There are some days when I forget. I forget how lucky I am. I forget to take a step back and list my gifts. I forget that a moment of laughter is more than I used to have, more than enough. I forget that I don’t have to wait for ‘one day’ to change, to risk, to play, to grow. I forget that I get to make my own rules and that success can be measured in ways that have nothing to do with bank account balances and fame. I forget that being still counts as doing something, and that ‘fun’ can be defined as having a staring contest with your puppy. I forget that anxiety is an option but not a necessity and that breathing can be more powerful than a pill. I forget that there are simple solutions to most problems but simple doesn’t mean easy. I forget that it’s not my job to make everything better – not for myself, not for my puppy, not for my friends. I forget that your problems can remain yours, and that setting boundaries isn’t the same as being cruel.
I listen to your hopelessness, and I know. I know that no matter what suggestions I might make or new perspectives I can offer, it’s not going to make a different. I listen to you give up and I catch a scent of what others must have felt listening to me before. I listen to you and I scramble through my mental files, searching for the right word, right advice, right solution, right path to offer that might make you take off your blindfold and see that there are hands being held out, hands offering help if you would just grab hold. I ruffle through therapy tools and tricks of the mind, sure that there must be something I can do, something to make it better, to kiss the scrape on your heart and patch the hole with a band-aid.
But at the same time, I know…I know there’s nothing. I know there’s nothing I can say, nothing I can do, nothing I can force down your throat to open your eyes. If you’re determined to see distortion and darkness, then the brightest spotlight will only create more shadows. I know I can list your strengths, the things I love about you, your shiny gifts and beautiful parts, but that just as easily, you will shove them aside – “she’s just saying that to be nice.” “If she really knew me, she would know it’s not true.” I listen to you plan your finale, listen to you anticipate the last curtain call, and I know all I can do is listen. I can’t change your mind, I can’t give you new eyes, and I can’t feed you bites of motivation and strength.
Besides, I know that you are just as knowledgeable as I am. You’ve been around the block with this. You know the tools just as I do. And we both know that having knowledge and having wisdom are two different things. We know that insight doesn’t translate into finding the courage to change, to do what is hard, to stick with it even when things get worse. I could show you inspirational videos and send you supportive cards. I could hold your hand while we push the grocery cart. I could host doggy play dates and plan for a better future. I could sit by your side, and yet I can’t transfuse hope. I can’t fix it. I can’t take it away. I can’t promise better days or offer visions of a life mixed with joy.
Listening isn’t my endorsement or silent agreement. Rather, listening is an attempt to bridge the gap and steal a bit of the isolation. So I listen and hope that I won’t be listening for the call that carries bad news. I listen in the hope that someone will find you before then. But in the meantime, I remember where I was and the black holes I want to avoid. I remember my luck and my choices and my power. I remember to laugh.
And for you, I can only listen and wish for my magic wand.