I don’t know how anyone put up with me today. I was cranky, miserable, upset, sad, grumpy – and I couldn’t figure out why, much less break out of it. I eventually said, “Give me a list” and went shopping for a few things we still need for Christmas. It helped a bit, as long as I stayed far away from any malls. Cruising parking lots in search of a spot would have done me in for sure. But I got what we needed and got home in one somewhat mellower piece. I was pretty grateful for that.
But one thing that really made a difference to my mood was a friend who sat and listened to me vent, no matter how uncharitable and unkind my thoughts got, how angry I became or how emotion-laden my rants were. She listened patiently without judging or questioning. And every now and then she would simply interject a simple “I understand”. We so often use that phrase as a content-free acknowledgement: the equivalent of “uh-huh, I heard you speaking”. But I knew she did understand. I know some of what she’s had to go through in her life and “I understand” is not a phrase she uses idly.
It’s a wonderful way that life has of taking someone’s darkest and hardest times and wringing every last little bit of positive energy out of them. That simple yet genuine “I understand” made all the difference to me. To be fair, I didn’t magically feel better because of it, but it took the edge off my grumpiness and anger.
So does this mean I’m grateful for the hard times she went through in her life? No – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But the fact that there truly is an up to every down; that life, or God, or fate or whoever looks after the affairs of the universe keeps that balance; that there’s a speck of silver lining for every cloud; that is something to be grateful for. To find someone who personifies it and gives you the gift of it is truly a treasure.
I’ve spoken of just one person and one story here. But the truth is that I’m surrounded by such people every day. That to me is incredible, and almost impossible to understand.