Wednesday, February 08, 2012
“Everyone has stress.” Whether it be work stress, home stress, financial stress, family stress, death of a loved one...the list goes on and on.
I, too have my bulging share of stress. Divorce is the second most stressful event a person can go through. Loss of a spouse is number one. I personally would like to debate that, especially with a child involved.
I try not to burden other’s with my own problems. For example, one of my close friend’s dog is dying and I compassionately understand since I recently lost one of our dogs. I continue to ask how her dog is doing, how she is fairing, without adding my own personal problems onto her.
I send little texts, messages, notes and ask about how others are doing. They, in turn, reciprocate. What I am finding though, is that it seems people’s stress is becoming a contest. Who needs the most compassion? Who deserves a medal for surviving the most stress at a single time? Well meaning friends and relatives say such things as, “everyone has stress,” in an attempt to help. But really what they have done is compared situations in order to minimize feelings. No matter how well intended, the comment makes the recipient feel worse. It indicates that their friend or family member does not understand what they are going through, which in turn leads to isolation, which further worsens the problem.
I tend to be somewhat reclusive. A couple weeks ago I suffered a gall bladder attack that almost had me in the hospital, but I stuck it out and won. One of the medications my doctor suggested I change gave me such a bad reaction, I again, almost went to the hospital. My refrigerator died in the middle of the night that week. And when I went to the grocery store, I came back to my car with a volleyball size dent in it and almost $2,000 damage. Oh, and I had the law professionals on my back asking me when my husband and I were going to tell our son we were divorcing. Talk about stress.
I shut down. I am normally on FaceBook daily...I never touched my computer. I stayed in bed and shut out the world. I couldn’t take anything more happening to me in my life. I reluctantly checked my e-mail on my phone. When a friend or two inquired about me, I gave them a brief update and their response was, “Everyone has stress.” When I dragged my un-showered, still-in-pajamas and slippers body to take my son to karate, I saw a Mom friend who mentioned that I didn’t look too good (no kidding!). I gave a brief update of my life and her response was, “Everyone has stress.” Really? I am standing out in public, in my pajamas, unwashed/uncombed hair, looking like a rat dragged me in, and her response was, “Everyone has stress?”
I began getting messages on my FaceBook Messenger App: “Where are you?” “Are you okay?” “What’s wrong? We miss you.” There were so many, I felt compelled to let everyone know that life was dealing me a bad hand, but that I was on the mend and they would all see me soon, so I left a post. The nicest comment came from a woman I am just starting to get to know pretty well. She lives across the country, has been unemployed for a year, is a single Mom, and she said, “Don’t worry...we’re all here for you. Just take care of yourself and your life. That’s all that really matters.” That one response, from someone I have never met, made me feel so cared for. It made me feel that I, and what I was going through, mattered. That one person understood. Someone who has her own laundry list of stress. I thanked her and blew her a virtual kiss. Had she been standing in front of me, I would have hugged her until I cried. That simple, caring comment was exactly what I needed. And surprisingly, it came from someone I hardly knew.
I finally got out of bed the following day, showered, and took my son to karate as he was graduating to a higher belt level and there would be an informal ceremony. I asked someone to take a picture of my son and me, sitting on the mat together. I uploaded it to FaceBook because I was so proud of my son. I received 17 comments of concern, welcome backs, what happened to you, are you okay...all from people I barely know but do care about. I was floored.
So why is it that I was able to get an outpouring of concern from people I have never met, who are scattered all over the country. People who truly give a darn about you when they notice you are “missing.” Is my own community so jaded that everyone can barely manage their own problems, let alone send a message of concern to others? All they can offer is a cliched statement that has absolutely no considerate meaning?
Yes, there are people who are genuinely concerned about me and my life. My neighbor across the street is one. I wouldn’t trade my horrific life for hers if you paid me in gold. But she calls to find out how I am as she is trying to hold her own life together. My best friend with the dying dog, who is a single Mom, texts me to make sure I am afloat and sends me many messages of positive affirmations. I treasure these two friends whose lives mirror mine. But we are there for each other. It is not a contest. There is no, “Who has the worst life?” We are just unfortunate souls who are trying our best to get through our horrendous circumstances and when we do, we will rejoice until the heavens rain down upon us.
A small bit of kindness, caring, respect, concern...
Is that too much to ask?