I Try Not To Talk About My Problems

Because, sorry, I do not want to hear all about yours

photo by author

I don’t tend to talk much. My wife, Deb, can verify this. Sometimes I will get into chatty moods, but it has to be with people who make me feel comfortable. And if I get interrupted once or twice, I’m basically done.¹

As I’ve gotten older, I am less and less inclined to talk about problems with people. At least not my problems. At least not with people with whom I am not very close.

So basically I talk to Deb, mostly. She’s a good listener. I try not to push it.

In my youth I would share my problems with some people. Close friends. They would listen, and ask questions, and offer advice, and commiserate. I would usually feel better afterwards.

Nowadays… not so much. Might be an age thing.

It has felt to me like mentioning a problem — or, heaven forbid, a loss — is just a reason for the person to whom I’m talking to ask one or two polite questions, then launch into their recent (or somewhat recent, or perhaps childhood) problem (or personal loss, or trauma, or maybe just something they read about or saw on TV) that they managed to overcome (or did not, or are still enduring) while learning a Valuable Lesson (or Important Truth, or occasionally an amusing anecdote). Then before I know it that’s ten minutes of my life I will never get back, the last nine of which have been spent in my mind trying to think of things as interruptive as pulling the fire alarm, without actually pulling the fire alarm, which coincidentally is just a few yards away but how do I pull it without getting caught?

My mother died a few years ago. People at work knew, because I took time off to fly out of state to attend the funeral. Coworkers would stop by my desk, and express sympathy, and then tell me how awful it was when they lost their mother and how the loss still haunted them but they learned to pull through it and… actually at that point I was done listening, so I don't really know. And, sadly, didn’t really care. I just wanted to have some time to not think about having just lost my mother, and not think about all the other sadness associated with it, and maybe, I dunno, get some work done.

But sure, thanks for stopping by and making it all about you.

My father died a year or so after that. This time I did not have to take bereavement PTO, and nobody at work knew. It was great.

I do better with online friends. When someone leaves a response, I can read it right then, or later, or get halfway through and move on. All while doing it on my time and at my pace and when I am ready. That helps.

More often than not, though, it’s easiest just to STFU.

Present post excluded, obviously.

¹In this area, the norm is to interrupt someone who is talking when the listener has something to say. The original speaker is expected to mentally bookmark what they were talking about and resume when the interruption is complete. Unless someone else thinks of something in the meantime, of course. I have been in group conversations where someone will start speaking after a brief lull, and I have no idea what they’re talking about until I realize that we’ve gone back to the original topic… from half an hour ago and three interruptions later.

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Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.

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Jack Herlocker

Jack Herlocker

Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.

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