, and let me know how she felt about that!
Maybe we all differ in the way we feel misery, or joy, for that matter.
Maybe we can never know exactly how miserable, or joyous, others are, even when we are put in the same situation.
So maybe it is not correct to say, or to want others to say to you, “I know how you feel.”
But maybe we can still sympathize with “I’m sorry for you,” or “I’m happy for you,” because it is your own feeling and you need not try to know it – it is already there.
I wish I did not need to get pollen allergy to realize this… I sure found out about it the hard way! But I am happy for myself that I found out sooner than later, so I could feel a part of my people not through misery but through sympathy. I feel much better now, even with itchy eyes, runny nose, sore throat, and possible rash.