dealing with the friend who isn’t dealing with his anxiety

I’ve got a friend who’s a bit older than I am who’s been patient with me over the years as I’ve bent his ear with woes of my own. And now, after so many months of quarantine, he’s kinda depressed. He’s obsessing over negative shit, regaling me with the bleakest economic and epidemiological projections he can find, talking all the time now about the uncertainty of his future, of the economy, the world.

            And I get it. Shit’s not good right now.

            What I’m torn about is whether my obligation as a friend is to be his ear-shaped receptacle, since I think he just needs a place to vent, or do I tell him to chill the fuck out?

            Cuz he’s getting me down! I know it’s not his intention, not explicitly—but I think it kind of is his intention. Maybe unconsciously. There’s this tone he gets when telling me the newest bleakest figures: he sounds vindicated. Almost triumphant. The tone says, See, I told you life was horrible and now this graph backs me up!

            He delivers these eulogies for society and I’m thinking, What good could you POSSIBLY be doing by going around sharing this stuff with people who are in the same boat? He’s like the guy on the Titanic who goes around while the ship is still horizontal saying, “Y’know, there’s only one way to go from here.”

Michael Forbes, artist of the above piece, was featured in a wonderful BBC profile about how painting Adam West’s Batman helped him deal with anxiety, specifically after his mother’s death.

            But again, I get it. He’s stressed out, he needs to vent.

            I think I’m gonna tell him, though. Just something gentle, like, “Dude, tell me a good thing. Anything at all.”

            Which won’t work, I know, cuz he’ll take that opportunity to make some sardonic remark.

I’ll tell him to say something positive, he’ll allow a cartoonish pause and then say, “Well I’ve now watched all one-thousand, four-hundred and ninety-two James Bond movies.”

            I might rather just have my ear bent.

And, as a friend, maybe that’s all I’m supposed to do.

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