All of us have low days …. Days when we’re tired, when nothing seems to be going right, when our head is cluttered with worries and frustrations. Or days when there’s a problem that we just can’t shake off, and it’s colouring everything grey. Imagine that someone is telling you about their low day or the issue they can’t seem to pull out and pass. What’s your response? Do you offer a hope that things will improve? Do you commiserate, and maybe share a problem of your own, so the person feels less alone? Do you give the person a hug, and tell them you’re thinking of them? Or do you tell them their complaint is no big deal, and that something worse is just around the corner? Wait a minute …. Who would do that? Enough people to justify this rant!
This has happened to me many times. When I was pregnant for the first time, and feeling tired: “Oh, you think you’re tired now? Wait til the baby gets here!” As a new mother, feeling overwhelmed by the needs of a brand-new, very loud, completely helpless human: “Babies are easy! Wait til she’s a toddler.” When Fiona became a toddler, and I was pregnant again, exhausted by the effort of caring for a busy, messy, demanding eighteen-month-old while growing another human inside of me: “Ha, ha – the baby isn’t even born yet! Wait til there are two of them, and one’s up all night and the other’s up all day.” Now, with two lovely-but-sometimes-challenging daughters: “Oh, wait til they’re teenagers – then you’ll know what real problems are! You’ll wish they were eight and six again.” And that’s just the parenting part of my life …. When Ryan and I were newlyweds, there were people who seemed to enjoy grimly reassuring me that we are one day going to be old and fat, and we won’t care about impressing each other or even showing basic consideration for each other. If I mention that we’ve had alot of expenses lately, there’s always someone who eagerly reminds me that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet – one day, we’ll have two kids in college, and retirement coming up. When I’m tired, I don’t bother to say it to some people, because I know they will say “wait til you’re my age – I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in seven years”.
Why, why, why? Why can’t a person’s problem, whatever the size, be heard and acknowledged? Why do some people insist on airing the dreary opinion that time is going to make everything worse? Why can’t these people just put a comforting hand on a weary shoulder, smile and say “I’m sorry this is happening to you; I’m sure things will get better soon”? What is to be gained from trivializing the suffering of others, and smugly asserting that real pain will arrive soon enough?
The next time someone seems to be struggling, don’t be one of those assholes! Be the person who gives kindness and cheer. Let the other person know that you really listened to what they had to say. Tell them you care, offer solutions, or just wish them a better day tomorrow. And if you are one of those assholes, don’t be surprised if all you ever get from me is small talk. You’ve proven that you can’t be trusted with more than the weather and what happened on TV last night.