Ways to Tell Someone is Almost 40
She lives in another state and we don't get to see each other very often, so when we do get to see each other, there is usually a lot of apologizing to wait staff about how long we're occupying that table or booth because we're both too damned old to go out anywhere else. We don't want to hang out in a bar or hit a club. We did that shit forever ago and it's almost bedtime.
Get off my lawn.
She's been through a lot. So have I. Some of the things one of us have been through eventually affected the other, and I have to say that there is something comforting about knowing that you're not the only one who has had to deal with this messed up bullshit called life.
It's twisted reasoning, I know.
I mean it's not like you would wish this, any of this, on other people, particularly the ones you like, but it's also nice to know that there are people in this world who won't shake their head at you wondering how you've managed to fuck your whole life up this way.
Those head shakers, most of them are friends. I guess. Or family. Or well-meaning people who think they are helpful. I'm sure that they believe they are being kind, or that whatever completely irrelevant advice they've bestowed is THE ONE MAGICAL THING WE NEEDED TO HEAR and now we're going to get our shit together.
And it's fine.
See, the thing about living though as much of this crap as I have, and hearing the endless chatter of the advice givers and the head shakers, is that I KNOW they're trying. I do. I know that they think they're helping. I do. And I know that they're doing those things because, at least on some level, they care enough about me to attempt to help or feign support or whatever.
So I try to forgive them.
I used to not do that.
I used to be terrible about it.
I used to harbor some long ass resentment, you know the kind that chips away at your faith in humanity. I'd wonder who the hell they thought they were judging my situation. I'd micro-analyze every word they'd said in some attempt to make sense of it, just getting more and more bitter each time. And frankly, there are some people that I probably still carry grudges towards, simply based on what they said. I'd like to believe that most of those grudges are more about what the words they said told me than what the words actually were.
The ones that had to take my pain, whatever it was at the time, and try to one-up me tend to get the grudges.
I mean, for real...what kind of people do this? Life isn't some competition of who has been dealt the shittiest hand. You can sympathize with someone, you can communicate that you understand, you can even try and make them understand that you have an idea of what they are going through based on your own life experiences, but don't take whatever they're setting down in your lap and trusting you with as an opportunity to win some "my life sucks more" gold medal.
Truth be told, I don't talk much about the things that have happened to me with many people any more because I just got sick of that part of it.
Then there are the people who vanished as fast as the words trickled out of my mouth. It's real crap when you think you can trust someone enough to not just listen but be supportive and the moment you make that leap, they tuck tail and run.
And I've learned it time and time again.
This friend, though, she gets it.
I get it.
And when she doesn't get it or I don't get it, we try to get it. We try really fucking hard. And when we know we don't get it, we shut up and just listen. To each other. To other people.
Maybe it's just because we've both been dealt fairly shitty hands. Maybe.
(This doesn't mean, BTW, that our lives are glorious trainwrecks for people to ogle at from the sideroad. Nope, not even a little bit. Life, though...it changes you. And it's not something that anyone can truly understand until you've lived enough of it, had enough of these experiences personally. If you never have to deal with them, great. Good for you. If you have to deal with them someday, the people like me and like her will be over here. On this side. Waiting to listen. Punch is on the table. Cookies to the left. Grab a chair. I'll get the tissues.)
Most people don't really want advice anyway. They sure don't want your proclamations about what you would do in a hypothetical situation you've not ever dealt with. They don't want your judgment. They REALLY don't want your declarations about how God only gives us what we can handle or that we should pray more or that this is all part of a plan. If that helps you, that's rad. Don't say it to other people.
They just want someone to listen. Someone with a welcoming shoulder. Someone who won't laugh when they ugly cry with the dry heaving and the snot bubbles. They want someone who won't just ask "what do you need?" in an empty eternally unfulfilled question...but actually does whatever needs done. They want someone who shows up at their door with three large pizzas and a cake because they know you're too emotionally wrecked to cook.
I guess what I'm saying is that if you don't know whatever it is your friends and family are dealing with, take a second and refrain from the advice and the judging and the head shaking. Show up and listen first. Bring a casserole. And cake.
Cake is always welcome.
And if you don't know, now you know.