The Frazzle Factor is pretty high around my house…

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 – 69 views

— by jnm

The last several weeks for Mrs. Mailman and I have been marked by uncertainty, fear, failure and letting go. Her recovery from surgery is slow, arduous and uncomfortable. Our stability-craving three-year old daughter has floundered a bit... and is developing new bad habits by the day. We're not certain what the future holds: not just next month or next year, but tomorrow. We're afraid of the change that we'd never have chosen and which destroys any human illusion of control. We've re-prioritized our bill-paying, which amounts to failure in the eyes of many. As we breathe out and let go, though, we remind ourselves that it's just money. None of it goes with us, and the Gospel of Dave Ramsey looks an awful lot like health-and-wealth theology, only dressed in business casual instead of Armani.

We've had company for most of these last seven weeks. We love Mrs. Mailman's mom. We appreciate her presence here more than we'll ever be able to adequately communicate. And everyone needs their home, their space, their normal. She wants to be back in her home, and we'd like ours to settle down again, too (sans the old-lady flatulence and ridonkulous snoring).

I am a verbal processor, so when the shit gets real, my first preference is to have a lot of long talks with a good friend. Seems like everyone's just too busy these days, though, so I usually fall back on writing. I am also an inveterate observer and analyst of human behavior, which is a nice way of saying I can sometimes be a hypercritical bastard. Sometimes in the analysis there are a few hearty kernels which need grinding for the strengthening of body, mind and spirit, and this season has provided ample grist for the mill. I hope you'll indulge me as I exorcise some demons.

Some of our real-life friends, new and old alike, have been silent for the duration of my wife's illness. I refuse to believe they don't know what's going on; this whole bloody mess has been Facebooked, Twittered and blogged ad nauseum, not to mention the zillion or so text messages I've sent out and the fact that we've been on our church's prayer list all this time. They may not know what to say; they may be "too busy". Either excuse amounts to so much bullshit, as far as I'm concerned, but that's scraped off our shoes easily enough. Some acquaintances have been free with advice when we wish they might have remained silent, rather than revealing themselves to be narcissistic and insensitive. The latter is harder for me to deal with than the former. I can blow off absence. It's their loss, I figure; there's beauty to be found, if you're willing to sit with the pain. But somebody's gonna get punched in the throat if they make my lady cry.

By far the hardest response for me to deal with is this: "If you need anything, let me know." I've said this myself; maybe that's why my feelings are conflicted about it. I'm learning and processing, though, so hopefully what I learn can help me be a more present and supportive friend when the tables are turned.

What's wrong with offering help, you ask? When life pulls the rug out from under someone, as it has done us, they don't know what they need, other than for their friends to be there. Bringing meals is a popular thing to do, but really: It's impersonal. Drop the food off and leave, don't ever come back for the Tupperware. "Call me if you need anything!" tossed over your shoulder as you scurry back to your car... C'mon.

You know what your hurting friend really needs? Calls. Texts. Emails. Notes. "Hey, thinking of you. You okay?" Short visits where you don't try to fix anything. Flowers. Blog comments. Facebook comments. Twitter mentions or DMs. We have a million ways to be in touch, for cryin' out loud. Use any one of them, and do it often.

You know what your hurting friend doesn't need? Pity. Advice. Silence. Absence.

As my daughter would say, "It's hard, but it's not."

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