The phone chirped and I was very surprised to see who it was on the display.
Me: Hey stranger.
Me: What's up?
Me (laughing): Really? You called me out of the blue after a few months off the radar to tell me nothing's up?
Them: Well... I was wondering if you had some time to get together and talk.
Me: Sure, I guess, maybe we could...
Them: Now, I mean.
Oboy, I thought. That's not good. In principle I'm not a drop-what-I'm-doing guy when someone calls out of the blue like this. Who could live that way with a life full of alcoholics? If someone catches me at loose ends, then sure, I'm available, but if not, then not -- but I could juggle a few things this afternoon and there was obviously something going on here... so...
Me: Sure. I'm free now. Where are you?
Me: Excuse me?
Them: I'm sitting in my car, parked on your street.
Me: Oh. Well then... ummm... that's super convenient. Why don't you come up and I'll put some coffee on. Oh. Wait. Tea. I'm on a tea kick this week.
Them: Fine. Ok. That's ok.
In they came and after minimal pleasantries set against the stage business of making and serving tea, we settled on the sofa.
Me: Ok. Out with it. What's up.
After a solid 20 minutes of diatribe I hit the listening/focus wall. Hard.
Me: Hold it hold it hold it.
Me: Stop... just, hold it a minute. There's something... you're not... Look, let me point something out, okay?
Them (guarded): Okay. What.
Me: You prefaced this whole thing with 'I need to ask you something' but you're really not asking me anything...
Them (sharply): Well let me get to...
I held up my hands.
Me: Hang on. Wait. Let me make this point.
They frowned and crossed their arms. I had to stifle a giggle, since it flashed across my mind that I could take a picture of them right then in that moment and caption it "Closed Minded" and maybe win a photo contest. There's always an inappropriate giggle bubbling somewhere inside me, as these pictures and ideas constantly flash across my mental screen, no matter how much I'm trying to behave, help or listen.
Me: Here's what you're doing. You're asking a question, then going on to tell me what I'll probably answer, and then telling me why that answer won't work. Then you ask your next question, tell me what I'm going to say, and then again tell me why that doesn't apply. You're not sharing what's up, you're steering me down a logic maze to what is likely a dead end. So you can...
Them: That's not...
Me: So you can go 'ah ha! I knew this wouldn't work' and then go and do what you really want to do. Why don't we cut to the end and you tell me what you really want to do, and we can hash that out instead.
Them: You know, if you're such a great listener, how come...
Me: HEY. You're about six inches from rude right now, and you know I'm nobody's punching bag.
"Anymore..." my alcoholism whispered in my head. "Shut up." I told it. "Not now."
Me: YOU called ME. Look... let's start over, ok?
Them: No, let's not. Just... just forget it. Thanks for the tea.
They stood up.
Me: Don't do that. Come on. I don't think I was wrong in what I said, but I am sorry if you didn't feel like I was hearing you. Let's start over.
Them: No. It's cool. Just... forget it. Don't worry about it. I gotta go.
Me: No you don't. You don't have to go. You're choosing to go and...
Them: Yeah, I hate that. That's exactly what I don't want. Some kind of bullshit recovery-speak.
Me: Annnnd we're back to rude.
Them: Sorry I just... I'm gonna take off.
Me: Okay. It seems like no matter what I say you're not liking how I say it, so... okay. And maybe you're right. I will consider that. But do me a favor.
Me: Consider -- just consider -- that maybe I'm right. That you have a foregone conclusion and you're shopping for a way to act on it. In my experience those are not healthy -- hell, they're usually pretty self destructive in one way or another. Just consider that, okay?
Them (a pause): Okay. Can I... can I call you again?
Me (laughing): You've been predicting what I'm going to say before I say it since you got here. So tell me what I'm going to say to that.
Them (sheepish, then with a small laugh): Yes. You'll say 'Yes' to that.
I gave them a hug. They left. Cleaning up the tea I thought of my dead sponsor, secretly sure he might have handled that a little better than I but knowing that is a foolish line of reasoning. I'm the tool The Universe has in the toolbox right now... then I laughed at myself. "Boy, is that ever right sometimes," I thought. "I'm the tool." But I remembered my dead sponsor saying once, "You can do a lot for people as a sponsor, or friend, or mentor, or whatever. But you can't give them ears to hear. Would that you could." Indeed. Would that we could.