I’ve been friends with Sue for about 40 years. We almost never talk on the phone. I see her once a week when she comes to give me a professional massage, and on some social occasions. She did my massage last Wednesday and used a new bottle of massage oil.
Sue texted me on Thursday that she had a couple of hives on her torso and pointed to the new oil as a possible culprit.
Sue called me last Friday because she wanted to “vent”. I was surprised to hear from her via a voice call. She said she just wanted to talk to me. She has been through numerous trials and tribulations with me over the years and respects my perspective on life. She told me that the “hives” actually weren’t hives, but she had shingles. Oh, shit.
Sue became primary caregiver in her home for her severely brain damaged brother about a year ago. He is in his fifties, but physically is more like an infant, unable to feed himself, walk, or toilet. Sue can’t “call in sick” to her job.
She was out the night before to pick up a prescription and her used car started giving her trouble. She needs the car to travel to clients for her massage business. She is single so has no financial cushion or support in terms of a spouse or partner.
I was feeling her pain and offered as much empathy as I could for her troubles. It was a lot at once. I didn’t have any solutions, only understanding and a sympathetic ear.
I did some swearing for her as in “oh, fuck, that sucks”. “Shit, what are you going to do?”
I have seen Sue surmount many obstacles by herself in the 40 years I have known her. I had no doubt she would get through this.
I listened as long as she needed to talk, and in thinking about the general problems we all face and need to complain about, I came back around to a perspective I have used many times throughout my own serious struggles in life.
I said, “this all really stinks right now, but the fact is, life is amazing, we’re all really lucky, and sometimes life just sucks”.
We chatted a while longer about how lucky we all are. I said “You know, we turn on the tap and clean water comes out, we can go to the grocery store and choose from every fresh and nutritious food there is, most people in the world don’t have those priveleges.”
Sue got it right away, and added her own items to her list of why she is lucky. She knows she is lucky that she is able to walk normally, something I cannot do. She can even walk to a store to buy food.
She felt a little better by the time we hung up. I followed the call with a text message to reinforce my words.
Sue called again on Sunday morning and sounded very excited. A friend had the medication she needed to treat the shingles and gave her the pills. She started taking them right away and the rash did not progress as she had read on the internet it normally would. When she took the car to her mechanic he only needed to look at it for 15 minutes to diagnose and fix a minor problem. He did the work for no charge. Sue said she was amazed at how things seemed to turn around for her after our conversation about how lucky we are. She said she felt that the more she thought about how lucky she was, the more luck she seemed to attract.