I have no poker face. If you ask me how I am- I’ll most likely tell you. If you ask me how my husband is- I’ll tell you that too. If you ask me my weight, I’ll probably give you a blank stare and tell you: “Nunya”. No- that’s not a curse word in another language. (That I know of.) It means: None of your business.
I’m pretty much an open book, with a few boundaries.
Which has been pretty interesting and kind of sad over the past few years.
Because once in a while- someone will ask, I’ll answer, only to discover I just threw down the Trump card, in a game I didn’t even know I was playing.
It usually happens when talking to someone and I think we’re having a real honest conversation- the kind I like, the kind that matters. About life and the messiness of it and how it’s all hard and worth it, but sometimes sucks. Then suddenly the other person looks me in the eye and says:
“Oh, wow. I should shut up. My life’s a piece of cake, compared to yours. I don’t want to bother you with my “Stuff.”
BAM. DOOR CLOSED.
Game over. Trump card played in a game I didn’t even know we were playing. The game called: “Your life sucks so much, it makes me feel like a giant whiner that shouldn’t have any feelings about my current tiny crap-tide- so I’ll shut up now.”
I get it. Really, I do.
The other person suddenly realizes my life is a jacked up mess. They do a quick emotional balance sheet and decide I have enough stress in my life and they don’t want to push me over the edge to crazyville.
Except, they pushed me away. What was a two sided conversation, suddenly becomes awkwardly one sided. The other person feels like they can’t be open or honest with me… because well- my life is crazy.
Instead-they shut down and stop talking. They become uncomfortably “there for me.”
People don’t just do this in conversations- they do this in real life, too. They decide I can’t handle their “stuff” in addition to my own- so they try to protect me. By not including me in “their stuff.”
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I was trying to be considerate.I get it. I mean- when you compare feeling frustrated with your spouse or in-laws or the bill pile, or the abundance of laundry you can’t seem to keep up with, or kids who are driving you nuts, and someone else says: “Yeah- I feel overwhelmed and frustrated too….this cancer thing is making me nuts.” It does put things into a different perspective.
Except-I didn’t realize how comparing and shutting down and cutting them out to protect them- can make the other person feel.
It makes me feel: disconnected. Like an emotional leper. Like my life is so hard that I can’t possibly think of someone else- and like I might not be able to handle it either….(Newsflash: I can’t. Neither can you. That’s why we need each other and God. Justsayin’)
I feel like I just won the game of “Who’s life sucks the most.” A game no one wants to win. (Well, I suppose there are always a few who are up for that win.. But, not me. and not most pseudo- emotionally healthy people.) Winning that game is lonely. It leaves you perched on the top of a dung pile by yourself, holding a trophy you don’t want. And since you’re holding giant “my life sucks the most” trophy- you can’t even plug your nose against the smell.
It makes me feel: useless. Like I couldn’t possibly help someone else because of the mess I’m living in.
Feeling disconnected and useless are not helpful.
Here’s what I’m learning: Comparing and shutting down- doesn’t help anyone. It creates disconnection when we most need connection.
Instead of comparing our pain and declaring someone the winner and someone the whiner. What if we just heard each other out- connected and were compassionate to each other? What if we let each other set emotional boundaries instead of trying to set them for each other?
Sidebar: That’s usually how boundaries work. we set our own and respect the boundaries of others. I know-because I’ve read that in books, like 10 million times- so it must be true.
The truth is-there is no Trump card in the game of pain.
We all have pain in our lives. It’s relative. The most pain you’ve ever felt- is the most pain you’ve ever felt. The pain you’re feeling right now- HURTS. Whether it’s cancer, or finances or relational or daily frustrational. (I like to make up words. So- whatever. Frustrational is now a word. I said so. Spell check can underline it in red forever. I’m leaving it. )
There is no trump card in pain. It’s like the Cake in Portal- it’s a lie. (Random Video game reference. Go ahead- google it, I’ll wait.)
Pain hurts. Pain shared- hurts less.
Let’s quit the card games and comparing and start living with love and compassion. Deal?
(Ha! Deal… cards… get it? I’m punny.)
Dear Lord- There is no trump card for pain- you know us and love us and long for us to connect. Help us to stop comparing and start living with compassion and love, even when it’s messy and hard…and we feel like our pain pales in comparison to another’s. Give us courage to love boldly and to respect boundaries and the pain of others. I love you Lord- even when I’m the disconnecting doofus… amen
So am I the only one?
Tips for dealing with friends who are living in and with a mess:
1) Let them set healthy boundaries.
2) Keep them in your emotional loop. (trust me- sometimes it’s kind of weirdly nice to help someone else when you’re own life is jacked up.It makes you feel like there is something MORE than just your own pain.)
3) Don’t compare pain.
Any tips you’d add?
Post them in the comments and I’ll add them here;)