Too Much Information

Sometimes I think I’m a terrible friend.  Don’t get me wrong, I care about each and every friend I have, deeply and sincerely.  I know I’m lucky to have them in my life and what a gift those relationships are.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m nowhere near the kind of friend I want to be, and that bothers me.

Last weekend my husband and I went to dinner with a couple of very good friends we have known for more years that I care to count.  We had a great time, eating good food and catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives.  It was a fun evening and one I thought had gone very well, until after I was home and it hit me that I had not once asked my friend about how her sister was doing.  The sister who had been fighting a very serious cancer and who, the last time I actually remembered to ask, was still struggling to fully recover.

All too often, that’s exactly the kind of friend I am:  the one who doesn’t remember to ask the important questions.  The one who doesn’t always manage to keep track of what is going on in her friends’ lives, which means I’m also the one who sometimes doesn’t give the kind of support that her friends need and that I really, really want to give them.

I know what the problem is, and it’s not a lack of compassion.  The problem is that I  don’t seem to have the ability to keep track of large quantities of information, no matter how important that information happens to be.  Like almost everyone else these days, I’m constantly bombarded with information that needs to be acknowledged, processed and categorized so that it can be retrieved when needed.  But in my case, the information is usually misfiled somewhere in the depths of my tiny little brain.

I can remember what I want to ask someone about until that person is actually standing in front of me, or I’m talking to them on the phone.  That’s the exact moment that I can remember only that I need to schedule a vet appointment for my dog, get a flu shot, take our passports back to the safety deposit box, and drop some food off at my mother’s house.  Later, when I’m standing in my basement trying to remember what I went down there for, I’ll remember that I want to ask about a good friend how her recent job interview went.  (Not that I’ll actually ask her, since she’s not standing in my basement at that exact moment.)

I worry that my over-stretched memory means that my friends and family must think I am self-centered, and worse, that I don’t really care about what is going on in their lives and that they can’t count on me for support when they need it.  The truth is, I couldn’t possibly care more, and I am always ready to give any kind of help that they need.  But it’s also true that they might need to remind me that they need that support.

I suppose the fact that I actually have friends means that there are people in this world who, if they don’t always understand me, or at least willing to put up with me.  And for that I am deeply grateful.  I suppose the true test of any friendship is the ability to accept people for who they truly are, flaws and all.  And maybe it’s time I began to do that for myself as well.

124 thoughts on “Too Much Information

  1. We are our own worst critics. We are ever ready to cut others the slack that we withhold from ourselves. Sometimes it works to let your friends know that you can’t seem to remember and ask them to instead volunteer the information you wish you could remember to ask!!

    Liked by 5 people

    • You’re right, and that’s something that I work on: not holding the bar higher for myself than I do for others. And I like your idea of just being more open with my memory issues, so that way there is no misunderstandings with my friends. I always want them to know I care, even if I don’t remember to ask the right questions. Thanks for the support!

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  2. …. and you can always call them later “Hi … I Just wanted to call you and let you know that it was lovely seeing you all again, but I have to apologize. I totally forgot to ask how your sister was doing. How is she?”

    Liked by 5 people

    • That’s a good point, Colin! I actually sent a text, since it was quite late when I thought of it. And naturally, I didn’t trust my ability to remember to call her the next morning. I admit I would have rather thought to ask during dinner, but I figured better late than never.

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  3. I love this post soooo much! I get it…for the past few months I’ve found myself saying (repeatedly) at work, “Oh, I forgot to say this…”, “I forgot to ask that…”, “Oh, I did say and do that? I don’t remember!”. I recognize it’s due to information overload….and, it’s very unsettling…So, I’m making a point of focusing on self-compassion and reminding myself that I’m doing the best I can–and, better than I think I am. So, not to invalidate your emotions/experiences–I imagine you are being a much better/caring friend than you give yourself credit for 🙂 P.S. Your writing is very engaging….thanks for sharing 🙂

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  4. Sounds like you have good friends, and that you also are a good friend. Like everybody these days, stretched to the max. Sometimes if I’m going out with friends, I’ll stop for a little while and write down a couple of things and take it with me. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. b

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for your kind words! And that’s a good idea about writing things down. I do write lists all the time of “to do” and of course lists when I go to the grocery store, just because I know how my memory works (or doesn’t work.) Having a list of what I want to remember to ask someone before I actually see them could work very well. Thanks!

