Hey guys, guess what? My week has been stone cold shitty. (And wow, can we just marvel at the awesome disgustingness of that phrase? Shit that is stone cold. Ew! And also, ha ha). I know that I don’t get all up into the details about this part of my life, but I think you all know that my dad isn’t great health-wise and hasn’t been so for a few years now. It goes up and down, but when it’s down it is way, way down. Like, death’s door has been knocked on more times than I can count. Thankfully, so far he’s come through, but it’s painfully obvious that it’s just a hair’s width away from the outcome being very different. Every time we’re in one of those times (like now), I think: ok, is this it? Is this the time that I lose my beloved pops? Because my pops is truly my beloved. My mom is my backbone and my dad is my heart, is the clearest way I can put it. They are the two best human beings I have ever encountered. I know, it’s annoying, I’m one of those people. Anyway, this week is one of those times where things look really bad. There is a lot of waiting. Things change by the hour. It’s horrible, but also every hour, every day that he’s still here, still with me, I feel so grateful.
So anyway, I don’t mean to get into the details about that, but I just have to tell you all something, on a related tip, as the kids say, in the hopes that you will take it forward into your life and remember it when you know someone who is in the state that I am in now. I know I am about to say something that has been said, many many times, but the reason it’s said so many times is because apparently no one listens when it’s said, ever. Which makes me think no one’s going to listen to me either, so crap. Oh well, here it is anyway. Ready? Ready for some unoriginal Dear Abby bullshizz? Here it comes.
When people are having devastating times? Giving them advice (ie telling them what to do) does not help them.
I know, REVELATORY. However, trust me on this. People are confused about this point. I would like to point out, before I go on, that I know people mean well. They are good people, trying to find the right thing to say in a bad situation. All the more reason that I would like to be helpful about what might not be the right thing to say. Rest assured that if you do say the following things, I know that you’re doing the best you can and I appreciate that.
So, like a very badly produced training video, let’s go through some scenarios, shall we?
You: I can’t believe you are still here, at work! You should be home. Why are you here? What is wrong with you? You are carrying on with your life! You are obviously dead inside. Beep-boop-boop, you effing robot.
I am not comforted! Try again, please.
You: Have you cried yet? How often have you cried? You are so put together! You should be crying! Why aren’t you crying? CRY LADY CRY NOW.
Nope! Your demands for sobbing as proof of sadness does not bring succor to the forlorn. Give it another go?
You: My dog/friend/parent/sibling died a few years ago. I didn’t go to her while she was sick, and then she died, and I wasn’t there, and I have regretted it ever since. If you do not go to your loved one’s side immediatemente before they go kaput, you shall rue the rest of your life. And also that would make you a horrible heartless human. Are you packing your bags yet? Get on the plane, asshole.
I am so sorry that you have been through this, because this is awful. Oddly, I do not feel better from your speechifying. Weird.
I guess we all know this (but really, I have evidence that we don’t all know this), but everyone’s experience is different. We all cope in different ways. We all are doing the best we can. And for every choice we make when we’re in the middle of a shitstorm, there are probably better choices we could make, or worse choices we could make. Telling someone their choice is wrong does not help them. At least it doesn’t help me.
Each and every time the shit hits the fan (the stone cold shit, obvs) for my pops, I have to deal with it how I deal with it, which means, for me, that I look it right in the face and I don’t blink. That’s just my way, it’s how I was raised, it’s what feels right to me, and my dad of all people would understand that better than anyone. The situation sucks, but all there is for me to do is eat it, face it, talk about it with my closest peeps, and keep living my life, even when I am marinating in sadness and worry. I have to pay my bills, and go to work, and make sure I eat, and try to laugh sometimes, and let myself sleep a lot, and kiss my honey, and get weepy whenever I get weepy. Partly, that’s really hard- sometimes almost impossible to do- and partly, it’s all that keeps me together, to have to do those things. I figure, all I can do is listen to what my brain/body/soul needs and do that. And trust me, that’s what I’m doing. I’m sorry it’s not your way, and I’m sure your way is good too. It’s just not mine.
So just do me this solid: next time you talk to someone who is having a devastating time, don’t tell them what to do. Don’t tell them what you did, or what you think you would do. Don’t fight the shittiness with advice and wanting to control this or the discomfort you feel that you know about the situation and you feel like you have to say something to diffuse your discomfort. Just look at their eyes and take in the sorrow that’s happening, with them.
And to the people who do that for me: you’re amazing.
I guess I just gave some advice about not giving advice. Let’s ignore the irony.