The Subtle Art of Sitting on Your Friend’s Sofa and Watching Them Work

Afternoon Tea, by Richard Edward Miller

Ah, mid-January, the days are still short (as are tempers) with no Christmas sugar cookies to help you out. If you are American, taxes are coming and if you are from the UK, you have all the Harry book fall-out to deal with. Perhaps you made a few resolutions which are now coming home to roost. And then there is that clutter you meant to tackle. Dark days indeed.

Normally I would recommend music, a fun drink, perhaps a bouquet or a new perfume but it’s January so you are going to need industrial-strength support and of course, Darling, I have the answer for you: import a friend to sit on your sofa (or bed, kitchen floor or favorite chair).

The vital art of sitting around and watching a friend work needs more respect and implementation. There are no bounds as to what a person might accomplish (applying for jobs, up-dating resumes, looking for love on-line, dead-heading geraniums, packing, clearing out closest, painting doorframes, perfecting headstands, etc. ) while a friend is ignoring you, engrossed in perusing a magazine and drinking a Diet Coke.

It’s “parallel play” for adults.

Occasionally you need someone who is all in – sitting next to you, coaching, commenting, encouraging, but more often, you need someone who is not paying attention as you deal with whatever you have put off dealing with. From signing divorce papers to rearranging your plants to applying to grad schools to organizing your spices, having someone who inactively cares can be a God-send.

Roommates, spouses, children, even pets, can’t create the same kind of needed nurturing-nonchalance. How helpful it is to have a friend lounging on the sofa reading trashy fiction or sprawled on the floor watching cat videos as you wrestle with your conscience, that e-mail to HR, your shoes or whether to throw away this precious object that you have not touched or looked at in five years.

Their benign presence, their total lack of interest, their refusal to give an opinion can free you to get past those sticky mental roadblocks that pop up in adult life.

And, of course you must do the same when asked. Slouch over to a friend’s house with an Irn-Bru or bubble tea and something to keep you occupied for a few hours. Say “hi,” settle in somewhere comfortably, commence ignoring your friend and… magic will happen.

Sometimes the best way to help someone is to do nothing more than just breathe in their vicinity.

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