No one cares about the worst parts of your life.
I know, I know, I could have broken that to you easier, but I’m not known for my tact.
I’m serious. No one really gives a damn about the time that thing happened. Play your own Mad Libs with that. Insert your own date and personal tragedy. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Hold that really shitty day/week/year in your mind, and chew on it like you have a thousand times. Do it, even if it isn’t between the hours of 11 pm and 4 am when you get a case of the Thinks. Curl your fingers right around it, and feel that weight in your palm. Heavy, like a dying star. What does it feel like? My worst day is kind of like a coconut, if they were far more fragile and filled with crying puppies. Maybe that’s like a melodramatic egg, then.
Look down at it, that Worst. Day. Ever. and know that no one wants to hear it. No one. Not even your bestest bestie. Definitely not your mom or dad. In no way, shape or form does your special someone want to hear about it again. Everyone’s got their shit, and there isn’t enough time to do this even Steven and trade shitty day for shitty day.
I’m not saying that everyone around you has been replaced by robots (but it’s definitely a thing). (Full disclosure: I’m not saying they aren’t replaced with robots. Honestly, I’d have no way of diagnosing anyone, I’m not a trained professional. I could probably get you in touch with someone if needed, but anyway.)
What I’m saying is that no one wants to know about the shitty thing, they want to know how you responded, what you were thinking. Did you piss yourself? Not even a little? You can be honest with me, this is a safe place. Thought so.
If we’re being pretty honest, and I’d like to think that’s how we do, yes, there’s definitely judgments happening. You’re wondering if they’d do what you’d do, and either you pick up a new trick, or you know you’d handle it better. That’s a common bond no one talks about outside of a toxic work environment I may or may not have helped to create, quit judging me.
If you think about it, people are pretty good at keeping an eye on unsavory possibilities. Planning for the worst and hoping for the best got mankind pretty far. We can thank our lizard brains for that. Sure, we’ve gotten fancy with our pants and our racing cars, but all of that just helps us avoid being uncomfortable, or out of jail, depending on what’s up with your pants.
The thing that we want in sharing our misery is making a connection with someone. Without the you-go-then-I-will pissing contest it can turn into, at the heart of this is wanting someone else to know that they aren’t completely alone, and you aren’t either. The more you do it, the better the connection will be next time. And it’s always about that next connection.
It gets twisted up, and you want to prove your scars are the ugliest. Which is all well and good, until you run into someone with nastier scars than yours, by a wide margin. What’s left when you’re trying to win Ugliest Crier 2015, and the competition just dunked on you?
I know you didn’t mean to take it there, but you’ll never really understand empathy until you’ve been kind of a dick about this. Don’t worry, in all likelihood you got this out of the way during your teen years; a tactful teen is rarer than a goddam unicorn. Now, if you’re not yet a teen ager, well, prepare yourself. Also, where the fuck are your parents, I mean honestly. This is hardly suitable reading material.
Yes, you’ll slip here and there, you’ll make it into a contest, but try not to make a habit of it. That’s just crass. Manners are important, know that. Hell, manners are paramount when sharing the time you skinned your knee and it hurt wicked bad. Manners are part of empathy, say I. To truly empathize is to respect someone, and you can’t really respect someone if you’re interrupting me every five fucking minutes, Claire.
You’ll start to get a handle on what kind of a connection you can make, after someone meets certain criteria. It’s an interesting feeling, sifting through your personal trauma for what’s best to share with that specific person. Really, those are the ‘different faces’ people show, the way that you and your therapist know your mom. He would thank you if he understood you were shielding him from the head on collision it is to talk with the woman.
Dear lord, if I said I need to leave, why is that the best time to ask if I want a fucking sandwich?\ Yes, it’s really sweet to still want to feed your son, but he’s creeping up on 40 and maybe he doesn’t need to eat that much. The cholesterol panel came back, there was this whole drama, just be glad you missed it.
You’re never the same person with everyone. You have certain cadences of behavior that are paired to the various combinations of friends. For serious, trying to work out the dynamic when it’s me, Jeff and the Wolfman, it’s a nightmare.
So here you are, figuring out the nuances of how to connect with someone. Yes, there’s a quid quo pro arrangement, but it’s all good. You figure out what sort of pain to show someone. There’s a lot of nuance to the whole thing.
Now, this is a key piece to this: Don’t apply your rules of engagement to someone else. This fuels every pissing contest for boo boos ever. Your way of working through and wearing your scars is your way. I don’t really have it in me to get into why the rainbow you saw when you were seven made you want to be a park ranger. Would you judge someone else for not wanting to become a park ranger after light refracted off of moisture in the air?
Everyone is working through their shit, and if they’re not working through it, it’s working through them. That right there is a patent pending meme. Credit where credit is due. You remember that. Something about rising tides and boats, I think.
You don’t have to like the way someone is working on it, but if no one is getting hurt, let it slide. In a long enough timeline, you’re letting other people do all the talking. You’re letting people release foul humours, and everyone is better for it.
This all applies to the best parts of your life. Don’t tell me about the time everything was awesome for you, as though angels were pissing pixie dust all over you. Talk about what you learned, and how you spread that good fortune about. Again, something about boats and tides.
There’s something to learn, no matter which way things are tipping for you. And no, there isn’t the same thing for everyone to learn. If we’re all trying to take the next step to be a better us, and I think that we are, that’s a long journey with a lot of stops along the way. Don’t get side tracked, but keep in mind that sometimes wandering needs to happen.
Whether or not you have a destination in mind, keep your eyes open, and more importantly, keep your mind open. Who you are now isn’t necessarily who you’ll be in a month or a year. I don’t care if you’re fifty-six and starting up a new family with someone you met down at the bus stop last night. No one cares that you really bonded over a handy in the bathroom, Claire.
Maybe you’re exactly who you are right now, but God I hope not. There’s no fun in playing it so safe that you didn’t learn a few tricks along the way.
But the important piece in all of this is shut your goddam mouth. Before you speak, ask yourself if you’re trying to be the baddest dude in town. If you think yes for even a damn second, shut your pie hole.
Better yet, don’t tell me what you learned. Show me.