Over the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking about support and whether or not I’m good at supporting my friends. Lots of stuff has kicked off this train of thought. One of Ma’s oldest friends is currently having chemo, I have friends who recently adopted two children, it was Tina’s anniversary this weekend, Sarah is in the middle of an enormous piece of work to finish her therapy degree.
Basically, there’s quite a bit of stuff going on around me and I’ve been thinking about whether I’m being a good friend under the circumstances.
My problem is that I’m not a very good with emotion or emotional people any more. Yes, I have emotions, lots of them but I’m not much for sharing them anymore, it may seem like I spend a lot of time talking about how I feel but I actually spend a lot of time talking about how I deal with being sad rather than why I’m sad. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last decade working out the what and how of my emotions and my always limited amount of patience for talking about them (10 years ago, I told Sarah that therapy might help but only if the therapist was sensible and that’s still my default position) in any great depth is extremely limited (my mother may disagree).
Most of the things that upset or unbalance me, are not within my power to change and things that can’t be changed need to be lived with. The most obvious examples of this for me are my relationship with my dad and Stef dying. Both caused me pain but no amount of talking about them will change what happened. I’ve done a lot of talking to change how I feel about them but some time ago I realised that I needed to get on with the everyday work of living, talking about it wasn’t helping anymore. Yes, sometimes I’m sad and when that happens, I can acknowledge that and then the only thing left to do is suck it up and work out how to live with it.
I wish it wasn’t so, I wish I could change those things but I can’t. So I have to find a way to live with them with as much grace as I can muster. No one gets to adulthood without something that hurts and everyone comes with damage. How we deal with the damage, is the important thing. I change what I can and that done, I just don’t want to talk about the rest too much, because it doesn’t help me in the long run, it just makes me feel frustrated and sad.
This has changed how I deal with my friends. If my friends are struggling to cope with something, I’m all about what they can do about it and what I can do to help but sometimes that doesn’t make me a very sympathetic friend
My gift is practical assistance. I’ll cook, I’ll babysit, I’ll come round and clean your kitchen, take you out for drinks and agree that the situation sucks. I can’t do too much listening to people complaining if there is no change or intention to change. If something bothers you, change it, if you change, learn to deal with it. I hope I’m still a good friend despite that limitation.