I hold myself to a high standard. I know this seems laughable if you read my Twitter feed, which seems to be my own personal attempt to constantly lower the expectations others have of me, but honestly it’s true. Maybe you’ll have to take my word for it.
Friendship is what I value more than anything else. I love to be with others and I love to share in the details of the lives of my friends. Part of the reason for this is undoubtably my singleness and the longing that creates for human community, but I have discovered that no one-not even the most blissfully in love pair-can do without friends. Being a friend to others is then my most basic response to the overwhelming need of this world.
I’m not very good at conjuring up practicle solutions anyway-you should just listen to my sermons.
The substance of friendship is enjoyed by listening.
Listening is hard work.
I push myself to be a good friend, which means being a patient listener. I have learned this is not easy.
Imagine for a moment that someone who you deeply care for opens up about the vulnerability they feel in their marriage, the insecurities surrounding the revelation that the person they recently swore an oath to be with is in fact a far more complicated individual than they first imagined. Of course this is normal for any new marriage, as two people learn to be the complex beings they were created to be, now bound to each other and thus bound to walk on shifting sand.
To listen, to really listen, means understanding the pain of the one speaking. We all know when someone we are speaking to is insincere-an unpleasant feeling like we just had stinking mud flicked at us.
I have noticed that I am not very good at unfeeling what my friend expressed. I don’t know if one can unfeel such things. Many have noticed that this difficult emotional echo is the reason many of those we seek to open up to will offer platitudes, or inappropriate solutions since they are attempting to resolve the pain such conversation has communicated.
A good listener avoids doing this. A good listener doesn’t impose solutions upon the sufferer.
Yet here I am, anxious and sleepless, after holding hands with those I care for, to stare down their question marks and seeing the reflection of my own.
That’s the cost of listening.
So where do I go from here? Do I justify my temptation to self-destructive thoughts and habits as a fair cost for the relationships I value? Do I distance myself from those sources of pain, those difficult stories of everyday struggle?
Or perhaps I can learn to trust that others long to give that gift of listening, if I would only open my mouth.
I suppose those who know me might be surprised to know how difficult I find it to really share those inner pains. I verbally throw up all over the Internet, don’t I? Ah well, the written word is a perfect mediator since it lets me completly control what the reader experiences. I’m probably lying to you right now.
I hope I can lean to let go of that mistrust. I have a life full of wonderful friends who have shared so much with me. Why can I not believe I am safe in their hands?