Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: "How are you?" is a common nicety. We say it even when we don't care. And most of us will reply, "Fine, and you?" However, there are people out there whose lives don't exist without drama, and your simple question turns into you talking Drama Debbie down off the roof.
I have a friend who attracts this type of person. I don't know why. Neither does she. But it never fails: She makes a new friend on the PTA or sits next to the same mom at soccer practice, and WHAM: this Chatty Cathy whom she has enjoyed for the last month or so turns into someone who could win the Drama Queen of the World award.
There was one day when I ran into my friend and said (of course), "How are you?" She began to tell me of the saga she was going through with the drama-queen friend she'd met at Pilates. The poor woman she spoke of had recently found her mother at the scene of a botched suicide, was the victim herself in a neighborhood plot to have her investigated by Child Services and had fallen into a mortgage scheme that lost her the home that had been in her family for a century. What do you say to all of that? "Can I make you cookies?" There is NOTHING you can say. So what do you do?
Well, my honest advice is, first and foremost, do NOT turn away from Drama Person. There is something in your spirit that gives this person the comfort level she needs to share even the darkest parts of her life with you. To her, you are a gift.
Second, pace yourself. You cannot take on this woman's drama daily; her stress will become your stress ... and your family's stress. When she calls or texts, don't be immediately available, but make sure you respond when the stress of your day has subsided and you can give her the attention she deserves. She needs to know she can lean on you, but she needs to learn to rely on herself, too.
Third, if it appears that she is going down a road you are not prepared to deal with, refer her to a professional who can walk her through it in a safe manner. But keep in touch. Check in. Send a card or a text out of the blue.
We are all put on this planet for a reason. That reason does not always have to be comfortable and pretty to be part of life's plan. As a former foster parent, I saw some pretty uncomfortable things. You never get used to seeing cigarette burns on babies. But if I hadn't pushed through, I wouldn't have gotten to the other side: our precious third child, adopted out of the system.
Be that gift someone needs, but take care of yourself at the same time. It will be better for everyone involved.