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  5. And, don’t be so hard on yourself. I feel like I could talk to you about my troubles at any given time. I don’t need for you to open the door by asking me, because I know you would be there with support if I needed it.

    >

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  6. Many times I have to send a… ” by the way I forgot ” text. Very often I’ve found that they’ve been unaware of the fact I’ve not asked about stuff, cos they’ve forgotten stuff too! We’re all a mass of tangled fuse wire

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  7. So many times, I have to reach back out in a text, email, or phone call to say hey by the way I forgot to ask. Like many have said we all have so much to process its hard to remember everything. I truly believe when you reach back out that person truly feels the importance of them in your life.

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    • I’m quickly learning that your are probably right about that. I stress about not staying on top of things, but maybe the truth is my friends know that’s the way I am and they are okay with it. I do hope I am showing my support and care in other ways! And as you say, even a text afterwards to say, “hey, I forgot to ask about so and so” does show that our heart is in the right place.

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    • Thanks! I have found the comments very helpful too! I guess I thought I was the only one who was a bit deficient in this area, but apparently in these days of information overload, I have plenty of company. That really does help to know. One of the best parts about blogging is finding out that I’m not nearly as alone as I thought I was!

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  8. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about the Big Stuff, because they need some respite.

    You could, if you like, think of yourself as a tropical beach, sun overhead, waves laughing up and down the shoreline. They breathe in the faint salt air and the bloom of Hibiscus and relax in your warmth and timelessness.People need vacations from their norm…

    It’s most important to be there, in an authentic way. They’ll tell you if the Storm is really more than they can handle, but for the moment, let them bask… 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Liz! That is a good way to look at it. I hope that my friends can tell me if I need to talk about something, and that I’ll respect their need not to talk about it if that’s what they want. My fear is that my failure to ask about something is going to be interpreted as my not caring, but maybe I need to give my friends more credit than that? At any rate, your words are helpful, and I thank you for them!

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    • Oh, Jodi, it is not just you, trust me! I love my friends and want to be there for them (as they almost always are for me), and sometimes I feel guilty that I am not doing a good enough job at that. But in the end, I think I need to just accept who I am, faulty memory and all, and trust that other people get that. As well as always making sure I am doing my best to let them know they have my support whenever they need it….

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  9. Sometimes the best qualities in a friend is their willingness to be in the moment and not ask lots of catch-up questions. We all need space to breathe. And you could always phone/text etc when the question pops into your head.

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    • That’s a good point, Sharon, and one that I hadn’t thought of until I read the comments responding to this post. One of the nice things about blogging is that people can comment, and you wouldn’t believe how much I have learned from my comment section. Thanks for offering this perspective, as it really, really helps!

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  10. We are all on information overload Ann, so no point in beating yourself up over it!

    A method I use it an open ‘word’ page on my computer where I list out calls to be made, emails answered, questions asked or answered … then when I have the space I can scroll through it and deal with them as the spirit calls or time allows 🙂

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  11. Thought-provoking post and some great comments here.
    I’m one of those people that doesn’t usually want to be asked about whatever serious things that might be going on in my life, even by friends I consider “close”. I don’t really have any close friends, but I have a few of those from my younger days that I see rarely – the kind that when you meet up pick up like the years have never passed.
    I am close with my coworkers and they are my sounding board. They all know not to ask me – that when I want to share I will do it. I’m pretty transparent. I expect the same from them – have something to share or need to talk – go for it. They don’t need me to ask.
    I’ve told people please don’t apologize and I don’t plan on doing it either – unless we do something blatantly rude – which rarely happens among friends.
    I do like to jot down things like my friends and family’s favorite things or when I hear them say “I wish…” I try to jot it down because I WILL FORGET almost immediately. I review these lists (I use Google Keep) off and on and it helps me feel connected.

