Two weeks ago I wrote about how I refuse to be anything like the judgmental asshole I used to be, more concerned with being right than being there for my friends and family. A conversation I had last night with my best friend only solidified this.
I have known my best friend for almost eighteen years now and we were pretty much good friends from the beginning. At the time, I was a more than a bit judgmental and learned quickly that if I didn't hear from *George for a while it usually meant he was doing something I wouldn't have approved of. Sometimes, because we had many mutual friends, I knew what it was. Sometimes I just guessed. Now, when I don't hear from him for a while it means he is wallowing.
George and his wife had a baby back in July. A few months before that, George quit his job in a fit of anger. An action that he regrets and doesn't regret, depending on his mood. He is married to a basic bitch who tells him it doesn't matter one sentence and then dumps machismo societal expectations of the male bread winner in the next. Add to this the fact that George did not want to have a baby, but as with most things in their relationship, she wore him down. As you can imagine, he is a bit resentful about that. And he still doesn't have a job and any efforts to study for a new career have failed miserably. Now, I am not going to lie and tell you I don't have some strong opinions about all this. He shouldn't have quit his job, no matter how angry he was because he had a baby on the way and it is easier to find a job when you have one. Particularly, when you have no actual job skills that would get you anything beyond minimum wage. And you have the worst temperment for retail. It takes at least two people to make a baby and he needs a serious attitude adjustment when it comes to this kid and his wife in relation to the baby. He is heading for a quick divorce and parental estrangement if he keeps up with this attitude.
Did I say any of that to him? Not so much. What I did was listen to him. I listened as he explained why he was so frustrated by his job search and finding a babysitter. I listened as he told me how their friends will babysit (for money mind you) if he is working, but refuse if he wants to study. "I'm moving backwards. The job I have lined up pays $8.25 a fucking hour. If I could just study, I could make three times that in three months." But he can't do that because instead of thinking six months down the road or having a five year plan, his wife is thinking about right here and right now. And right now he doesn't have a job, isn't providing for his family, and he friends have made it clear how shameful that is. I get it, I told him. I went back to school so I wouldn't have to work retail. Four months after graduating from Grad school I was laid off from my first (in my field) professional job and had to go back to working retail. Despite getting a managerial position, it felt like a setback and I was miserable. I did not tell him how stupid he was to quit, I didn't chastise him for not having life goals, I didn't put down his wife for not supporting him, nor did I tell him that he should just suck it up. These are his frustrations at this moment.
We then talked a bit more about his marriage, the baby, and giving up. At this point I encouraged him to get counseling, before things get worse. That the resentment he is carrying around is affecting his marriage, baby, and outlook on life. I told him that we don't give up because there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though he can't see it. It's also not about just him and his wife anymore.
This morning I wake up to a text that says something like: Thanks for calling me yesterday and listening to me bitch and stuff. It's crazy but after I ranted and then talked to [wife] about some things I felt better. I guess I don't realize how much of a social creature I really am and when I have to stay home with [son] I guess it makes me feel cut off from the world. Plus stressing about work and stuff and hopefully it will work itself out today. I found my light at the end of the tunnel. But I am very happy to be a daddy and I wouldn't trade my son for the world. I've just been stressed about things and he's an easy target to blame.
This was followed by a baby photo and the caption read: How can you be mad at a face like this?
I know some people think that being a good friend is telling people the hard truths or being the only one who speaks up when no one else will. There may be a time and a place for that, but experience has taught me that listening goes much further. I have also learned that those "hard truths" people have a tendency to burn through friendships fairly quickly as people get tired of the judgmental friend who tells it like it is. Eighteen years is a long time to maintain a friendship. I'm aiming for eighteen more.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.