Most days can go either way in my house. There is no real grey area. Either I’m happy and so are the kids when we all wake up. Dancing around the kitchen, singing and laughing our way through the morning like a mini modern day version on the Von Trapp family. Or it closely resembles the beginning of armegeddon. Screaming, yelling, provocation, threats and dragging out the door to school in tears.
Yesterday was the former. Thank God. And a Friday to boot!
Without the torment of a chaotic morning hanging over my head, I was free to ponder such profound issues as surf conditions and appropriate beaches in a northerly breeze.
Before I go on, I can hear you all telling me to “fuck off” from here, and I just want you to know that I’m ok with that 🙂
En route to the beach for my twice weekly surf / me time / escape while both the little people are at school, I received a call from my cousin.
Now this is a cousin that I see a handful of times a year, and unless there has been some monumental family calamity or achievement, I would not expect a phone call from her.
My spider senses were on full alert as I answered the phone.
I was, however, more than pleasantly surprised.
You see, what she was calling about was no calamity nor celebratory. Events that had unfolded in her life over the preceding days had led her to a morning thinking about my beautiful wife Renee and some experiences they had shared together.
And she rang just to let me know this. Just. To. Let. Me. Know!
The effect it had on me was both unexpected and amazing. I finished the call by telling her, in all honesty, that she had made my day.
I don’t think I have ever received a phone call when there hasn’t been a purpose or desired outcome from said conversation.
Such a simple thing. To have someone ring just to let me know that they had been thinking of Renee, of me. Mind blown! Heart filled with gratitude!
And it made me realise how infrequently I pick up the phone to check in with friends. Too often (actually pretty much exclusively) the only time I’ll ring somebody is if I need something. An answer, information, whatever. Bad friend indeed.
So I want to consciously change this behaviour, but I’m the first to admit it is really quite daunting. I know it shouldn’t be, but I’d wager that most of you (guys) would feel the same. Drumming up conversation for conversation’s sake is not something that comes easy to alot of folks; in particular us blokes. Unless there’s beer involved of course.
I have an alternative, and I think it would be more appealing to men than calling a mate for a chat.
Every day or two, send a message to a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, or someone you know is having a rough trot. No need to go all Freudian and ask them how they feel about their mother. Just say gday and ask how things are. Simple!
If the recipient has anything they would like to offload or talk about, I guarantee that they will be more forthcoming via text than if you cornered them on the street and asked a series of probing questions with an accompanying pitiful look on your face.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you will have noticed how eloquent and free with opinion and stories people are when they type words rather than speak them (eg me!). It gives people a chance to consider their thoughts, revise and structure accordingly before committing with a click of the send button.
This form of communication, I have found from personal experience, is very empowering. Firstly, you have the choice to respond immediately, later, or not at all. Secondly, it allows you time to gather your thoughts and decide whether to end the conversation with your reply, leave it open ended or promote further discussion. Thirdly, the very nature of texting / messaging is succinct and direct, which alleviates the fear of fumbling for words, over explanation or simply saying the wrong thing.
It is the last point I make, however, that I think is the most important in making this a great way of reaching out:
You are tucked safely away behind your screen.
Think about it:
Not time or location bound
Some of the things that make talking face to face about serious things, like emotions, fears, worries, etc, uncomfortable for alot of guys.
I can attest to this. Some of my most heart felt responses to questions over my mental health have been penned days later, while taking a dump. Or lying on the couch in my boxers, neck deep into a block of chocolate. Or even while I’m driving the kids to school while simultaneously yelling at them (who said guys can’t multi task). And all of them I would not have voiced in person.
The freedom to respond when, where and how you like can make all the difference to whether you respond at all.
So give it a whirl, shoot someone a message. Don’t expect a response and don’t badger for one. I can tell you now that sometimes all it takes is a message of connection, of concern, of thoughtfulness, to change a potentially shit day into a good one.
You just might make someone’s day like my cousin made mine. 😊