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    • I have a good friend who lost her beloved husband a few years ago, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was horrible for her, and we were all at a loss on how to help. But she was very good at letting us know when she either needed to talk about it, or she just wanted to have a fun night out with friends and not dwell on her loss. I need to remember that with my other friends instead. If I can’t remember to ask a specific question, I can at least remember to say, “how are you?” If they want to talk about an issue, then they have the opening. If they don’t, they just answer “fine” and that’s the end of it. Meanwhile, I love your idea of jotting down things about your friends, because like you, I forget. Thanks for that!

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  12. I relate to this so much! I think we are so busy so much of the time that we feel like we’re forgetting more than we’re remembering. A friend of mine suggested that I slow down if I become aware of this happening. It actually works, although I can’t tell you how. In the meantime, please know that you are not alone. Thank you for sharing! ~ Blessings, KK

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, I so hear this, too. I try to keep in mind, though, that 5 seconds after we leave here, the things to remember will no longer be a part of us or our future. Until then, I write things into a spiral bound (read: unlose-able!) notebook. One list is headered, “MUST do/send/get/write TODAY.” Another says, “Later.” Another says, “Someday.” Also, to paraphrase a meme, “People won’t remember what kindness you said — they’ll remember what kindness you did.” Our friends know they (and their loved ones) are in our thoughts and prayers, so a hug, a smile, a shared laugh suffices as a memorable kindness done. Or so I hope!!

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    • I hope so too, and I think you are right. I have friends who always remember to ask about all the important stuff, and I have friends who don’t. And you know what? I love them all! I guess the real problem is that I haven’t yet accepted myself for who I really am, and I need to do that. Thanks for your comment…and for your suggestion about the lists!

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  14. You gave yourself very good advice at the end of the post. Reading your pleasant encounter with friends and learning that you forgot to ask about their sister’s health and well-being, I found that I was having the same problem forgetting often some important detail of somebody’s life. What you described is in my opinion fairly common and should not bother you so much. Also information flows in multiple ways, especially when a group of friends are together and have a good time. I am sure that if your friends had had their sister on their mind, they would have brought their concern up in the conversation. Perhaps it was even a good thing that you forgot to ask about her. Dear Ann, your posts always give me something to think about. Thank you!

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    • Thanks, Peter! I’m glad my posts give you something to think about, and hope you know that your commments always make me feel better. I want so desperately to be the kind of friend who always remembers what is going on in her friends’ lives, but I’m just not that kind of person. And I think you are right, that if my friend really wanted to talk about her sister, she would have done so. I still wish I had asked, but looking at it from that perspective does help. Thanks for always being so supportive, Peter! You really are a good person!

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  15. You are a great friend and I think it is just fine to relax and enjoy the evening – may be just what your friend needed too. Love your thoughts, you express yourself so beautifully and say what we all feel!🌺

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  16. You summed it all up perfectly in the last few lines of your post Ann. None of us are perfect and we all have flaws (and moments of memory lapse) but fundamentally we all care about each other. And that’s what really matters. You’re definitely not alone.

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    • Thank you Miriam! You are one of the most encouraging and supportive people I know, not only on your blog, but also in your comments to other bloggers. I know I love my friends and would do anything for them, but sometimes it bothers me that I don’t think I’m showing it enough. I guess I need to just accept that I am who I am, and that is good enough. If my friends can accept me for who I really am, then I need to learn to do that too. I swear, sometimes my blog is excellent therapy! Thanks for being such a good blogging friend, too….

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  17. This is so me too. I forget to ask and then I feel awful. Or, even worse, I forget the details and have to rack my brain for them again. I think the most important thing is to reach out when you do remember and let them know that they are in your heart… if not in your too-full brain all the time. Forgive yourself.

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    • Thank you! That’s what I’m working on. Honestly, I remember the main points, but the details are the death of me these days. But you are right, just letting our friends know that we care and how much they mean to us is the main thing. The details work themselves out. And forgiveness is essential. Thanks so much for your advice!

