We always joke about men and their pissing contests, but women have their own version of this game. It’s the one-up game. We play it to see who has the best/worst husband, who has the best/worst kid or who has had the best/worst day. It sucks. I was reminded last night of how much I hate this game as I crashed a late night Twitter conversation. I was also reminded of one of the people I have truly been blessed to know.
I met Carol at my last job. I can’t honestly say we were friends outside of work – she had her very own full rich life. We would take breaks together and talk the way women do.
Carol gave me something my other friends couldn’t: perspective, without the one-up game. Sympathy without platitudes. A good swift kick in the ass if I was wallowing in self pity.
Carol raised two boys on her own, way back when divorce was almost a one way ticket to poverty. At the time of her divorce, she worked in real-estate. Real-estate income fluctuates so she had to give it up. Imagine having your child support based on your best months sales while trying to live on it during a slew of worst month sales. So she put away her business suits and spent years working in the greenhouse industry.
Whenever I talked about how hard it was to get by on my income, Carol had a sympathetic ear. She could have ten-upped me if she wanted. I still had twenty-five years of future earnings, but Carol was nearing the end of her working days. At that point, there are not nearly as many opportunities to improve your circumstances, yet I cannot recall one single instance where Carol played the one-up game.
Perspective came when she would count her own blessings. One of Carol’s favorite sayings is “My angels are always looking out for me”. She would explain this by recounting a time she was in a tight spot and somehow, she would find exactly the amount of money she needed to get through to the next tight spot.
She never told anyone You should count your blessings—she was too damn busy counting her own. Instead she lent a sympathetic ear and gave you time to own your frustrations and sorrows. No one-up game, no judgement, just quiet sympathy and a head shake at the difficulties life throws our way.
Carol wasn’t one to let you wallow in it though. If the sorrows of today were still the only thing you were talking about a month later she would quietly ask Well, what are you doing about it. A statement that is guaranteed to get your gears turning. This is bothering me, what am I doing to fix it, change it, or let it go?
Carol has spent more years as a single woman than she spent as a married woman. Yet I never heard anything more than a matter-of-fact statement from her about it: things didn’t work out. Instead, she filled her life with other things: girlfriends, chorus, musical shows and even trips. She didn’t care if she had to eat eggs on toast for months, as long as her trip jar was growing.
Carol taught me that being alone doesn’t mean lonely. That when our friends need us to listen, we hear better with our mouth closed, and that sometimes our friends need a kick in the pants. Every woman needs a Carol in their lives.
Linking up with Yeah Write this week – because like Carol, they give me perspective and sometimes a kick in the pants.