A Modern-Day Fable for the Emotionally Wounded

I’m going to tell you a story. There once was a woman named Naivete who was very, very kind. In fact, she was so kind that she repeatedly found herself in situations that were dangerous to her, either emotionally or physically. After many, many years of mistreatment, Naivete decided that she wanted to get to the bottom of this. She felt the need to understand why people treated her the way that they did without any consideration of her feelings or the repercussions that their actions would have on her. Maybe it was the therapy or the sleepless nights, or maybe she was just pissed off…whatever, it really doesn’t matter. The point is that Naivete put her protein shake, a book of poetry, a notebook and pen, and her chapstick into a nice leather backpack and headed out into the forest to search for truth, or meaning, or understanding…again, whatever. No, literally – whatever. She was willing to accept anything that would provide her with some clarity. She wasn’t much concerned about monsters or fearful of the dark at this stage in the game. She’d met a lot of monsters and seen some dark nights in her time. For many days, Naivete climbed hills and crossed rivers and along the way, she met three interesting characters – a chameleon, a hyena, and a mysterious ass (some people call this a donkey; these people obviously do not have the soul of a poet).

She tried to explain herself to the chameleon in a non-confrontational manner and asked him why he thought that others had done her so wrong, but he kept changing his stories and explanations to suit his mood at the moment. She walked for a while beside him and watched as he changed his personality to suit whatever animal they encountered. She was unable to garner any wisdom from him at all and when they finally parted ways, she felt a sense of relief. It was exhausting to watch the chameleon change from minute to minute, and she couldn’t trust anything that came out of his mouth, so conversation had grown a bit forced.

She next came across the hyena, who sat in the cool morning air, preening at his reflection in the water and thinking about how funny and good-looking he was. She told him her tale of woe and held her breath while she waited for a response. Although she was expecting it, she was still a bit stunned when he responded by laughing hysterically. The hyena had obviously come a bit unhinged and for a brief and shiny moment, Naivete thought, “I can save this poor sucker. I can help him to become empathetic and to see the world in a different way. I can teach him to care about others and to not spend all of his days having fun and focusing on himself. I bet that deep inside, he’s really sane and I could be the person to pull him out of his delirium.” And then Naivete snapped the *!#$ out of it and just kept on walking.

Naivete was about to just give up and was thinking about heading home. She wanted a hot bath and an English muffin. She wanted to sleep in her bed. She missed her life. There was a part of her that felt like this would be giving up, quitting, conceding to cruelty. She thought again of how she’d been treated and the lies that she’d been told. She thought of every betrayal she had suffered and there were a lot; an awful lot. And this was when the ass wandered up to her as she was mixing up a cup of instant cold brew. He seemed refreshingly laid-back after her time with the chameleon and the hyena. They traveled together for some time and Naivete came to trust him. He was comforting; like a hot bath, an English muffin, her bed…he seemed uncomplicated. So, she confided in him and told her stories to him and at the end, and it took a very long time to tell them all, he looked at her and said the one thing that finally, finally brought her some peace. Do you know what he said? He said, “I don’t get it.” She repeated some of the story just to make sure that she wasn’t telling it wrong or not explaining enough. It was imperative that she get this right, so she was very explicit. Again, he looked at her and said, “I don’t get it.” Now, Naivete had been in the presence of the ass for some time now. She knew that he wasn’t a “bad” guy and she could tell by the puzzled look in his eyes that he wasn’t playing dumb. “What don’t you get?” she asked. “Why you’re so upset and why you really care at all.” She explained her feelings about disrespect, friendship, gender equality…she went on and on. And about halfway through her speech about loyalty, courtesy, and trust, the ass wandered off to take a leak. He didn’t excuse himself or wait for a natural pause in conversation; he just wandered away. When he came back, Naivete was gone. For a moment (a very brief moment), he wondered where she had gone and whether he should follow her since they’d been hanging out for quite awhile and she was going to be all alone in the woods, which was not exactly a safe place for a woman to be these days. Then he got distracted by a fly and realized that he was hungry and forgot all about her.

Naivete walked home with a much lighter step and a much clearer mind. It was as if the puzzle pieces that had been troubling her were pushed into place by an unseen force. Not all of these people in her past had been nefarious and they hadn’t set out to hurt her. Some of them had, to be sure, because she was and always would be unusually attractive to people with dogshit souls, but most of them weren’t even capable of plotting or planning. Most of them couldn’t think about much else than taking a leak or getting a sandwich. They were just asses. You would think that this would be distressing to Naivete, but you would be wrong. Naivete was exceedingly tired of trying to figure out what people were feeling or thinking and it brought her great peace to be able to sum it up in two words: not much. They weren’t thinking or feeling much of anything at all. They did not regret how they had treated her, did not wonder about how she was, did not even remember her…and that was more than OK. That was great.

Naivete ceased all communication with chameleons, hyenas, and asses and lived a long and happy life. THE END.