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  18. What a great piece. I’m sure that quite a few of us have been this very friend at some point. Sometimes, it’s not always about asking the deepest, most important questions. Sometimes, it is simply just about showing up and being there period. Be the distraction that might be needed that day. Be the friend who talks about what is literally right in front of you…. And its ok to be that very friend. 🙂 Don’t be too hard on yourself…just be the best you can be…

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    • Thank you Sharon, for your support and validation. Sometimes, I really struggle with accepting who I really am with who I want to be. But I am who I am, and I need to learn that is good enough. One of the blessings of blogging is connecting with people I have never met who nevertheless get exactly what I am saying and tell me that it is okay and they understand. Thanks for being one of those people!

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      • Awe,you are most welcome. Honestly, reading your words…felt like you had been in my own head. This is one of the many things I’ve always struggled with. But as I am making my way along my path in this life…I am starting to finally gain new perspectives. Like you, I am enjoying connecting with new peiple through the blogging world… Its nice to know that others out there understand what we are dealing with at any given point in our lives. Always find your positives my friend. Its a challenge sometimes, I know… But we can only be as good as we are this very second…improvement is always possible…but right now, This precise second… This is who we are.. 🙂

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    • That’s a good idea, and I did that. I hope that people realize I am vague, not uncaring, and I suppose they usually do. I think it can be very hard to accept ourselves just as we are, even when it seems that some other people do. Thanks for the comment!

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  19. I think most of us are that friend, well at least I know i am. Like you I often forget to ask the important questions when I am there with them. I have no doubt your friends are absolutely aware that you will be there for them in their hour of need even though you might not remember to ask the important question from time to time. I think friendships are based on so much more than the fact that you ask the right questions, it is I believe based on the fact that you prove your loyalty and support in their time of need.

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    • I think you are right, and that sometimes I just want to be that friend who always remembers and always says the right thing. But I’m not, and maybe no one else really is either? I don’t know. I do know that it has made a huge impression on me when a friend takes the time to ask about something I’m struggling with, and I remember that and want to do it for others. But I don’t really remember thinking, “Well so-and-so didn’t ask me about (whatever problem I happen to be dealing with)” and getting upset about it. So maybe the truth is that we just do the best we can, and that is enough.

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  20. I enjoyed this post and like others, I can relate. I always hope my friends will take my general “how are things?” greeting as an opportunity to tell me anything that’s going on in their lives – big or small, happy or sad. That doesn’t always happen so, yes, checking in on specific things is good – I’m working on remembering too!

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    • I agree! Simply asking, “how are things?” is a great way to ask friends about their lives. That way, they can tell me about what they want to tell me, rather than simply about whatever I remember to ask them about. I think I will ask that more often, as that will probably solve a lot of my issues with memory. Thanks!

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  21. We all do that Ann, don’t beat yourself up. I also think it’s okay for other people to remind us, gently, if they need to talk about something we haven’t asked about. I do this sometimes, I forget to ask, and feel much better if the other person brings it up anyway. I also bring issues up I need to talk about if the other person hasn’t asked, with no resentment, because I know we all forget sometimes. And sometimes it is nice to have a conversation about all the other things, all the positive things, and it can be a blessing when someone doesn’t ask about the heavy stuff. I have definitely enjoyed having a break from talking about problems or sadnesses and just talking about other things instead. Perhaps your friend wanted a distraction / fun evening. Anyway, I am sure you are a great friend!

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    • Thanks, Sadie! That is a good point, and one that helps take away my guilt at not always remembering to ask about the important issues in my friends’ lives. I think maybe I need to just ask more general questions, which allows the other person to bring up only the topics they actually want to talk about, but still opens the door to their feelings at the time. And like you, if I really want to talk about something, I don’t hesitate to bring it up with good friends. Thanks for an insightful comment!

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  22. I love this post so much, Ann. I honestly thought I was alone (or almost) in doing this too. You reflect my thoughts almost exactly (and for that I’m grateful to you). My mind doesn’t stop thinking, going over and over other happenings in my life that seem so important at just the times that I should be asking important questions of my friends. I am so very self-critical, and I think, partly due to my BPD I’m judging myself harshly at the same time that I find myself talking about ‘me’ in conversations with friends.

