I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.
Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30
days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for
Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion
for Our Planet.
Tuesday, I revisited and recognized limitations.
My friend Kathy has cognitive issues. I don't know exactly what they are because she refuses to discuss them with a doctor. But she cannot keep a thought in her head.
I don't enjoy talking to her. She begins every conversation with, "I used to have trouble with my head, years ago, but it's better now." Then she proceeds to prove it isn't true. She interrupts a conversation by randomly asking who this or that person is. Did we work with him/her? She started to explain why she doesn't/can't watch TV -- even though she has accumulated several sets -- but lost her train of thought. She wanted to know where John, Gregory and I are dining for Thanksgiving and seemed surprised we were having turkey. I mentioned to her that my neighborhood (she used to live here, too) had suffered a major fire on main street Tuesday, destroying my favorite breakfast diner and damaging my beloved movie theater. She was dismissive.
This is sad and tiring, but I know she can't help it. I also know that fewer and fewer friends connect with her precisely because her conversations are sad and tiring, so I recognize my gestures matter.
But then she pissed me off. She has to move. Her landlord has sold the building she lives in. She told me she can't afford more than don't-feel-sorry-for-me-$750-a-month (that's how she said it each time) and wants to stay in Dekalb, a college town more than an hour away from Chicago.
"I couldn't find anything for don't-feel-sorry-for-me-$750-a-month in your neighborhood. But that's OK. Where you live is pretty soulless now."
"You'll be happy to know then that soulless main street was fucking destroyed today."
"Oh, yeah. What's your condo worth now, anyway?"
Since the disparity between our finances has long bothered her, I try to avoid such conversations. First of all, it's not like I'm Melinda Gates. My condo needs new windows, new carpeting and a kitchen upgrade to get a competitive price. (That's what: $15,000 worth of work?) Secondly, I refuse to apologize for being a more successful writer than she was. Friends are supposed to support each other, be happy for one another.
But last night I gave her a number. Then I got off the phone as soon as I could, telling her that I wished her a happy Thanksgiving and that I'd let John and Gregory know she asked about them and wants to hear from them. I tried to end it on a high note, even though I was upset.
I must remember that she can't help it. Her cognitive issues make it hard for her to keep track of conversations and exacerbate her less attractive qualities.
I shouldn't be so quick to anger, so snappish. She can't help it.
On the other hand, while I can't let myself off the hook for my impatience, I have to forgive myself for letting my temper get the better of me. I'm not perfect. But at least I call. John and Gregory don't bother. The four of us met nearly 40 years ago, and I honor that. I put in the time. When I fall short, I must do better. But I should also cut myself some slack.
Compassion for her, and compassion for me.