Well hi Red Tenters. How are you?
So I could post a bunch of photos and talk about how lovely it was to be inside the moments of my weekend. It would all be true and real and you might think, oh well now, isn’t that just beautiful?
I could write about the things which went on in between those small snippets of time and tell you how awful it was and how much it all actually sucked and how hard parenting is and it would also all be true and real and you might think, well now, isn’t that a shame?
In the end, the good vs. bad debate doesn’t matter, really. It’s dull, actually. Makes for an uninspired use of blank pages.
Over the weekend, we went camping with friends. We swam and laughed and watched our babies run loose and happy and free.
We ate fish and chips and collected driftwood and lit night-time sparklers to celebrate a special little girl’s birthday.
I skipped an entire night of sleep because of Ella and a dodgy air mattress and because of strong winds which about nearly blew our little tent away. I broke under the pressure of what that did to me mentally and physically after the week I’d had of mothering. All-nighters, I’ve discovered, are only enjoyed under the influence of heavy mind-altering drugs and good dance music, and never due to pain, children or dodgy air beds.
What matters the most about the whole weekend is this: I realized a little something about hardship which is important to me to remember when it descends upon somebody close to me.
I think the reason so many of us do not put our hands in the air and admit we’re not coping is because of the responses we know we’ll get back. Usually when a Sister says, “It’s hard. This bad thing happened. I’m not okay”, all she’s really saying is, “Come cry with me and laugh with me at the ridiculousness of it all.” But the thing is, a Sister kind of knows that when she says, “It’s hard. This bad thing happened. I’m not okay”, she needs to brace herself to the responses of her suffering; responses which end up making her feel more isolated, more sad, and more rushed through her hardship. She worries about burdening people with her misery because we end up saying those things to our Sister we say when we don’t know what else to say.
The Advice — Have you tried it this way?
The Downplay — Oh honey, that’s nothing, did you know this happened to me?
The Rush-Through — You’ll be okay, it will pass, chin up.
The Truth-tell — It will make you stronger / In one year this won’t matter / Tomorrow is another day / insert other well-meaning wish.
A Sister knows these truths since every Sister has the same amount of Truth inside herself. A Sister already has all the answers. A Sister isn’t actually asking you to fix her, anyway. When a Sister’s pain is new and fresh, no matter how big or small it is, let her have it. As much as we will want to, a Sister needs us to not try and snatch away her pain. Like her joy, it is not ours to snatch. It is crucial in this moment we remember that the word listen is really just the word silent all jumbled in a different way.
What a Sister REALLY says when she admits she’s not okay is this: Come sit with me. Be broken and beautiful and busted up with me. Just offer me some good company in which to be human.
And what a relief it is when we understand that’s our only requirement. How comforting it is to know that all we have to do is relieve her fear of being alone in her misery. So we listen. We sit. We laugh. We cry. We validate. We simply offer her some good company in which to be human.
And don’t mind Ella there, she’s just doing a wee. She’s got the being-human thing down pat. And she’s got some great company in which to do so.