    Judging by all your comments, we are not alone in these thoughts (and thank goodness for that!) I also stop and think of all the things I should have asked about after the occasion is over, and then email, text or message to apologise profusely, and then ask the belated relevant questions.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Ann. I’m sure this post is very reassuring to many of your readers – it certainly is to me. Keep writing as you do now – I like your honesty x 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for your affirming words. One of the main reasons I try to write as honestly as I can in my blog is in the hope of having a post connect with someone else in the way you describe. I love it when I read something and think, “Wow! Someone else feels that way, or thinks that way too!” It does help to know we are not as alone, or as out-of-step, as we tend to think we are.
      As for your harsh self-judgement, I think most of us are guilty of that as well. We can overlook faults in others, but expect perfection from ourselves, and that just leads to a sense of failure and guilt. Self-acceptance is not selfish, it’s actually a very positive thing and a goal worth working toward.
      Thank you for making this comment!

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  23. No problem just calling up when you do remember and saying that you forgot to ask, but you have been meaning to do so. My older brain forgets things all the time, so I’m not afraid to simply say, hey, I forgot, please excuse me–but I do care anyway. Most people understand.

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    • No, I think you are handling it the way that feels natural to you. It’s hard to know when asking personal questions shows concern, and when it is intrusive. In this case, my friend had talked to me often about her sister, and that’s why I felt guilty not asking for an update. I take comfort in the thought that if she really wanted to talk about it, she would have brought it up. But I wanted to make sure she knew that I cared, and that’s where I wasn’t sure I succeeded.

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      • Yes, it is a fine balance,and as you suggest perhaps based on the level of friendship, or previous information discussed.
        As individuals we do like it when people ask about us,or remember snippets we mentioned in passing, so it is certainly something I could make more effort with. But like you, my memory for such things is terrible!

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      • Also, I was thinking about a friend of mine who is a good twenty or more years older than me. She is brilliant at remembering to ask about things I can’t even remember mentioning to her.
        Once we were talking about the pros and cons of me having a second child, as she was an only child herself, and I remember her saying that she always felt from a young age that she made a conscious effort to maintain close ties with her friends as she didn’t have a sibling.

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        • That might explain why she is better at remembering the details of her friend’s lives than we are. For me, I do think it is often a matter of trying to keep track of too many things, and the fact that I don’t seem to be good at that. I remember the basics of everything, but not always the details. And definitely not always when I want to remember things!

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  24. A very thought provoking post, Ann! I think remembering to ask what’s happening in people’s lives falls in the communications approach category, not the empathy category. I know that some people are really good at asking questions, some are better at listening. I find that when I’m actively listening to someone (which I consistently work on), I may not necessarily be thinking ahead to what I want to ask them. I am sure that you’re sincerely concerned about your friend’s sister but you may not have thought about this question beforehand. When you ask questions, you lead the conversation, which can be good, but not always. People really appreciate good listeners too.
    I agree it’s good to ask people about things in their lives, which allows you to lead the conversation a certain direction. Now that you’ve thought and written about it, I would guess the question has been queued in your mind and you’ll inquire next time you see her. I really enjoyed your thoughts on this subject.

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    • Thank you, Des! I do think that I’m better at listening than I am at asking the right questions, and you are right, sometimes that is just as important. Probably the issue with me is learning to accept the way I am and to stop trying to be the kind of person I may want to be, but never actually will be. My mind works the way it works, and there’s not a lot I can do about that. Thanks for your affirming comment!

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  25. I think wanting to spend time with friends (or family) and being present in the moment for them when we are hanging out with them is what matters. It’s less about remembering or attempting to remember everything, and more about asking, “What’s going on in your life?” After which we allow them to tell us while we listen. Your post has been such a great reminder to me to not be thinking of other things I need to do while I’m spending time with those I love.

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    • That’s a very good point, and one that others have made as well. I think that the general “How are you?” questions is often the best one, because it allows others to share what they want to, and also gives them the opening to do so. Plus, it’s one I can remember and actually ask! Thanks so much for your comment, it really helps!

