Thursday, January 27, 2011

With Sympathy

**(Another old one imported from the old blog. Old old old.) **

I have a real issue signing a sympathy card as a group, especially if it's work-related thing. I don't know…something about it just doesn't sit right with me.

I have no problem signing a group card for every other occasion…birthdays, graduations, congrats on the new baby, etc. Suuuure, pass the card around the office and we'll all sign our names on one big card. No prob!

But a group sympathy card? I don't know. I just feel awkward about it. And what the heck are you supposed to write anyway? Everyone always has terrible quotes on there, sayings, etc. "She's in a better place," signed in red ink by Jackie. "You're in our prayers," signed in sparkly turquoise ink by Katherine, the office agnostic. "God won't give us anything we can't handle," penned by Bill.

So the card finally gets to me, and I look like a schmuck no matter what I do.

Option A) Sign the card with just my name.
No quotes, no sayings, no prayers. Black ink. My name. All alone in a corner of the card, like a punished school child. Then everyone else who signs the card after me thinks I am heartless and unfeeling because I didn't offer some paltry little crumb of 'encouragement'.

Option B) Sign the card and write a tag line out of obligation.
Why? Because everyone else wrote something additional, that's why…peer pressure sympathy writing. "John, sorry about your mom. Let me know if you need anything." I can't write that…I don't really mean it. I mean, offering to help with ANYTHING is quite a commitment. What if they need people to serve guests at the viewing…would I help with that if he asked me? Probably not; I'm not good around corpses. So that phrase won't do. "John, this too shall pass." Terrible choice of words, and not a comfort at all. Can't use that phrase either. "John, were you really surprised? She was 98 years old." No, that makes me sound heartless. "John, she's looking down on you from heaven and I know she's proud of you." I can't write that. I think it's a lie that people are watching us from heaven, like we're the after-life's version of reality TV. I don't think our dead relatives are propped up on clouds with nothing better to do than watch our stupid antics down here. Nothing I could write sits well enough with me to write it on a card.

Option C) Don't sign the card at all.
I would be stoned to death by my coworkers…all southern belles who agree that any sadness can be lifted with a group card and a some home-made banana pudding.

Option D) Send a card on my own.
No. I'm not good with this, either. Because let's face it everyone…cards have motives. Oh yes…yes they do. Birthday card motivation is to bring a smile to someone's special day. Anniversary card motivation is to celebrate an achievement in holding your marriage together in this day and age of drive-thru chapels and even quicker drive-thru divorces. "Just Thinking of You" card motivation is to let the person know you're thinking of them…simple enough. Valentine's Day card motivation is mostly to help in the bedroom area…if you're honest with yourself. All of those types of greeting cards have the motivation of making the recipient feel good…they are solely for the recipient. What a pure motivation! Bring 'em on!

But sympathy cards motivation is not what it appears. It is much trickier…it is based on making the GIVER feel better. Not the RECEIVER, like all the other cards. Seriously, if you think about it, have you ever been standing in the aisle at Hallmark, picked out a sympathy card, read it to yourself before deciding on it, and after reading it said "Wow, that will really make John feel better. That card says it all. Surely he'll feel better after getting MY card!" No, I'm sure you've never thought that. Because if it's tragic enough to warrant you feeling like you should send a card, then it's too tragic to be made any better by a card.

Sympathy card motivation is to make the giver feel better about the situation. You can say to yourself "Well, I did the 'right thing' and I sent a sympathy card. My work here is done." You're buying that card to make yourself feel better, not the person you're giving it to.

Why not just skip the middle man altogether? Next time you feel like you should give someone a sympathy card, march yourself right to the Hallmark store, go to the "Just for Laughs" section, and pick out a card that brings a smile to your day. And send it to your self. Dear: Me, From: Me.

Now that you've got that obligatory card purchasing out of your system, why don't you pick up the phone and talk to your friend who is going through the rough time. And tell them, in a voice slow and steady, that you are there for them. And yes, you know it hurts like hell.

Cellulite and Tell You Right,

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