What do you think that means?

I often turn to P for advice on personal and professional matters.

It’s a testament to his patience and/or my charm and/or the fact that we co-produced the World’s Loudest Children™ that he hasn’t run for the hills based on these requests for help alone.

Because it’s not like I’m bringing him A-list material. No looming break-ups with best friends, no ethical conflicts with work. Instead, the conversations usually go something like this:

Me: So … she said she’d think about it. What do you think that means?
P: I think it means that she’ll think about it.
Me: But … what if “I’ll think about it” actually means no?
P: Then it means no.
Me: But what can I do to make it mean yes?
P: Probably nothing.
Me: I don’t like this conversation anymore.

Because I find this kind of exchange exhausting – and in the interests of preserving my relationship, have resorted to mostly having these exchanges take place fully in my imagination – I’ve decided to pretend – and that is exactly what it feels like: pretending – that there is no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive, no decision-made-as-yet-unspoken hiding behind others’ statements. And I have to tell you: I’ve had stupider ideas.

The thing is, it works. For as long as I remember to think that way, I mean. It’s not my default way in the world. I really have to work at it. But it’s a great alternative to the mental donuts I do otherwise.

There’s one catch, though, and it’s this: a horrid lingering suspicion that I’m completely naïve, that everyone else is smarter, that they’re all sitting around some kind of library filled with titles that don’t start with “Captain Underpants,” drinking gin and shaking their heads at what an intellectual force I could have been but for my debilitating addiction to thinking the best of others.

It’s that catch that stands between me and any true hope of liberation from worry.

It’s that catch that says, “Hey, gin actually sounds like a really great idea right now.”

And that’s the story of how I decided that self-improvement should be served only after 5:00 PM, over ice, lime optional.

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Comments

  1. I dunno, Jeni. Personally, I think there’s nothing naive about taking people at their word. It’s a position, not necessarily a belief. It just forces them to communicate with you if they want you to know something. For example:

    THEM: You go out. Don’t worry about me. I’ll just be over here in a corner, alone.
    ME: Okay! Have a good night in the corner! Let me know if you need anything!

    I find it works marvellously, for my sanity if nothing else.

    • Ha! Point well taken. When I am able to convince myself that “I”ll think about it” and “we’ll get back to you” mean just that, it’s a beautiful thing. I stop fretting and just go to the park and eat some pizza and life is good. But even the words I just used — “convincing myself” — is telling. Maybe it’s not my sole responsibility to suss out intention; maybe others need to step up if, as you say, they want me to know something. Hmm.

  2. Everyone is definitely NOT smarter than you. Nicely written, as always.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

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