The other day, I met a friend for drinks. The near sunset sky created a beautiful ambience with slivers of orange and yellow silhouettes running transversely throughout. It was befitting for cocktails and conversing outdoors. We chitchatted about life, love, and family and on occasion, laughed at some of our melodramatic experiences.
During one of our conversations, I brought up a troubling visit I had recently with a family member, who was diagnosed with Steven Johnson syndrome. I disclosed that she was dealing with a lot from that illness and had recently lost vision in both eyes and was now completely blind. I had confided that it was difficult to see her in that state because I was used to seeing her as a very lively woman.
After staring at me for a moment, my friend nodded her head in a downward motion and upon gazing up, she nonchalantly stated that sometimes talking to me was distressing. Initially, I was taken aback by her comment but quickly recovered to listen intently as she rationalized her observation. She started by saying that being of a certain age, she is approximately 10 years older than me, some conversations make you reflect, when you don’t want to, on your own mortality. She then stated that some of the things that I discuss about my family are not minor like someone with a bad cold, everything seemed melancholic. Although hurt by her remarks, I quickly changed the subject and began discussing cheerier matters.
That night, however, I deliberated over her comments and analyzed some of the information that I had confided to friends over the last few years. While there were several traumatic events that had transpired, there also were several exciting events. I suddenly wondered if other friends had viewed me as a “Debbie Downer.” Afterwards, I decided to discuss my dilemma with a couple of other people in my circle of influence.
They also found her statement to be somewhat unsettling and remarked that “if you can’t talk to your friends about the things that are happening in your life, then who. It’s not like you can control everything that happens but we have to support each other.” That was reassuring to hear, and they also helped me realize something else. People receive information based on the things that are happening in their lives. We all have a tendency to project onto others subconsciously.
I remembered something that my Priest said during one Sunday’s mass – He pointed out that when people confide information to you, sometimes it is too overwhelming for them to keep to themselves. The Priest noted that the confider needs your help to relieve a burden and they obviously trust you, but sometimes people betray that level of trust. I realized that I had confided information to my friends that was so devastating that I was processing the information whilst I disclosed it. I never gave any thought to how the other person felt about the information they received from me. I was unburdening myself.
I later realized that it was upsetting for my friend to hear about my family member because she was dealing with her own health issues. I knew her intent was not malicious, but her reaction left me baffled. At some point during the aging process, we’ve faced the unpredictability of conditions that have altered the stability of our lives or perhaps observed how incidences, sometimes bad choices even, have altered the mental, emotional, psychological, or physical state of someone we knew and loved. These experiences have left us somewhat vulnerable. As we grow older, we change – the invincible, free spirited youth becomes someone who respects the fragility of our existence. Hearing about distressing situations is never easy, particularly about someone relatively young, subconsciously you carefully examine likenesses, if any, and wonder if it is something that could possibly happen to you.