Category Archives: myself and i

what to say when you don’t know what to say

empathy-cards-emily-mcdowell

|  A few of the perfectly on-the-nose Empathy Cards cooked up by Emily McDowell  |

I’ve always harbored a secret fantasy that I’d create a line of cards for awkward family scenarios. (See, e.g., a Father’s Day card for a dad to whom you sort of regret being genetically linked.)

So, when I saw what Emily McDowell has been up to, I knew I had to share. She’s created a whole line of cards for those tricky life situations you want to acknowledge, but don’t exactly know how, starting with a series for people with chronic or serious illness (aka, the people for whom a “get well soon” card doesn’t make a lick of sense). As a person who could be a recipient of many of Emily’s fantastic cards, I can tell you they’re just about perfect. (Especially that one about promising not to tell me about treatments you found on the internet. Seriously. Just…no.)

One of the (many, many) hard things about these big, hairy health issues (chronic illness, cancer, even infertility…really anything that can’t be cured by chicken soup or a Z-Pak) is that even the most well-meaning friends and family don’t really understand it. They can’t. You look fine most of the time, you act fine most of the time (we sickos get pretty good at putting on a show)…so it’s hard to know what to say or how to help. Believe me, I get it.

But the thing is, I lost friends when I got sick. Not a lot, but a few. They didn’t know what to say or how to act, so they just sort of faded away. And I let them. It sucked.

Instead of fading away, here’s what I suggest: show up. It’s that simple. Just show up, in whatever way you’re able. Send a card. Bring a cupcake. Ask questions. You don’t have to have the answers; just ask the questions. I’ll never volunteer the gory details about what’s up with my health, but if a friend sits with me over a cup of coffee and asks me to explain it to her, I always will. Because I want you to understand…but I need you to ask, because I don’t want to overshare, or overburden, or bore you to tears. Say, “If you’re okay talking about it, I’d love for you to explain what’s happening so I can be a better friend to you.” Wow, would those words be healing.

And then? Drop it. As hard as it will be, resist the urge to treat her like a patient. Plenty of other people have that covered, and no one wants to be The Sick Friend. Be the person who lets her feel like her old self. Because underneath the piles of blankets and pill bottles, that’s exactly who she is. Sure, ask how she’s feeling occasionally, and let her know you’re there whenever she needs to vent about another bad doctor’s visit or how her new meds are making her gain weight.

But your friend doesn’t need you to be her mother or her doctor – she needs you to be her friend. The same friend she had before the shit hit the fan.

So, show up with a pair of cappuccinos and resume your multi-part discussion of the best all-girl hip-hop groups from the ’90s. Call just to tell her about something funny that happened at work, or text her a string of rando emojis. Or occasionally, when you know she’s having a bad week (which you’ll know, because you’ve been showing up), show up with a casserole.

Don’t wait for her to ask, because she probably won’t. Just show up.

 

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hug a mom

mom and me

|  Me and my adorable mom. How lucky am I to have those genes?  |

A dear friend of mine, who also happens to be a new mom, is having A Week. By which I mean, a week that would make me – any normal human, really – just curl up into a ball and give in to your darkest thoughts.

Luckily, this friend of mine is not a normal human – she’s a superhero. I’ve known this for some time, but the simple fact that she has not completely lost her mind this week, or resorted to sticking a bendy straw directly into a bottle of tequila seals the deal. I’ve been doing my level best to pitch in and be a friend, but let me say this: I spent a handful of days this week walking in her shoes, cuddling her adorable newborn munchkin for a handful of caffeinated, showered, daylight hours, and all I know is that I adore the heck out of that baby, but if somebody doesn’t put me on a plane to Bora-Bora, and I mean immediately, I’m not sure I’ll last the week.

Watching my friend bring it in such a profoundly impressive way has left me thinking about my own superhero of a mom, who did all of it with one more kid to juggle and one less co-parent to lean on. Who worked three jobs to pay our rent, who didn’t own a new car until I was in high school, and who went without more often than I’ll probably ever know. Oh, and put herself through college and law school while she was at it. I think she knows by now that I’m in awe of all that – I talk her up all the time, to everyone – but I’m pretty sure she also knows that because I am a contentedly kidless person, I have no fucking clue how hard it actually was for her. I can’t begin to know.

I texted my mom earlier this week and commented that babies were harder than they look. “I remember,” she said. Sometimes I think about having kids just so that she could be a grandmother. She’s earned it.

