Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Good Kuier

Relationships are right at the heart of happiness. I have been lucky enough to have wonderful people in my life. The other day I spent a lazy afternoon with a friend from university. We used to have what I would call 'Red Wine Evenings' back then. The two of us and a bottle would wax lyrical about whatever was going on in our lives or how to change the world.  On the most recent occasion the wine wasn't necessary. Neither of us was in a rush and we just chatted. In Afrikaans, they call it a good Kuier. A visit would be the closest translation, but that doesn't quite capture it. Kuiering is when you are savouring time together. Someone who knows you well may ask a question that only the previous time you have had together would have given them the insight to ask.

We learn as we go. The wonderful thing about being human is we can also learn from others. The challenge is gaining access to those stories. We may open up to close friends. Perhaps we have a coach or psychologist. We can chat to religious leaders, parents or even humanist chaplains. A big part of those conversations relies on confidentiality. Talking helps but we know that part of what allows other relationships to succeed is a sense of privacy. We don't air the dirty laundry of others and trust that others won't air ours. In learning as we go, we do things that make us cringe. It is hard enough processing those things without having to explain them to others.

I think it is a good thing that we are hesitant to talk about some of the tough personal challenges we have in order to protect the identities of those we care or cared about. There is a cost though. I have learnt a lot in the friendships and relationships I have had. Sometimes I learn the wrong lesson and misapply at the next opportunity, but I learn. I would be keen to share these stories but what stops me is the ability of people to read between the lines. Carly Simon style... they probably think the words are about them. I know I am not alone in this. There are those in loveless relationships. Everyone has family issues. Some struggle to have uncomfortable conversations with the ones they care about. Other don't give those they love the benefit of the doubt. Those leaving relationships often burst with things they think they will correct next time around. A lot of people struggle in silence. Communicating is hard.

We also struggle with stories where the identity we are protecting is our own. It is easy to share a story publicly of a weakness that has been conquered. Or a strength dressed up as a 'weakness'. Like in a job interview where you say you can be 'a bit too much of a perfectionist', or 'I step on toes sometimes when time is tight and I have to get the job done'. It is tempting to maintain a facade of strength as we don't always know how to deal with the challenges of acquaintances beyond a 'how are you doing?', 'fine thanks'. We complain about social media being superficial, but then if someone does share something that makes us feel sorry for them, there is also a sense of helplessness.

I think it would be a good idea if people found artists, writers or musicians they trusted to talk to. People that developed the skill of mixing and matching stories from enough sources to strip out  identities. We do hear stories, but they are typically of outliers. People who have something really incredible happen to them or are comfortable writing their own stories. So we get a skewed view of the real struggles out there.

Perhaps the answer is for artists and musicians to get out there and do more kuiering.

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