For the past two years, I’ve been feeling as if I’m no longer able to communicate with others the way I used to… as if my ability to express myself has somewhat disintegrated. Because, it just seems so easy to get my messages misconstrued…
Now, I’m not talking about those situations when some people are just committed to misunderstanding you — They somehow feel the need to assert their ‘one-upmanship’ no matter what, such as the ridiculous religious debates which were forced on me.
I’m referring to pure misunderstanding (I mean, hopefully… I really would like to believe in the good in people, particularly those I love) caused by communication breakdowns which could generally boil down to different mindsets, together with the probable language barrier and culture gap.
Last Saturday, I met Waffle’s stepfather Karl and nephew Sweet Pea for the first time. Falling for Sweet Pea the instant we were introduced, I just couldn’t take my eyes off that permanent angelic smile, which reminded me of my own nephews Winter and Khan who I spent quite some time with when they were small.
When I reached out to Sweet Pea for a handshake, Karl chuckled, ‘Troublemaker!’
Upon hearing this, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I caught a fleeting glimpse of slight uneasiness on Sweet Pea’s face. But, it was quickly erased by his angelic smile.
Throughout the time, I felt the urge to talk to him. He just seemed so sweet. And every time I turned, he was smiling at me. I made faces at him a couple of times which made him laugh. Nothing beats a child’s heartfelt laughter.
On the way home, I asked Waffle about Sweet Pea’s age.
Waffle started telling me how the many diseases Sweet Pea’s been suffering from have made him look younger than his actual age. I gasped internally, for I couldn’t tell at all.
Then I thought of this word ‘troublemaker’. I recounted the incident to Waffle out of curiosity.
Like I said, I didn’t know what to make of it as I knew nothing about Waffle’s family and certainly not their family dynamics. It might just well be an endearing way to tease each other, some light-hearted family joke, like how sometimes I would call Beam Beam, ‘You little punk!’ and so on.
The reason I noticed it was merely because of my teaching background and recent studies on narrative therapy and children with learning difficulties (my own godson and another nephew have been diagnosed with autism), general stuff about the power of language. In short, language is my passion.
Also, growing up in Chinese culture, this is not something uncommon, but because I myself was a victim of the false humble attitude in my culture, I’ve become quite cautious around this kind of language.
Waffle straight away clarified there wasn’t any negativity intended on Karl’s part (But frankly, I was just curious if Sweet Pea was naughty at home). Obviously, Sweet Pea admired his granddad and they did get along.
‘I see. I was a little taken aback. That’s all. I thought it wasn’t very nice to tag that word on a little boy.’ Notice I was speaking in the past tense here — ‘thought’.
I carried on the chit-chat about the reason this word caught my attention, partially because I didn’t want Waffle to have the wrong idea about my intention.
Somehow, it backfired spectacularly, which could well be my own fault for failing to achieve eloquence. Waffle was convinced that I was just being critical and judgmental, trying to behave like an expert, about the child-rearing practices his family, particularly his sister — Sweet Pea’s mum, had adopted.
To tell the truth, I was stunned by this unfortunate outcome. Honestly, I was only chit-chatting about my own interest in language, not a single word about his family that I didn’t know anything of. How could I be perceived as so nasty and mean by someone who I regarded as family?
Stupid and slow as usual, I tried to explain, but it only got worse. Waffle got angry, not just upset, and refused to listen to me.
Eventually, I was beside myself with rage when all failed. I frankly was incensed by my own poor communicative ability. I just couldn’t believe it. And partially, I was baffled by Waffle as well — Just how on earth could I criticise and judge before I even got to know that Sweet Pea was disabled?
I apologised after Waffle insisted on his negative feelings towards my words, believing firmly that I was speaking ill of his family, acting like a smartass. Apologies, because I somehow caused the misunderstanding, not because I did speak ill of his family — I DID NOT.
This freak accident proved that the real troublemaker is actually me. I’m just so socially awkward — never know how to start and when to end. In this case, I should have stopped the chitchat right there. My passion is not of anyone else’s interest at all. Parenthood is tough enough, and it’s even tougher to have disabled children. So I can understand why this seems such a sensitive issue. I need to be more careful and improve my language proficiency in order to make myself fully understood.
On the other hand, this incident rather took the wind out of my sails. Nothing survives without trust. I always give people the benefit of the doubt. But, I do like to have some in return from time to time.
I came to the realisation that, after all these years flying around the globe, the only people I can feel totally at ease with, knowing that they trust in me no matter what, are my family in Taiwan with whom I grew up with. Throughout the journey, I did try to create my own family, but apparently, I need to work harder on that — I’d like my trust to be reciprocated.
Unfortunately, the only place makes me feel at home is not Taiwan, where my family still are. It’s England. Need me say more? Everything happens for a reason. This is God’s way of helping me achieve my full potential as a human being. Sigh.
SO ~HELP ~ ME ~ GOD!! Amen!!
我指的是那種純粹的誤會 — 因為觀念、思考邏輯不同，還有文化差異所造成的。而不是那種擺明要刁難、死纏爛打非贏你不可的；例如那兩次被沒品的無神論者打鴨子上架的宗教辯論。
這時，我想到了「Troublemaker！」這個字，出於好奇，就跟鬆餅提了，原來他當場沒有聽到。我說，我不認識他們，所以這也許是家人間親暱的一種互動，就像我也會叫梅小獸：「You little punk!」
最後，我也火了，被自己無可置信的爛溝通能力惹火的。除了氣憤的情緒，我也無法理解鬆餅的態度 — 根本我一開始都不知道小甜豆的身心多重障礙，是要怎麼批判論斷？！
我最喜歡的作家之一 Maya Angelou 說過一句話：『。。。人們不會記得你說過的話、做過的事，但他們永遠不會遺忘你曾經給他們的感受。』鬆餅很堅持他對這件事的負面感受，所以，我最終道歉了；不是因為我做錯事（說他們家壞話 — 我沒有！），而是因為我造成了這個誤會。
只是，我的歸屬感在英格蘭，不在台灣。這無異是 上帝的巧妙安排。我沒有怨言，因為， 上帝的意念高於我們這些凡人的，該修習的課題，就要好好完成才是。