I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly a year, and of course there’s a lot we can’t express through messaging. We send each other stuff, at least once a month we spend 10 minutes talking about the latest music release, or something on the news we try to make fun of, cause most of the time it’s too depressing to think about it. But we don’t actually talk, so it’s good to have that kind of moment to reconnect. We were at this bar, sat down to have a drink and catch up. So she started telling me about what was going on at home. And there’s so much we keep to ourselves. It’s one of those things: nobody’s ever going to cam up doing the dishes or putting the clothes out in the sun, but it still happens every day. I figured she’d have that kind of feeling just like me, but I just didn’t know how comfortable she really was to tell me exactly why she wanted to move out and get herself a rent, and it wasn’t just a sudden thought, but a whole arrangement with everyone in the family. She told me about that, I gave her a few words of encouragement, and once we were done talking about work, plans for vacation, people we met in high school and stuff, I had to tell her honestly what was going on with me. That’s when I mentioned my dad’s surgery.
She had no idea. I didn’t want to sound like I was too close to breaking down, I wanted her to know I could manage, but you don’t tell a story like that if you don’t expect to hear something nice afterwards. It’s not that I wanted her or anybody else to feel sorry for me, but I needed to let it out. So I just talked about the fact that we all know he’s been through a lot and he’s a stubborn little prick but he’s really strong. I went on and told her that you don’t think diabetes is dangerous, but he ended up having his body seriously compromised. Said that he’s seen a handful of doctors and but doesn’t trust them. So I finally confessed that I thought about moving, and I’d move in with her, but I wouldn’t leave him when he needed me. When these things happen, we actually get closer. All that we’ve ever known comes down to what we lived early in life, and I just started to see how much it matters to take care of those who are closer if you look at everything they’ve done for you. Then she asked me a question that’s been ringing in my head for weeks: “do you think getting old is just getting sick?”
We always seem to have a hard time when people ask us to listen. It’s true that some people are better at it than others, but understanding we’re all different is something we have to keep in mind at all times, because what brings us closer can’t become a dispute for attention. Sometimes, when a friend is telling you about a problem, you don’t answer with another one. When they lose someone, offer condolences, not the story of how you went through the same thing, because it’s not the same thing. Maybe they’re having financial troubles and you make them think about trying a different area, but that can be hurtful in the sense that it tells them they should give up on a long term commitment. But who can tell you when it’s really the case for that? Honesty is rare, but it’s still a quality in any relationship. Maybe I didn’t want to think about my dad’s problem, and I’m thankful my friend asked me that question. But if it were me, I’d probably choose to be quiet, knowing what I’ve felt from people assuming they know everything about a situation, when in fact they barely scratch the surface.