Tag Archives: problems

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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Summer, my love

It’s hot. But you will not hear me complain about the heat this summer.

Last summer was tainted for me. I was dealing with a big problem that clouded everything else. In fact, this problem, one that is almost entirely out of my control, has been on my table for the last year. It was made worse because the people who were in a position to help, didn’t. However, this summer, so far, it’s a bit better.

Two years ago in the summer I was dealing with a different kind of problem. It too is not now the issue it was then.

I don’t know if either of these two problems I cryptically describe, will get bad again. It’s certainly possible. But right now, in this summer of 2016, I am grateful for the improvements because they have freed me to enjoy the season I love best. And when I say enjoy, I mean to feel like I’m paying attention. That I’m not missing my favorite time of year and everything I treasure about it. Because when I’m preoccupied with a trouble, far too much of my attention, my capacity for focus, even on good things, is siphoned off.

There’s something else at work here. Earlier this year I wrote of how a man I knew killed himself. It’s now 4 months since he died. I continue to struggle to believe he really is gone and never coming back, yet he’s become a reference point for me. I think about how he’s not here and not getting to do all the fun things summer offers. He will not have an ice cream cone. He will not listen to an outdoor concert. He will not take a walk after dinner on a balmy evening. He will not ride his bike or play tennis. He will not sit at an outdoor cafĂ© and have a cold drink with friends. He will not go to an afternoon matinee at the theater to escape the heat. He will do nothing. He will not do anything ever again.

By contrast, I am here. These summer pleasures are mine for the taking. It is bittersweet to feel this way.

I wrote a little something this week:

Hair blowing back untethered
Earrings jangling in the breeze
Gravel flies beneath my tires
Peddling like I’m ten again
I am alive.

What’s your problem?

Nobody takes as profound an interest in my problems as I do. Once in awhile I need to remind myself of that fact.

I have problems. I don’t have solutions-waiting-to-happen or challenges or any other buzz phrase that waters down or redirects the focus to a brighter, happier place. Where is George Carlin when I need him? He wrote wonderfully of the softening of the English language. He made obvious how insidious it’s become. I think time will remember him as one of the great social critics.

When someone says, “I have a problem,” we all know what they mean. It’s the moment to listen up and offer sympathy or help if needed. Unless’n what they really mean is “I have an objection.”

We say, “Well, that’s your problem,” if we are unsympathetic and/or somebody is jerking us around. Or “I have enough problems of my own, thank you very much.”

I’ve had problems all my life and I expect to have problems for the remainder of my life. They’re like little pets. They change, as in they’re not always the same ones, new ones come in, old ones go away; some drop into the background for a while and then come roaring back, and some just tag along all the time like a cranky best friend.

I used to think problems could or should get solved. I mean all of them and be done with the whole affair. Yes, well. That’s my problem.

“Don’t want nobody with no problems”

Bonnie Raitt’s ode to a “Real Man” has been around a long time. She sang,

“Don’t want nobody with no problems.
I don’t need a man with a monkey on his back.”

I’d think, YES! Me too, Bonnie. I also don’t want nobody with no problems. Rock on.

Except it wasn’t true. With the clarity and kick-in-the-pants that time can offer, I now suspect a man with problems must’ve been just what I wanted, if unconsciously. That unconscious is a bitch, isn’t she? (I think Freud said that.) It’s not a happy realization that either a) I was indeed looking for a man with problems and or b) having found one, I did not excuse myself and move on down the road. Rather, I dug in – at least for awhile.

Women, especially educated and/or accomplished ones (of which I can claim the former), often get criticized for being too picky when it comes to the opposite sex, for dismissing men too readily over superficial, unimportant issues – height, income, car, job, potential, education, little habits, etcetera (ergo that’s why they’re alone goes the complaint). I want to be clear that I’m not talking about these sorts of things, but actual problems, the twisty kind that interfere with life and relationships.

I didn’t wake up one day and BAM! realize all this and start fresh. No. For me these kinds of realizations come in waves, in stages. First, when I saw problems in the men I became involved with, I took note and stopped moving in closer and trying to solve them; instead, I stayed alert and held my ground. I was helpful where I could be and where it did not come at cost to my well-being. I did this despite the manueverings or agenda of the other person.

See, that was always part of the equation; I succumbed to pressure, subtle and not. I pressured myself even. I took on more than my share. That was my modus operandi (one familiar to many women). At some level, I thought I HAD to invest in a man’s problems – even when HE didn’t – that it was my job. And when I didn’t do that, I met resistance even from men who I’d only recently met, men who had no reason to have these sorts of expectations from me. (I think the “universe” always has a way of testing to see if you really mean business or are just flapping your gums.)

In part, for a time what I see happened was that I was still drawn to, and drawing, men with problems. What was different was how I related to them. It was a tremendous relief, I felt less burdened. I was re-working my role and seeing that – addressing problems – wasn’t what a voluntary relationship between equals was about, or what I wanted MY relationships to be about.

Other people’s problems no longer hold the questionable “allure” they once did. I see somebody toting a rucksack-o-problems – problems he isn’t addressing – and I may linger, I may talk, I may be a friend, or I may enjoy knowing him at some level – but I will not sign up for a relationship, I will not pitch my tent. I have changed. And I like it.