Dear Person with Problems

Dear Person with Problems,

I am sorry you’ve had a bad time of it but frankly my interest in your problems ends at the point they begin to make PROBLEMS for me. See, what you don’t grasp is that my compassion, sympathy, and empathy are not endless wells. Oh yeah, once upon a time you might have played those angles and while it’s true my heart was more open then, I look out for myself more now which I think is a pretty good trade-off. You may not but toughening up has served me.

Why you think you are the only person in the world with problems or that your problems are more important – and thus deserve more exceptions and attention – I just don’t know. There’s nothing spectacular about you. You’re not saving the world, feeding the masses, curing diseases, or spreading joy wherever you go. Now somebody like that, they might get exceptions. “He’s a genius! Cut him a little slack already.” You’re not a genius. You. Are. Not. Special. And you know what? Your problems aren’t special either. Oh I know you THINK they are. But really, they are pretty mundane.

Every where you go your problems become other people’s problems. Directly or indirectly. You create a swath of issues in everything you touch. Nothing is easy with you. You make a mess of everything. But you never see your hand in it. It is always somebody’ else’s fault. The boss. The friend. The husband. The judge. The government. Your parents. The co-worker. The random stranger. They all make life so very rough for you. Poor you.

I am so, so very tired of you. Because you never go away. Every time I turn around, think life has quieted down a little and maybe we can all relax and have some peace for a minute, there you are. Making demands, complaining, drawing attention to yourself, barking, agitating, taking, stomping all over other people. It’s just the way you live. You don’t even know it. In fact, your self-awareness is sketchy at best. Yes, once in awhile you might allow that your life is abysmal and you aren’t happy but you soon default to your typical stance. Action without thought. Making your problems other people’s problems.

Most of us have bad days, days we say the wrong thing, take something out on someone, or otherwise chafe against other people. We all have problems and they do sometimes affect other people negatively. But that’s not you. This is how you are all the time. Every day is a bad day.

Now if you’re going to tell me about the miserable circumstances you grew up in, the poverty, the absent parent, the drugs, the rough neighborhood, the abuse or anything like that – and offer them as the excuse for your behavior – I will have little patience. If you’re going to tell me how nothing has ever worked out for you, that your dreams weren’t fulfilled, that your life hasn’t gone the way you’d have hoped – and use that as an excuse for your behavior – again I will have little patience. Do you really think everybody else has it so good? That all or most people are skipping along through life problem-free with jolly childhoods, fulfilled dreams, and constant successes?

I realize you aren’t thinking about the rest of us, you’re thinking about yourself, but I DON’T CARE. I’ve had it with you. Your problems have become such a nuisance and have permeated my existence to such an extent, that I no longer care about ANY of them. I can’t even give you my normal level of concern because I am so burnt out. I’d rather give what energy I have first to myself and then to other people who deserve it, people who are trying to live decently, asking for what they deserve, but generally trying not to make all of their problems someone else’s fault or responsibility. I have nothing for you. You take too much. Your problems don’t interest me.

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34 thoughts on “Dear Person with Problems

  1. Ron Walker

    When I meet people like that I just have to walk away. I have no patience for whiners. My Father taught me the difference between a “Reason” and a “Excuse”. All of those you mention live with excuses that mean nothing. Thanks for a great post this morning.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          No. Those days are over. I mean even strangers, random people that turn up in your environment and cause trouble because of their constant problems. People whose problems encroach on you even when you’re uninvolved.

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  2. M. Oniker

    I can’t like this post, and here’s why: There are toxic people, narcissists, energy vampires, drama queens, whatever you want to call them, who do thrive on the drama of problems, who do like all the attention, and will take every last bit of patience. For every one of those people, or maybe more, there are people with problems, maybe the same ones you listed as being not worth your time or interest. These people truly have bad luck, and once you get to a certain point of bad luck (money and health and other problems of just subsistence), the system works against you to have even more bad luck. “Life is too short for negative people” is an easy way to sweep EVERYONE under the rug, and is the height of the self-absorbed “I’m the only one who matters” mentality that that you are writing against in several of these paragraphs, to the people with problems…selfish them. I don’t have answers. There are the inherently toxic people that we probably need to distance ourselves from in order to take care of ourselves. I don’t think it is so easy to spot them, to weed them out, from the people who really do need help, compassion and empathy. To clump everyone with “problems” together does a disservice to all.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      From the first line of my “letter” and throughout it I distinctly reference people whose problems continually make problems for other people; who make problems – needless ones – for me.

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      1. M. Oniker

        I read it. My comments still stand. I’ve been on the giving and receiving ends of both. If you don’t want comments, disable comments. If you only want comments that agree with you, then edit them off. I strongly disagree with the blase: Life is too short for negative people. You didn’t state that verbatim, but that is the tone of the piece.

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  3. Under the Oaks

    I had a gal pal from grade school and we stayed friends until 2010. She sucked the very life out of me with her problems with men and whining about how she looked as she aged. When it wasn’t enough for her to be whining about her aging skin flaws she started pointing mine out. Add in her alcoholism and driving while “buzzed”… her word, I had to cut her out of my life as Kate says. It was hard to do. She was the first person I had ever done that to, she hasn’t been the last. Needy and narcissistic… do they go hand in hand?

