This post is for all you folks out there (parentless exceptions included) who are confronted with an all too common interpersonal dilemma: You hit a pothole in the road called life, and you really want to talk to your best friend about it. The only problem is that your best friend’s mother is sick. Or dad had a heart attack. Or your best friend recently got fired. Or diagnosed with cancer. Or whatever pertinent hardship is newly associated with your best friend.
So, the question is, what do you do. Do you seek their advice and support? Do you wait, hoping for a more appropriate time to surface? Or do you decide not to tell them at all?
It seems pretty clear that your small pothole is the size of a crack in the street compared to your friend’s crater of a hardship. After weighing the options, it seems obvious: Your problem is too trivial in comparison. Better to wrestle with the issue on your own or bring your troubles to another person….
Having been on both sides of this dilemma, I know it’s not easy. Not only may it seem trivial to bring up your issues, it can feel selfish. Self-centered. Exceedingly insensitive. Especially when you’re in a small squabble with your parents, and your friend’s parent is battling for her life. Or you’re annoyed with your boyfriend, and your friend’s boyfriend just dumped her. Why pour salt into an already salty wound?
However, I’m here to tell you that those of us dealing with craters want to hear about your potholes.
Being able to lean on friends, cry to friends and vent to friends helped me soldier on when times were tough. Laughing and relaxing together over a good bottle of wine helped too. All of this came pretty easily with the right friends, which made it even more surprising when some withheld information and personal problems from me. Sometimes I felt like I was the last one on the block to learn of a friend’s job rejection, failed exam or broken heart.
Yes, I may have a lot on my plate, but trust me, I really want to hear! In fact, being able to rely on our friendship remaining status quo, business-as-usual is extremely gratifying.
One of the largest discomforts of dealing with a crater in life is adjusting to the new “normal”. New fears, pains, doctor’s appointments, schedules, etc. It would be wonderful if our friendship could remain the same. I think it’s important to remember that your potholes don’t make our craters larger. It’s keeping your potholes a secret that might.
And another thing – It feels GOOD to help you! You know how people say to ask interviewers about themselves? When we deal with hardship, I think it feels good to console someone else for a change. Takes the heat off us for a while, you know?
Plus, I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to talk about my crater all the time. Occasional distraction is a good thing – a great thing, in fact. So let me take a break. Let me help you tackle your pothole for a bit. My crater isn’t going anywhere; my roadwork isn’t stopping any time soon.
In fact, next time I’m struggling with a crater in the road, I think I’ll remember to erect an “I’m Still All Ears” sign next to the “Roadwork Ahead” signal. Or maybe this post is good enough?