“And every time I write, every time I open my eyes, I am cutting out parts of myself simply to hand them over to you.” -Anis Mojgani
Cut out parts of yourself and give them away, fill the gaps with parts of loved ones. Be there for someone by being invested in them. Care because they are a part of you, and you feel what they feel.
Learn to listen, not hear. Become attuned to how they speak, how they express themselves. Absorb their body language, their tone of voice, their ticks. Master listening until you know whether to absorb in silence or refract. Figure out when to be a sounding board, and when to be the brain of a child, taking in everything quietly. Sometimes being there for someone means making yourself absent, small, silent. Sometimes it means inundating them with words, sounds, distraction; an auditory embrace.
Keep your phone volume turned all the way up. Study and memorize every nuance of their texting tone. Learn to read between the lines. Know which emojis mean which emotions. Learn to read their cyber cries for help. Answer the phone always, and sometimes call them just because.
Bring them treats with no prompting, for no other reason than that everyone could use a little surprise now and then. Make them tea when their throats are hoarse. Learn to identify what they want but won’t ask for, and what they need but didn’t know.
Embrace them when they’re happy, embrace them when they’re sad. Tickle their arms like third-graders during assembly, play with their hair absentmindedly, lay legs inter-splayed while watching TV. Remind them that they exist, keep them present with physical contact.
Be protective, but not overly so. Do not let your love cloud you into not allowing them to be their own person. Let them speak for themselves. Let them be strong. Let them grow. Hold them tightly when they need it; give them space when they need it. Learn to decipher the difference of when they need it and when they ask for it, because the two are often not the same.
Do not let them run from their problems. Walk boldly with them towards them. Grab others who can help and walk them all together. If the truth will hurt them but help them, do not be afraid to say it. Create an environment where they feel safe to be vulnerable, sad, angry, insane, but never let them drive you away with an emotional storm.
Go with them to the doctor’s when they are scared. Hold their hand when they get blood drawn. Go with them to buy Plan B. Help them pick out gifts for their family’s and partners. Look at their weird growth in a weird place without being weird about it. After a night out on the town lay out water next to their bed if they fall asleep before they drink any. Leave Advil next to the water. Leave the party with them if they want to/need to go home, even if you’re talking to a cute guy.
Learn to dole out tough love, and soft love, as needed accordingly. Always, always, call them on their bullshit.
Realize that sometimes being there for someone else means not being there for yourself. Realize this might not always be healthy or sustainable, but is sometimes necessary. Be cognizant of the place you’re in and what is healthy for you to give at that moment. Realize sometimes the person you have to be there for is yourself and that at different points in your life you are going to be able to give different amounts. Being there for someone else is less about the physical stuff and more about being mentally present and emotionally available for more than just yourself.