Nobody Knows the Trouble

I was telling a friend that I think that if any five of us were standing around the table, and we had our problems in our hands and put them all–ALL of them– out on the table for each other to see, we wouldn’t choose anyone else’s problems. We’d take back our own again.

She wasn’t so sure. She said she wished she had her friend’s problem instead of her own that were consuming her energy.

It made me think of other scenerios. A girl complaining to her friends that she had no free day to pack for her 2 week vacation to a Greek island. A bride trying on her dress and saying that her shoes weren’t what she really wanted. A homeowner complaining to a homeless man about the heating bill. To someone on the sidelines looking in, these all look like good problems to have.

I maintain that if we knew everything–everything– about our friends’ lives, and saw all their troubles, we would take back our own.  But I am young and my life is good. I have problems and issues that make me sad and cry, or that I tell to only the closest to me, but most days, my life isn’t defined by problems.  When I look at my friends who appear to have beautiful, enviable stories, I am jealous for half a second before I remember that they have problems that would have completely derailed me.

There are surely people who wouldn’t take back their own troubles if they were out on a table. I think of the widow raising eight children. My lady friends whose husbands have betrayed them on every level, week after week, year after year. The beautiful girl with cancer, another friend with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Life is not fair and trouble is spread wide and without respect to age or talent or wealth.

Friends walk with, support, believe in each other. So her problems look silly or petty to you? They might be, but to her they’re huge. It’s really ugly when friends get together and compare their troubles and try to impress each other with the amounts of pain each is suffering. Sometimes we can give each other a splash of reality or perspective but most times it’s best to listen and not say much. So I’d love to be going to a Greek island, and I wouldn’t complain about having little time to get ready for it.  But, well…

There’s a difference between stuff you complain about and serious life experiences.  Maybe I’m naive, but isn’t it generally true that at the end of the day we’d still choose our own troubles?