Don’t Tell Me
Don't tell me to calm down. Don't push me into a corner. Don't tell me to stop being sad. Don't say all those empty words.
Don’t tell me to calm down because that’s exactly what I can’t do. Don’t push me into the corner, where I can’t see the whole picture. Please don’t tell me to stop being sad because there’s very little that I enjoy about this situation. In fact, I can’t even find a place to rest and catch my breath, so maybe it’s not a question of will. Trust me, I don’t want to feel like this.
Please don’t punish me for my forgetfulness. I didn’t want to leave the light on or the door open, and I definitely didn’t want to give our groceries to whoever will find them hanging on the back of the restaurant chair. Scolding me doesn’t help. I know it’s the first thing that occurs to you but it doesn’t help at all. Yelling at me doesn’t make any sense, it just makes me feel more anxious and insecure. You won’t help me be less distracted, it just makes me feel worse when it happens because I know that it makes you mad.
What I told you while I was thinking about something else
Don’t point out what I’m trying to do either. My problem isn’t that I’m on the wrong path, it’s just that I can’t find the way to get where we both want to go.
Anxiety just doesn’t work that way. When you tell me not to be anxious, you’re not helping calm me down. Instead, it just makes it worse. Anxiety is stubborn, bull-headed, and it feeds off the helplessness that you heap on me with your critical words. I’m sorry if this is hard to hear. Please don’t get mad at me for my honesty.
Don’t remind me what I told you I would do. It makes me feel even smaller when you point out that I haven’t been able to do it. Don’t ask me to breathe underwater. I need to get to the surface and find the light. Join forces with me, instead of just measuring my strength.
If you listen to me, we can start using a language we both understand. We can build our own Tower of Babel and build intimacy with one another. More than a tower, it’ll be a bridge that will help me share the circumstances and obstacles that seem insurmountable. Insurmountable, even though to an ordinary person it’s nothing more than a line on the floor. Don’t tell me that. Please don’t be that person.
Don’t say empty words. If you don’t want to, if you can’t, don’t help me. Don’t trivialize my problems so you don’t have to talk about them anymore. If you’re having your own issues, I understand. Please don’t pretend that your courtesy visits are genuine, like the ones we used to have that started with despair and ended with hope. Those visits where there’s no hurry in the silence because time is the least of our concerns. If you’re here to tiptoe around the issues, there’s no point.
Don’t ask me how I am in a message, especially if you know I’m not doing well. I’m happy to lie to you, to give you permission to move on to whatever’s next. Go make dinner, watch your favorite TV show, make it to your next appointment on time…
Don’t say empty words
If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything. I won’t get sick of shutting out the wind and construction noise, mixed with the sound of children and birds during the short fall afternoons or the long spring ones. When I say “don’t tell me”, what I’m really trying to say is that you should share whatever you want to share but stay here in the present.
That will help me. I prefer a few moments of open communication to a dozen visits spent staring out the window. Instead, let’s replicate that time when we laid out, staring at the sky, imagining that it was an enormous, dark blue blanket with tiny holes where the light shone through. Shhh. Don’t speak, because that time you hardly said anything. In fact, you didn’t say anything, and nothing didn’t frighten either of us.