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  26. At least you still show up, that speaks volumes, as does your awareness of it in the first place. ❤ xx Maybe just start accepting that you forget things, then shower yourself the same interest and compassion you're wanting to give elsewhere. From living with M.E./CFS, having a memory and body that does what it wants OFTEN, I have the greatest of intentions and yet I've had to accept that for now, this is how I show up. With love to you today Ann, you are wonderful no matter what! ❤ xx

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  27. I feel exactly the same way, but for different reasons. I need to improve my listening skills, and stop talking so much. I can go on and on about everything in my life. I’m worried about my upcoming observation at work, my kids ups and downs, my upcoming trips or vacations. I know my brother is going on a cruise soon, but I forget where and when. It isn’t that I don’t care, it just stays in my mind only fleetingly and I go back to my stuff. I have a friend who has recently lost people in her family. I have to consciously remember to ask her how she’s doing. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Yet when I focus on listening, I listen and empathize from my heart. Hence, the number of people who stay friends with me. I’m afraid this is going to get worse as time goes on…..

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    • I think the advice that I have gotten from others applies to you as well, Barb: just accept that this is how you are. You may not remember details or remember to ask about what is going on in your friend’s lives, but you are a caring person and anyone who knows you picks up on that very quickly! And being such a good listener is a gift that is very rare in today’s world and also very valuable. No wonder people want to stay friends with you!

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  28. The fact that you beat yourself afterwards – which you really shouldn’t btw 😉 – shows your kind heart, Ann. I doubt that everyone does that after catching up. And I think you’re very right about it being partly due to all the information overload we have to deal with nowadays. We’ve talked about trying to live at least one day of the week without smartphone/internet etc. – I still do this and it feels like refilling those batteries everytime. 😊

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    • I haven’t gotten that disciplined with it yet, but I do take breaks from time to time. And you know what? It does wonders for my memory! Sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel, just trying to keep track of all the information I have and that I know is important enough to warrant my attention. Some have suggested lists, which I think is a good idea, but I also think just getting off the grid now and then does wonders because it reduces what is in my “in-box.” Thanks for the comment and support!

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  29. I loved this post. This is me, too:
    All too often, that’s exactly the kind of friend I am: the one who doesn’t remember to ask the important questions. The one who doesn’t always manage to keep track of what is going on in her friends’ lives, which means I’m also the one who sometimes doesn’t give the kind of support that her friends need and that I really, really want to give them.
    It is SO comforting to know I’m not the only person like this. In fact, this post makes me think that we’re all doing this as our brains fill up with people and as those relationships lengthen and history accumulates. It’s impossible to remember it all. I’ve taken to sending random texts or facebook messages when I remember someone or a situation I forgot to address. My thought is it’s better late than never.
    Thanks for this post. I’m certain you are the best kind of friend. The kind with the enormous heart (even if the brain is springing leaks). *smile*

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    • Thanks! It does help to know it’s not just us, doesn’t it? And I loved your suggestion of reaching out exactly when we are thinking of our friends and whatever issue they are dealing with, via text or phone call, rather than waiting until we are actually with them and trusting ourselves to remember. I have friends who are so good at remembering what is going on in my life and who ask just the right questions at just the right times, and I appreciate it so much. I guess that’s why I want to be like that too. But I’m not, and I think all I can do is to learn to compensate for the way my brain handles information.
      Finally, I know that you have a huge heart, not only for people but for dogs as well! Thanks for all your good work with animal rescue!

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  30. Oh I tend to come home from a night out with friends or after a phone call relay in my brain what we said and did I answer that right did that make since was I clear enough hahahaha over thinking everything when in the end I do not think my friend is giving it a second thought. If your friend didn’t mention her sister maybe she didnt want to talk about it . I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it . .. I know but we do. No worries.

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    • It is so hard not to over-analyze our interactions with other people, isn’t it? And you’re right, if I had asked her, then I would probably worry that maybe I shouldn’t have brought up such a sad subject. I think the trick to simply ask our friends “How are you?” and really listen to their answers. Then they can bring up exactly what they do want to talk about. Thanks for your comment and support!

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  31. Oh my! This is me, too. I remember while they are not available (it is midnight and I, myself, am on my way to bed), I remember when I have not way of contacting them. I always feel bad. But then I will go out with one of my wonderful friends and they will do the same thing. It is just how we all are. Too much to do and too much to remember. We all know it doesn’t mean we don’t care, it means, there is just a lot going on!

    Thanks for putting into words what I feel!

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