I was with someone I love dearly. Someone with whom I am compelled to step in, to do all that I can. Someone whom I’m driven to help, even though they don’t need my help.
We were talking about a current struggle they were facing. This person is, in at least some ways, a lot like me. They can slip into pushing and worry and a bit of anxiety. As they told me what they were thinking and feeling, I so wanted to offer all of the tools and resources and short cuts I’ve amassed over the years.
“Breathe, just breathe,” I wanted to say. “Find thoughts that make you feel better, that bring you ease, and focus on them.” “Remember all you’ve done – all you’ve gotten through – before.” I held my tongue, and almost my breath.
I wanted to be wise. I wanted to be needed. Mostly I wanted this person whom I love almost more than life itself to be free from suffering.
Isn’t it funny that we can’t make anyone else free from suffering? We can’t even make ourselves free from suffering. Some people – me even at times – would say that we don’t want to be free from suffering because suffering can offer us perspective, and it can remind us of how much we love to be free from suffering.
I held my tongue and waited. Instead of counting the seconds – which seemed innumerable – I counted all the things I wanted to say. “Write a gratitude list.” “Will you remember this in five years? One year?” “What would you say if your best friend said all this to you?” “Have you tried meditation yet? Please try meditation.” There were so many things I wanted to say.
I said none of them. Just nodded and waited and thought. And then they said, “You know, maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe if I just relax a bit more…I’ll relax a bit more. Maybe I don’t have to figure it out.”
That’s always been my favorite easing thought, when no other thought works. “Maybe I don’t have to figure this out.”
There are, in reality, so few things I have to figure out. There may be – at times there are – many things that I think I have to figure out, but so few that I actually do. Including how to help this person I love, who doesn’t need my help at all.
I shut up that day. Maybe I’d benefit from shutting up more often…at times. It might help me stop trying to figure out and fix things.
Maybe shutting up would be good.
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