I had planned to write something funny for today. But the thing is, I'm not feeling particularly funny this week. So my written attempts at humor are kind of a car wreck.
The truth is, I'm kind of a pain in the ass to have as a friend recently. And by recently, I mean for the past 21 months or so.
I've spent the past year and a half in a strange place of grappling. I started that period, among other things, with a nasty round of postpartum depression. It was a period of lows and tears and struggle and just trying to muster enough energy to provide smiles and energy for my kids.
There has been the realization that the setup of my current universe doesn't work well for me, and wondering how I can change that.
There's been simply that season of having two really young kids who require all of me right now, leaving little chance to connect elsewhere.
It is an isolating feeling. Some of it, I do to myself because when I am struggling, that always accompanies guilt - I don't want to be that friend. We all know that friend that is a miserable energy drain. Unfortunately, the guilt, itself, is an energy suck, no better than what I'm trying to work through.
As I've muddled my way through, I've allowed it to impact the friend I am to those around me. I've resolved to be a better support to my own friends, some of whom are dealing with downright shitty situations that have no quick resolution. Although our circumstances are different, that's a feeling that I understand.
For myself, I'm trying to do a better job of asking for help, and articulating specifically what it is that I need. For others, I'm trying to figure out how to be more present, even when it can only be virtually.
So what can do to provide support to someone when a problem seems to be ongoing?
1. Words are powerful: I'm here. I'm thinking about you. I love you. Hearing or seeing those words, even when on a quick text, can do magic in a day. My kids often leave little phone time, so I've been known to send texts that are just "xoxo." It's not much, but at least that person knows I'm thinking about them, instead of meaning to call, never getting to it, and creating ongoing windows of time without contact. I've also made a pact with myself to send one handwritten letter each week. So far, I've stuck with it. Little things really do make an impact.
2. You're never too old for hugs. An old friend used to claim you needed three a day or you'd get sick. There is nothing better.
3. Ask if they want to brainstorm. We are a busy, solution-based society. We want to fix, and the intention is good. Sometimes, though, quick-fire answers can be dismissive. I am learning to ask if someone wants to brainstorm. It is absolutely helpful to have someone who will give fresh perspective and make sure you don't fall into a rut.
But - sometimes, you just need to be heard and validated. Sometimes, you just need to hear the simplest words (see #1). Other times, you just want to be allowed to not talk about it.
4. Be mindful of where someone is at. If a friend is in a rough spot and you email, text or leave a voicemail, you may not hear back. Chances are, your words are being received and are appreciated. Remember why you reached out in the first place and give a little latitude. If someone is overwhelmed, adding a stack of angry "you didn't get back to me" messages doesn't do much to clear the air.
5. Make time. Put the to-do list down and make time. Make a phone call, Skype, show up on a doorstep, make a meal, make plans. Even if the date is three months out on the calendar, just make the plans. I'm terrible in this area, and I am trying. My goal for today is to get pancakes on the calendar with a friend that I keep missing. Why is that hard? It's not.
What would you add to this list? What good ways have you found to show support?