Hard Truths, Day 22: Sometimes People Just Want to Vent

This post is a part of a crazy series I’m doing called 41 Years in 30 Days to celebrate my 42nd birthday. Which was December 10. If you’re on the tarmac and experiencing flight delays, you can read the whole series here.

I have an uncanny knack for selecting residences where Godzilla lives above me.

When I lived in Boulder, Godzilla would awaken at 2 or 3AM and proceed to crush tiny villages on the floor of her room. A room that was (naturally) directly above mine. Godzilla also owned a yappy little wiener dog that would crush tiny villages on the balcony during my client calls. And by crushing, I mean yapping from the start of the call to the end, and ceasing a coincidental moments once I hung up the line.

Here in Chicago, I bought a lovely condo in a building from 1924. Gut rehabbed, beautiful floor plan with tons of usable space. Hardwood floors, exposed brick and duct work. And absolutely no insulation. Put all that together with a new Godzilla who goes to sleep at midnight and then wakes at an ungodly 4:30AM, her every move wakes me and I’ve tried everything. Blown-in insulation, a white noise machine, changing bedrooms, talking to her, reporting her to the board…everything. Godzilla persists.

And sometimes when I’m sleep deprived and frustrated, I want to vent. So being a digital child, I post a Facebook update (and only to “friends”) about how I switched bedrooms and traded Gozdilla for the 6:30am crying of my downstairs neighbor’s son and that neighbors dogs barking. Can’t win. SIGH.

Then the Expert Opinions roll in.

You should turn a fan on.

Try earplugs!

You know, if you live in a newer building, the construction is usually shoddy and that’s just the way it is.

That’s why today’s hard truth is about Expert Opinions and why they might be better kept to your damn self.

I’m a “fixer” by nature. People ask for my help, they pay me for my expertise, and my job is to leave them better off than when they came to me. One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is that just because someone tells me that she has a problem, it’s not necessarily my job to fix it.

Nope.

And it’s hard. It’s hard because in a world filled with incomprehensible violence and racism with police officers being murdered in cold blood in “retaliation” for injustices they weren’t party to and an economic divide greater than our nation’s history has ever seen, the life challenges of our friends and colleagues seem small.

Manageable.

Hard Truths 22

And those things — those gnat’s ass, seemingly major but insignificant in the grand scheme of things THINGS — we can fix those.

WE MUST FIX ALL OF THE THINGS.

It’s easy to suggest that I get a white noise machine (even though I said I already had one in my status update).

HOLY SHIT I’D NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE — KILLING NOISE WITH NOISE.

It’s easy to throw “you should get a house” out there. Sure. If you forget that I live in Chicago and a house in the city proper with no shared walls will run me an entry price point of $600,000.

HOLY SHIT I’D NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE — LIVING IN A PLACE WITH NO SHARED WALLS OR CEILINGS.

It’s easy to tell me to move.

HOLY SHIT I’D NEVER THOUGHT OF SELLING MY CONDO AND MOVING TO ANOTHER ONE.

Holy. Fucking. Shit. I am booking my appointment with the optometrist now because I AM BLINDED BY YOUR BRILLIANCE.

The real fact of the matter is I DIDN’T ASK.

I didn’t ask for your opinion. I didn’t ask for you to solve my problem. In fact, I didn’t ask for anything.

I just typed something, pressed “post,” and you came crawling out of the motherfucking woodwork with your expert, pithy ideas and set about the business of fixing me when I certainly didn’t asked to be fixed.

Sometimes, people just want to vent. Be heard. Feel like they’re not in something alone and they’re not suffering in a vacuum.

And others, we’re not even venting. We’re just sharing. Or maybe we’re asking a question and then people want to ignore the question you asked and have their own fucking conversation right in the middle of your conversation.

Like the time I posted about my upcoming vacation — my first in six years (yes, I have a problem with downtime). I mentioned I’d be near Cancun and did anyone have any ideas of historical must-see destinations in the area?