All this rambling to say: hug a mom this weekend. It doesn’t have to be yours – I know things are complicated. Mine happens to be utterly amazing, but it’s not always so. There are issues and heartbreaks and regrets and distances we can’t always cross. Life is messy. But I promise you, this weekend you’ll see a mom out there in the world who needs an encouraging smile and a reminder that she’s doing it right, because she’s clinging to her grip on sanity with two very tired, very sticky fingers. When you spot her, hold the door open. Pay for her coffee, bite your tongue when her toddler pitches a fit, or leave her a note telling her she’s a superhero. Just take a moment and acknowledge that, my God, she is doing the hardest job I know. And she’s doing it for free. No vacation days, no time-outs, just for the sake of that little bundle of milk and poop she’s stewarding through the world, one spit-up-covered day at a time.

{PS: While you’re at it, you might keep your eyes open for a non-mom who could use a hug too. This Mother’s Day business is tough for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, and a little bit of kindness goes a long, long way.}

 

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zen and the art of birdwatching

elena lyakir

| Image via Elena Lyakir |

Meditation isn’t for everyone – and, though I’ve tried more than I care to admit, I’m finally realizing it probably isn’t for me. I’ve tried, really I have. In yoga classes, with special CDs, in total silence, in an actual Buddhist temple…you name it. After reading Eat Pray Love (both times), I tried to “smile in my liver” as the author’s Balinese healer/guru tells her. It lasted about 15 seconds. My brain just isn’t built for silence. Read on

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the best love advice i never got

best tenth anniversary gift

(Warning: the following is not gender-neutral. Not because I’m a big insensitive jerk, but because writing that way is surprisingly hard. Please read with whatever pronouns you love best.)

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, friends! I know, I know. Every year, I preach about how we should use this “holiday” (such as it is) to celebrate much more than our romantic relationships, so I’ll keep this year’s tirade brief. But. Remember in grade school, when everyone in your class got a Valentine? Even the fat girl everyone made fun of got a card and some conversation hearts. (That was me, by the way – not that I’m bitter.) I try sometimes to remember at what point in our childhoods Valentine’s Day stopped being about everyone, and started being about The One. It’s a travesty, if you ask me. I miss conversation hearts.

As God and Hallmark intended, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Which, in turn, means thinking about my darling Hubs. Not long ago, we had a pretty big anniversary – the kind that makes you sit back and think about all you’ve been through together. And phew…have we been through some shit. Sure, I might occasionally want to strangle him with the dirty socks he leaves on the floor, but when I think about what we’ve survived together during the last decade-plus? We are most definitely MFEO.

And yet. Read on

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the best we can

frustrated-dog

| Isn’t that face is the most perfect picture of frustration you’ve ever seen? Hilarious. But of course, we’ve all been there. |

I don’t know if you’ve been feeling it where you are, but the new year has felt heavy to me this time around. Like one of those hulking winter coats from a thrift store that smells kind of funny and never fits you quite right. There’s sorrow and loss around every corner, it seems, and I’m starting to wonder if my heart can survive it. Read on

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a very very merry

happy holidays

via Instagram

This morning, I’m getting ready for a Christmas cookie-decorating date with two of my favorite little munchkins. Being a person who prefers “Favorite Aunt” status to “Mom” status, I can tell you there are few things I enjoy more than borrowing my friends’ children for a few hours, loading them up with sugar and sparkly shoes, then sending them home to crash and burn on my friends’ time. Read on

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taking stock

burgundy bag fall, organize closet, how to organize closet for fall, burgundy purse

So, here is an actual thing that just happened: For the last couple of weeks, I have been seeing burgundy everywhere (as is so often the case during fall). And I started thinking to myself that what I really needed this season – needed, mind you – was a burgundy bag. Something simple and classic, ideally with a crossbody strap (because I am getting increasingly lazy). Naturally, my first instinct was to immediately begin obsessively scouring the WWW for the newest object of my affection. Weeks later, while perusing the website of one of my favorite designers, I had the ultimate forehead-slapping moment. “Ooh, I like that bag!” I thought. “I wish it came in burgundy.”

Slowly, the wheels started turning. “Wait…do I…? Didn’t it…?” organize closet

Yes, friends: that bag did come in burgundy, and was presently sitting in my closet. From last fall. When I absolutely had to have a new burgundy bag. Read on

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