I’m not entertained by your misery. Rather, I’m more fascinated by what is working in your life. I have compassion for your pain, but wallowing in your stormy sea of troubles does not sound like a worthwhile way for us to spend our afternoon.
Stop serving them to me with a glass of wine on a platter of indulgence. Stop treating them like an unfolding soap opera – expecting that I’ll continue tuning in with my eyes glued to the screen. I’m not the friend in the other room with her ears pressing against the door, for I am eager to reach your saga’s credit-scrolling ending. Not because I don’t care about you, but because I do.
I want to know what injects you with happiness. I want to know what makes you fall off of the bed in laughter. I want to know what grips a firm hold on your heart and provokes you to throw your head back with unrestrained joy. Don’t tell me about your being doomed to failure; tell me about your plan to come back from it. I don’t want to see your life play out like a tragic opera; I want to bear witness to your victories. I’ll be the first one to gift you with a victory dance and a roar of applause – even if it means I’m standing alone.
I want to be awed by your most recent epiphany (even if you fear it was silly), or about that time you solved a seemingly impossible problem, or perhaps when you forgave someone you never thought you could. Tell me about the most exhilarating roller coaster ride you’ve ever been on, that captivating sunset you had to pull over on the side of the road to capture and your favorite flavor of slushy.
Don’t paint for me a picture of your most dreadful and seemingly-endless winter; Fill me with every sun-bursting tale about that Indian summer. In fact, let’s roll a blanket out onto the grass and relive it together.
I don’t wish to be the recipient of a nightly play-by-play of what most afflicted you. Unless you’re sharing it with me for the sole purpose of brainstorming for a solution, don’t educate me in that regard, please. It’s hexing, it’s boring and it’s not doing you a single favor (it isn’t doing me any either). Eventually, it’s only fair that I step off of that train and take a bow, but I’ll always be tipping my hat to wish you well.
Be the Friend You Wish to Have
Don’t tell me about your most terrifying nightmare unless you’re going to follow it up with details about how relieved and blissful you were upon waking up. I won’t be joining you in the swamp. Expecting me to do so is only serving to steal energy and joy that I need. I’m only interested in offering a helping hand which will carry you safely to dry land. I don’t care if it causes me to break a sweat or renders me sore every now and then, for it only matters where we are going – not where we have been. I hope you’ll do the same for me when I need it.
But, don’t expect to unload all of your burdens onto my shoulders day after day – assuming that I’ll carry them as though they are my responsibility. Eventually, my back is going to break and you’ll then be scratching your head in frustration and feeling resentful when I am forced to take your troubles down and step away.
I want to know your history – the good, the bad and the ugly – but only if it serves to solidify our bond and help me better understand the story of you. I don’t want to know things for the sake of being force-fed unproductive complaints. I’m not entertained by it one bit.
Do not fill the space between us with your ranting negativity. Fill it with your dreams – even the most far-fetched ones – as long as each of them put a smile on your face and hi-jack your eyes with that star-dusted, glittering and faraway gaze. I want to be throat-punched by your definition of magic. I want to swim and splash around in your hopefulness and zest for life. I want to bear witness to your successes. Feel free to fill me with every irrelevant, tedious detail. It matters to me.
Don’t share with me the many diseases which run in your family. I want to hear about the great-grandmother who worked under the scorching sun – planting, plowing, pulling weeds and fingernails buried in the dirt until she was 92. I want to learn about the pioneers – the ones who nearly broke their backs and stood tirelessly on callused feet working to ensure that you would one day be rained down with generational blessings.
Don’t share with me every rant about that friend who did not live up to your expectations. Tell me bout the time they brought you a stack of books and a carton of ice cream when you were sick. Tell me how thankful you are for them. I’ll be thankful for them, too. Shine your light on that, and then allow the bad stuff to be swallowed by the blackness.
Focusing on Your Problem Isn’t Going to Solve it
Don’t tell me about the birthday party you were never thrown. I’d rather toast to every candle-blowing and glittering detail about the year you celebrated most.
Not because your feelings don’t matter and not because your problems don’t exist, but because hyper-focusing on them day after day is only hexing you. Our responsibility as friends is to assist one another in counting the stars; not measure the gaping distance between them.
Your problems are a waste of your time, your energy and – ultimately – your precious life. They are also a waste of mine. Stop expecting me to wallow in fruitless drudgery with you. Not because I don’t love you, but because I do.