And people started shitting on Cancun and how they had a shitty time in Cancun and would never go back and how people act like typical drunk Americans and how I shouldn’t be going to Cancun at all.

You. Assholes.

*hands you my morning bowl of Cheerios so you can shit in them*

I didn’t ask. Goddammit, I didn’t ask what you thought of Cancun bot nooooooooo — you just whipped out your fuckwittian behavior and decided to make this all about YOU and your agenda and the conversation you want to have and IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR SHITTY TRIP TO CANCUN. It’s about my vacation. That vacation that my assistant has been trying to get me to take for six months, emailing me hints about gorgeous destinations all over the world. That vacation that will be my last break for five months because in addition to running a business I love,  I’m in school 3 hours a day, five days a week come January 12. That vacation where I will unplug from THIS and plug into ME (hey you — you look nice today).

First, I’m not even going to be in CANCUN.

Secondly, I didn’t ask whether or not you cared for Cancun. I asked about sites of historical import in the area and recommendations.

Finally, IT’S NOT YOUR GODDAMNED VACATION!!!!!!11!!!!1!!!1!!!!11111!!!!

And it’s happened to you.

You’ve shared a thought or feeling, just to get it on the outside because inside is where it turns into something that eats you alive or will make you burst if you don’t set it free.

And whether online or in person, someone’s come along and tried to “fix” you or insert themselves and their BLINDING WISDOM into the conversation.

And it’s such a dick move. Here’s why:

Everyone you know (including you) is a grown ass adult and is perfectly capable of fixing his or herself.

You and your Expert Opinion and brilliant insights? Not required.

So, here’s a handy way to figure out whether you should offer your Expert Opinion and this is applicable in nearly every possible scenario except when someone is passed out drunk or otherwise not in control of their capacity to make a grown-ass adult decision.

how to give advice flowchart

It’s really that simple.

And it’s a lesson I wish I’d learned many years ago and one I still struggle with, as we want the best for the people in our lives.

I believe we truly do.

But the sooner we remember that everyone is a grown-ass adult and capable of making decisions (even though they might not be the ones we’d make), our communications will be much better off.

And it’s hard. But sometimes people just want to vent — joy or pain or frustration or the dog peed on the brand new area rug again (Penelope, I’m looking at you — we’re on Rug Three in 14 months.).

Not everything shared requires our ever-so-pithy opinions. And everyone here is a fucking adult.

Start treating them as such. And sometimes, that means shutting the fuck up.

Myself included.

7 replies
  1. DanaEngelbert
    DanaEngelbert says:

    I also love the people who read your update, then post a scant few seconds later about how people shouldn’t complain about anything. Ever hear of empathy?

    Reply
  2. rcarmstrong
    rcarmstrong says:

    Halle-friggin’-llujah!

    Thanks for reminding us (even the well-meaning ones of us who occasionally may forget about the aforementioned flowchart) that we need to pour ourselves a big ol’ cup of STFU.
    😉

    Once t’again- hope you have an awesome holiday season… And enjoy your vacation. May it be a restorative one.

    Reply
  3. LindaEsposito1
    LindaEsposito1 says:

    Good reminder for the therapy room, too.

    And to all the people who aren’t listening, b/c they don’t listen anyway: Please don’t tell me I just need to ‘drink more water,’ or ‘do overhead stretches’ to “cure” asthma. I will breathe easier knowing I can silently whisper, STFU.

    Reply
  4. ravendelana
    ravendelana says:

    Love it! The only thing I would add to the flow chart is “Are you *sure* there was a question?” and then, “No. Seriously, look again, was there a question mark or did you just hear a question type tone when you read it in your head?” 

    My (least) favorite is when it’s in a business setting online, and you actually don’t know the person at all. And they pipe in and say “Oh, you’re doing it wrong. You should just {Insert the most basic piece of un-expert advice that you tried on your 2nd day of business}.” Then you’re left trying to figure out how to respond to that shyte while still being prim and proper.

    Reply

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