My wife says I’m fixated at adolescence; I tell her that keeps me young. Back in the Sixties, when my chronology matched my maturity, I sang “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” a Top 40 hit by The Animals. “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” And no one was misunderstood like we adolescents.
In 1986, Elvis Costello covered the song and a new generation of misunderstoods took up the refrain. I was thirty-six and, stuck at adolescence, echoed the chorus. Later that year, RP kicked in and I began losing my eyesight. As time and eyesight passed, I learned that being misunderstood applied not just to adolescents. “You have no idea what it’s like!” I cried to those who failed to understand me and my blindness.
Today, an adolescent on Social Security, I sing a different verse. I try to practice the St. Francis Prayer and “understand rather than be understood.” This is a radical shift—to get out of myself and empathize with another’s experience. I see how deeply I’ve invested in being the victim while reaping huge payoffs in self-pity and martyrdom. I see how myopic my vision has become, not from RP but from self-centeredness.
Redirecting energy from passive to active does not come instinctively for me, Me, ME. So I’m starting with becoming more aware how my blindness creates confusion in others who do not, cannot, share my experience. As I ask for tolerance and acceptance, I must tolerate and accept those with different struggles, even those whose ignorance or judgment have offended me, for I understand the fear of what or who is different. Doing this, I help others understand. In turn, I feel understood.