Madame Ms. Meniscus,

How come you always seem to know just what to say?


Dear Joan,

First of all please note that Madame has taken away the word “just” from your name.

You aren’t just Joan, you are Joan in the here and now, and we’ll get to her in a few minutes after Madame attempts a response to your sandwiched question-comment. Seeming to know just what to say is the essence of what we need to talk about.

Supposing someone, say a friend, co-worker or family member, phones you up and tells you about a particular problem that has hit the fan.  Right away you breathe a sigh of relief, because it isn’t about you, it isn’t your problem, you are the sounding board, the listening audience. Since the particular problem happens to belong to someone else you’re a few degrees removed from the issue at hand.

In this way Madame is just like you. She listens (in this case, reads) about the issue or problem at hand. The difference here is that not only is she not face-to-face, or on the phone, she’s alone with a sentence or two typed out on an email.  That’s distance and it provides built-in breathing room. After all, Madame doesn’t have to huff and puff (not recommended, mind you) over an insult or some complex problem. She has to read and ponder for a while. In that pondering Madame hopes to offer some ease, some consoling, some-thing!

Madame can do so because her heart and mind are not entangled in the emotions and thoughts of the people involved. She can think more clearly because she has the luxury of space and time.  And as long as a particular problem isn’t an emergency, it’s worth noting that distance, not only that of Madame’s, but creating a little distance when we find ourselves in the midst of a problem can function as a new and interesting friend.

As Madame grows older (yikes!) she is finding that extra space within a problem is not only valuable but can be a savior.  When problems arise Madame recommends- and attempts it herself- taking a step, or two, or twenty, and allowing some of the toxic aspects of a problem to float away thereby creating space which now can be dedicated to thinking.

So when you say, how do you always seem to know just what to say – well, dear Joan, by virtue of this column that built-in space exists. But let us not go without realizing that what is true and good for someone else is also true and good for Madame.

Let us also say that from now on we will try to find more peace in the space of our lives, more time to think constructively, and to treat ourselves and others more compassionately. These aren’t just words, they are worthy efforts and they don’t come easily, but when something is noble and good, it is worth the effort and we are deserving of it.  Thank you for writing– noble and good Joan.

— MM

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