What our friends need most from us…

Day 27 of 31 Days of Connecting

I fully intend to listen well. To be a good friend as my friends have been to me. To support them as they have supported me. And yet, I find myself doing it again. Focusing on me.

While she shares her struggles feeding her baby boy, I’m trying to think of ways to fix him as I “fixed” my sons (sort of ignoring the reality that her struggles with reflux, allergies, and other traumas are nothing like mine).

While she shares her problems with her marriages, I find myself comparing her relationship with her husband to my relationship with mine. And instead of listening, or letting her know I was listening, I am now rattling off my own story.

Or, while she is sharing a triumph, a milestone with her kid, I find myself feeling defensive and as if I am failing in some way because my sons didn’t walk until they were 19 months old, didn’t talk until they were 2 years old and are generally clumsy with the gross motor skills.

And the worst yet, is that while she is crying over her struggles, her pain, her need, I find myself uncomfortable with her circumstances and instead of sitting down and mourning with her, I am emotionally distant, offering my well-meaning-yet-missing-the-point-entirely advice, followed by an emotionally empty truism.

The unfortunate thing is that we think that when we’re doing these things we are empathizing. Unfortunately, the reality is, we are not focused on the other person or caring for their needs at all, but are thinking of our own. We are uncomfortable in their pain and while we think we are trying to make them feel better, we are actually trying to make ourselves feel better.

What our friends need from us is not to hear how our circumstances were worse or better. They often don’t even want advice – (a safe rule is don’t give it unless asked). What our friends need most is for us to get down with them, offer a shoulder to cry on, and to be with them.

What our friends need most from us is us.

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And that is what makes all of the difference. When we do this for one another, suddenly we are not so alone. Suddenly, our circumstances seem manageable. Suddenly, we are validated in our needs, our feelings, our very selves.

The next time I am with a friend, I will try again. I will shut my mouth and let her talk. I will put myself in her shoes and allow myself to feel her pain. I won’t try to make myself feel better by trying to fix her situation, or minimizing it, or allowing myself to feel like a failure. I will just be with her.

As she has been there for me.

Day 27

 

31 days of connecting

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Temporary Forever, by Shawna Ervin

Day 25 of 31 Days of Connecting

My dear friend Shawna wrote this short story, Temporary Forever, and it was published in Sliver Stone Magazine.  I am so proud of her. It is a story about a mom who remembers her life back in foster care, the fear, the heartache, and the hope that is in that system.

I know it is fiction, and yet through it I have learned a piece of who she is. I would love to see you connect. To hear her words, learn her heart through this story. 

Shawna is working hard on writing a memoir about adopting her children. You can also find her on her blog, Of Prepositions Prayer & Playdough. 

Here are the first words…

********

It was Tuesday. That meant preschool for my four-year-old son, and once again I was making a lunch at the last minute, running late.

“Five minutes, kids,” I shouted from the kitchen. “Five minutes and we’re going to take Nathan to school. Are your shoes on? Nathan, did you pick something for show and tell? Today is the letter D. Do you remember your choices? Your stuffed dog or the bathtub duck,” I said, hitting the letter D extra heavy on duck and dog.

I faced back to the counter and quickly swabbed the bread with mayonnaise—just a little, like he liked. I slapped the deli turkey on the bread, added the extra thin, sharp cheddar cheese, stuffed the sandwich in a plastic baggie, zipped it shut, and let it fall gently into the green and blue dinosaur lunch box. Our baby, who was almost two, toddled into the kitchen and dropped her bottle near my feet.

“Hi, Madison,” I said. “Almost time to go.”

To the fridge and back. Unsweetened applesauce. Baby carrots. Packed in small plastic containers, the blue lids fitting with a humph.

To the freezer for an ice pack. I dropped it in, realized it may squish the sandwich, and figured my son wouldn’t notice or care all that much. Spoon. Fork. Napkin.

*

I was fourteen the first time I sliced a tomato and onion, just two of many experiences I hadn’t had before entering foster care. I held the knife tentatively and pushed on the tomato. It sunk a little and formed a darker spot the size of my fingertip. I was afraid of the sharpness of the knife, the threat it held against this fragile tomato, anything as fragile as I felt after a week of being in a new place. I didn’t want to hurt it, myself, anything. The bruises were still tender on my arms, back, around my neck…

<You can find the rest here.>