Every now and then, when I’m desperate to hear the voice of someone who knows me and loves me enough to give me the shit I so desperately need, I call my brother Danny. And he swears at me.
He provided this service earlier this week. I was navel-gazing and perseverating in THE worst possible way, fretting over various Conversations with various People who said various Things expressing various forms of Dissatisfaction and passing various forms of Judgment on me that, okay, I shouldn’t have internalized, because I knew deep down that these same Things were fundamentally and unequivocally Wrong. But I’m fundamentally and unequivocally human, so I internalized every last Thing and filed it away for safekeeping. The other day, I retrieved those Things. I replayed them in my tired little brain, then shrugged into a hairshirt and started beating myself with a stick, preparing for A) A life of misery and loneliness; B) Byzantine sainthood; or C) Both, and doesn’t that sound like fun!
I was in the throes of such self-flagellation when it hit me: I’d better call Danny so he can tell me to shut the eff up. And I did. I called him. He answered, bless his soul. I gave him the low-down on the Things I had internalized, on my overwrought psyche and on my subsequent plan to remove myself to a cave in the desert of Osrhoene for a life of ascetic reflection and self-denial. It’ll be great! I’ll take a vow of silence and live on beetles!, I told him, or something along those lines. And Danny, interrupting me, said:
“NOW WAY! EFF YOU, AMES! NO! NO! NO! NO WAY! NO!”
Then he said it again.
“NO! NO! EFF YOU, AMY! NO WAY! NO WAY! NO! NO! NO! NO!”
“NO WAY! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! EFF YOU! NO!”
At this point, I was laughing so hard I could barely hear him, but he kept going.
“NO! NO! NO! NO WAY! NO! EFF YOU, AMY! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! EFF YOU! EFF YOU! NO! NO WAY!”
And so on. He kept yelling at me. I kept laughing. By the end of this loving tirade I was shedding tears of joy and relief, because my brother had said exactly what I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. He then went on to say more things I needed to hear, compassionate things, insightful things, uplifting and affirming things, things so different from the Things I’d heard before and have had such a hard time forgetting. I thanked him for that, and for making me laugh.
What struck me, both in the midst of this conversation and in the days afterward, was just how necessary it is — for all of us, in this beautiful mess of a world — to have people in our lives who’ll yell at us when we most need it. We need people to shake us from our funks and give us shit. We need voices noisy enough to shout us down with love. I have those voices in my life, the voices of relatives and friends who’ll say what has to be said and say it with frankness and force. I know where to turn for what I need. The other day, I needed EFF YOUs and NO NO NO NO NOs, so I turned to Danny. He gave me the love I needed, and it was loud as hell. Thank you, brother.