Yesterday, I told about a hectic morning when a ringing telephone set off a series of events that culminated in a big mess. Turning toward the phone, I knocked a cup off the counter. It broke when it hit the floor, which had just been given a coat of paint. Hot coffee, fresh paint, shards of glass and three curious dogs already antsy for their walk combined to create havoc!
While all of this was going on, I was on the telephone. As I covered the hot coffee and broken pieces with a towel and shooed the dogs off the fresh paint, I had the phone wedged between shoulder and ear. As I dragged a broom through the gooey mess, and watched the dogs make patterns of dog prints across the surfaces of three area rugs, I was murmuring responses into the receiver. There were reasons for that.
On the other end of the line was my daughter, Kate. Any call, from either of my daughters, is a special treat. My heart leaps with joy when I pick up the phone and hear their voice. They are busy, and our schedules don’t always mesh; it can be difficult to touch base. Time between actual visits is vast. Even the space from one telephone conversation to the next is too long. Kate is working in New England this fall; I feel the distance. A chance to speak to her is always welcome, no matter what.
My daughter was dealing with a series of maddening circumstances, and wanted to voice her frustration. Of course, I was happy to listen. Because I care, and also because Kate has done the same for me. When I want to complain, Kate is one of my favorite people to talk to.
We all have grievances, big and small. I am a fairly positive person, but sometimes it’s nice to just be able to vent. I live alone, so often let things build up; it helps to sometimes give voice to minor aggravations. I’ve learned, over the years, to pick my audience carefully.
When I complained to my husband about a boss, co-worker, friend, family member, or even just a rude stranger, his response was immediate and always over-the-top. There was never an understanding nod. Instead, he was prepared to go track the culprit down and give them “a good talking to,” or, worst-case scenario, “beat the hell out of them.” Before I even had time to get my frustrations voiced, I was forced into the position of defending whomever I was mad at, and talking him down from his anger.
My sister, Brenda, is a wonderful, sympathetic listener. Still, her ability to put a positive spin on every single thing can be frustrating. I once called her, sobbing, about a painful break-up. “Aren’t you glad that happened?” was her response, “You’re going to be better for it.” She was right, of course, but I wasn’t ready to hear it.
At times like that, I should call my friend, Chris. She is always willing to commiserate with me in the very depths of my misery. If I’m trying, though, to work my way out of despair, rather than just wallow in it, Chris is not the right call.
There are people who, when they hear about an issue, want to fix it. Others want to explain how I brought it on myself. When I just want to gripe, neither reasons or solutions fit the bill, no matter how helpful. When I’m frustrated, I want empathy and understanding. I want an “oh, that sounds awful” or “I’m sorry you’re going through that” or “boy, that really sucks!” I’m fortunate to have a few people who give me exactly that. Kate is one of them.
So, when I hear my daughter’s voice on the telephone, at any time of day, no matter what’s going on at my end, I am happy to listen. Even when she is sad, angry or frustrated, and even when I’m dealing with wet paint, broken glass, hot coffee and dogs, talking to Kate always brightens my day.