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Dini

Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.

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« Running and Rowimg | Home | Where is the eagle? »

Catching up

Column May 2007 Tuesday 15 May 2007 On my way to the mailbox I ran into a girlfriend and what normally would take just a few minutes (walking to the mailbox, inserting the mail, and walking back to the house) this time around took a lot longer.  My girlfriends and I always have much to tell each other and we don’t easily run out of things to talk about.

“That’s a woman thing”, the men often claim when, for example, their wives chat with a girlfriend on the phone all night to go over the course of the day or life in general.  Of course, that’s nonsense.  Guys know how to shoot the breeze just as well.  Not all of them and perhaps not as extensively and lengthy as women talk but, nevertheless, they exist, the talkers.  However, the topics of discussion differ widely.  Men like to talk about their job, sports, and chores around the house, cars, and computers.  Women prefer to talk about health (or diseases), the kids, relationships, colleagues, diets, and more such things.

Talking is a form of therapy as well.  A trusted friend is usually able to rather quickly pinpoint the problems of her girlfriend and, if necessary, offer good advice, while the same could take much longer in a psychologist’s office.  The difference between a psychologist and a girlfriend is that the psychologist cannot really know his client, while girlfriends often easily see through one another.  They know more about each other than a psychologist ever could.  Even husbands often don’t know their wives near as well as girlfriends do.  Girlfriends have an infallible feel for each other and just a single word usually suffices.  You could say that psychologists are, therefore, obsolete as long as everyone has a good girlfriend, but it doesn’t quite work that way because some problems are so complex that a listening ear alone is not enough.  After all, a psychologist specializes in untangling the human mind.  Just seeking the help of a girlfriend isn’t always smart either.  Take, for example, the woman whose best friend had problems in her marriage and she was asked to mediate between the two fighting spouses.  There was a lot of talk but a solution wasn’t found.  Worse, soon something beautiful was budding between the husband and the girlfriend-slash-helper and that was when things really got out of hand.  The best friends became worst enemies and there wasn’t a trace left of the past friendship or any of the warm feelings.  Hate and jealousy took their stead while murder and assault threatened.  The events unfolded quickly and the whole affair dragged on – a long-running soap was mild in comparison.  I got to hear the whole sordid tale and listened in shock to this story of hate and powerlessness.  The worst, I thought, was that the adults fought their fights in the presence of the children.  Now, those kids supposedly receive psychological guidance.  Here we see the usefulness of psychology and therapy, because you’d better believe that those children received some hard knocks in a war between parents like that one.  In the meantime, it has been proven that it is not always wise to call in the assistance of a girlfriend when dealing with relationship or marriage problems.  Besides, a girlfriend cannot always offer help, even if she really wanted and sometimes she gets so involved in the problems of others that she herself runs the risk of becoming depressed.  Then it’s time to draw the line and take some distance – not from her girlfriend as a person but from that girlfriend’s problems.  Going along in those problems doesn’t solve anything; it just results in more stress and sadness.

So, on my way to the mailbox I ran into a girlfriend and we briefly talked about our lives because we hadn’t spoken to each other in a while.  The weather was beautiful and earlier that day I had gone into the city with another girlfriend.  We had had lunch outside on the terrace of a restaurant, basking in the sun, talking.  The girlfriend at the mailbox had been on a terrace as well, with her husband.  It had been fun, but her stay had been shorter than that of my girlfriend and me, that was clear.  Talking with a man is a different. 

Talking to a girlfriend can have a therapeutic effect, the same as keeping a journal and writing down your problems.  As the English writer Graham Greene famously noted:  “Writing is therapy.”  That man certainly wrote enough to know what he was talking about and he was absolutely right.  Writing is therapy and it can be healing.

I was on my way to the mailbox carrying letters destined for some American inmates with whom I correspond.  Lately, these men send me long letters, “ ‘cause there’s so much to tell you, Dini.”  And I responded:  “Tell me, I will listen closely.”  For they do not “tell” happy tales.  They have been through a lot and suffer from childhood trauma or war syndrome.  They share their memories with me and in doing so they sometimes scare themselves.  There’s much that surfaces but writing it down seems to work like some form of therapy. It appears to do them good to “talk” not only about their past but the present as well.



We may conclude that it is very good to talk with someone you trust and who doesn’t immediately dole out judgment or advice.  Advising is something men do more often than women – they like to solve problems while women only want to talk about them.  We are not waiting for a ready-made solution for we each want to solve our problems in our own way.  As the old saying goes:  Speaking is silver, keeping silent is gold.  However, that isn’t always true.  Talking and listening to each other is good, although the subject of a conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be a difficult problem.  Having an enjoyable chat and catching up are just as important.  



Text   Dini Commandeur, Translation: Maria O’Neill


 

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