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Yes, I think they do. This isn’t my quote/idea but the two sides of the narcissism coin are “I am god” and “I am garbage.” I’ve written about people like your former friend several times on the blog. I think there’s a slight distinction
      (maybe?) between the narcissist and the person with problems. Maybe it’s this: a narcissist can be a narcissist and not have a constant barrage of problems. A narcissist typically has charms that attract people (person with incessant problems doesn’t have to have any charms). I don’t even think the person with incessant problems necessarily calls them problems; it’s just their life. Hope this makes sense.

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      1. Under the Oaks

        Makes sense. There are a lot of woe is me people out there and they aren’t willing to do a thing to make their woe is me life better. I have a family member that is the walking breathing definition of a narcissist but she doesn’t whine, is not needy, and is charming. I can take her in limited doses. She just thinks I am not as bright as she is… ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Ally Bean

    “I have nothing for you. You take too much.”

    Well said. That’s exactly the point I’m at with the few users who have drifted into my life. I don’t feel guilty about shutting them out of my life, and kind of wonder if they even notice that I’ve cut them out. I doubt that I was anything to them, other than another set of ears to listen to their woes.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks – They may not notice unless you find yourself in a situation where you need to bluntly, directly refuse them. I’ve always resented people who took more than their “fair share” (under whatever guise) and to counteract it I want to give them even less.

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  5. battlewagon13

    I think we all have someone, or multiple someone’s, that make us feel this way. Sad thing is that they are usually basically a nice person (well, the one I’m thinking of) and they continually draw you back in to their web.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      It they’re basically nice people, there’s probably incentive to stay engaged. I mean not-nice ones. The ones who bring many of their own problems on themselves, who don’t give back (or if they ever do, the ratio is all out of whacvk).

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  6. Maggie Wilson

    It’s all about boundaries, right? At first you are exploring, getting to know exactly what your limits are – how much you will do, listen, advise, console… but then, if it’s becoming a hardship for you, it’s time to defend the boundaries.
    I recall in my gradeschool days feeling drawn to the people with the problems because I thought I could/should be there to listen, to console – it’s what you read about in the novels, it’s what you learn in church, too. You make good friends and stick together and with your compassion and encouragement, you support the other long enough to triumph over their problem. Except, it’s a problem du jour. One “du jour” after another.
    Kudos for knowing your limits and defending them.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I do like the kind of friendship you describe, Maggie. I am glad people can lean on me and sometimes I actually do some good. The kind of people-with-problems-who-make-problems-for-you feels broader and includes acquaintances and strangers even (as well as problems of all stripes). I think you’re right though, that boundaries are always in play and you can try to protect them no matter the situation. An aggressive, hostile “pan handler” or a sexual harasser for instances, are foisting their problems on me but I still have a choice in how I respond.

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      1. Maggie Wilson

        Ah! I re-read this with a clearer understanding as to who you are addressing in the post – and I recognize the feelings (I assume) you have – you reach a limit, you want to holler to the heavens “Make them go away! Make it stop! I’ve had enough.”

        Regrettably, they will keep popping up.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          I left the post a bit ambiguous (maybe too much so!) and you are right Maggie, my tolerance has grown short. I realize it is I who has to find some way to adapt or cope because it’s not gonna stop. I already see parts of a younger generation (bah humbug!) who assume everybody, even strangers, are interested in their problems and addressing them (for them). They make my eyes bug out.

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  7. vanbytheriver

    For friends, acquaintances, it’s not just easy, it’s the responsible thing to do…that leaving them behind. Like so many, I have empathy that is recognized, folks feel comfort in unloading on me, and I patiently listen, offer support. But there is always a limit, and when it begins to affect me, I’m out.

    And then, there is family. You want to walk away, but cannot, for so many complex reasons. So you try to develop a superficial relationship, which goes against everything you believe. It happens.

    Thoughtful post, C.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks as always for weighing in. Your words may me think of the idea that when someone “unloiads” a problem they feel better but that’s not necessarily true for the “unloadee.” I am just so fried on the many people whose stuff constantly overflows onto other people. It’s always something and there are always new people in one’s environment that act like this.

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      1. vanbytheriver

        In the political/social climate of the past year, it seems especially bad. Folks are stressed in ways they never thought of before, and it comes out in the strangest forms. Best to take care of yourself.

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  8. surgeryattiffanys

    I can totally relate to your letter. Unfortunately in my line of work, we have to deal with these people. A lot. Not only are they usually ‘high maintenance’ ungrateful, but can be very passive aggressive with a sense of entitlement. The worst of it comes out is when they use it as a bargaining tool for not paying your bills. We try so hard to empathetic, but day in and day out, we just have to swallow it, suck it up and accept it as part of our job. We try to understand where they come from and be empathetic.
    I have to admit though, after a long day, it really sucks the life right out of me that I end up going home and become totally unsympathetic to the people most important to me: my family. Sorry my dear husband, I am out of empathy for your crap day at work, go and talk to someone else…..

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      That’s true. When it gets sucked up elsewhere by people who don’t deserve it, there’s less energy for everyone else. You want someone to give to you to build the stores back up, but it doesn’t always go that way.

      I would have thought there were safeguards in place and other people to look out for you on the job but maybe that was naive of me. And no doubt being a woman in your field makes people think they can take advantage – despite the fact they are the ones with the need. It’s not like they can do surgery on themselves or get their brother to do it.

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      1. surgeryattiffanys

        Debriefing is what we do in the tearoom with other doctors, but in private practice, there are no one else except your own staff to talk to. I am lucky that my husband is a surgeon too, so we talk it out a lot at home (depressing dinner table conversations I assure you!) True thing about being a woman. People tell you all sorts of stuff, sometimes just a bit too much information! ๐Ÿ˜›

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