written in my second month of freedom from smoking and originally posted on december 31, 2001; this tale talks about the power of caring.

new year’s resolution

2009 January 22

a while back, i got an email from a friend (and fellow recovering nicotine addict) who was obviously upset about something. on the surface of it, it looked like she was pissed off at me: the message didn't sound at all like her; it was short to the point of being curt (two sentences), almost threatening in tone, and she'd signed it, "Your friend, ******" - which she'd never done before. then i found out that one of our mutual acquaintances (who we'd both been encouraging in her own fight to get free of the nicodemon) had gone back to smoking over the weekend, without emailing or calling anyone until after the fact. and although my friend hadn't said this outright in her message (it would've been tough to squeeze it into those two sentences...), i had the feeling that this was what she was really upset about.

we're probably all familiar with the saying, "what goes around comes around"; when you care enough to try, the universe makes note of that and you get extra points. and those points can make all the difference later ... when it "comes around"

i spent quite a bit of time thinking about how i should respond to that email: should i say, "hey, you didn't buy her the cigarettes! it's not your fault; she's a grown woman, she made her own choice, etc..."? (nah; if she was looking for absolution, she certainly wouldn't have come to me...) should i make a joke about something she actually had said in that message, in an attempt to defuse the situation? (what? and trivialize whatever it was that was really bothering her? try again...) should i just make some kind of comforting sounds at her ("there, there, dear...") to try and make her feel better? (i didn't think so; too tough to pull something like that off via email...) none of these options really felt like the right thing, and i had just got home from one of my normal mondays from hell, so i decided to have twenty winks and try again later...

when i got up twenty minutes later, i felt much better; i was rested and refreshed, the monday nonsense of the office totally behind me, the nagging hint of an incipient crave safely buried in dreamland. all was well. i sat down at the computer to reply to my friend's email. i went over the above list of potential responses again, rejecting each candidate for the same reasons i had before i took my nap, and failed to come up with a single additional potential response. i started to feel not so clever after all. i was sure that (like the elves and the shoemaker) the nap would give me the answer, but not only did it not give me any fresh answers, it didn't help to make any of the old ones look any better, either.

resigning myself to failure, i opened my friend's email, clicked the reply button, and told her the exact process i had gone through and the possible answers i'd come up with (and rejected), and admitted defeat. i told her i knew how bad it made her feel to watch somebody she'd put a lot of energy into trying to help shoot herself in the foot this way, and apologized for the fact that i simply could not come up with anything that sounded even remotely like "the right thing" to say. i ended my reply by saying, "i wish i could think of something to say that would make it feel better" (or words to that effect).

i felt like such a loser sending that message... i mean, here i had wracked my brain trying to come up with something appropriate and comforting to say; something that would show her i cared; that i understood; that i felt her pain and wished i could do something to make it go away, and i had failed. miserably. imagine my surprise when her response assured me that i had thought of something to say that did make it feel better, and that i had already said it! apparently, in my failed attempt to find just the right combination of words, that apt turn of phrase, i had succeeded after all. by caring enough to try. and you know what? it made me feel better, too.

never underestimate the power of caring.

maybe you're reading a post from somebody who's going through a rough time right now and is looking for an answer (or at least some kind of assurance that the answer exists); maybe they need to hear that it's possible to quit, or that it gets easier, or that they can beat this addiction, too. maybe you think you haven't been quit long enough to offer any assurances or encouragement to them. or maybe you don't know what to say because you're looking for the same answer yourself.

so what? maybe all this person really needs to hear is that there's somebody else out there; somebody who's looking for the answer, too, and cares enough to take a minute to say, "hey, i know what you're going through. hang in there; some of these people have found the answer. we can, too."

maybe you think you don't have anything to offer this person. or maybe you think you do have something to offer, but you're afraid to say it because you think you're not very good at writing, or you're afraid you'll spell something wrong and look foolish. so what? get over it. swallow your pride and open your heart. they don't give out pulitzers for notes you leave in somebody's quit smoking diary entry, and nobody's running a spell-checker on you, either.

you don't get any extra points for writing like hemingway, or for having a perfect spelling score. all that counts is that you cared enough to try. period. that's what gets you the points; the life points. we're probably all familiar with the saying, "what goes around comes around"; when you care enough to try, the universe makes note of that and you get extra points. and those points can make all the difference later when you're the one who's having a rough time. that's when it "comes around"; when the caring you sent out before comes back to you.

so this year, how about making a selfish resolution?

resolve that you'll care enough about other people to try.

2 responses leave one →
  1. 2004 August 22
    Marvel permalink

    Thank you Kevin, for caring so much.

  2. 2009 January 22

    note: the comment above was left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

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