When I was a child it used to mortify me every time my mother and I would visit friends of hers and she would immediately set about cleaning their kitchens and straightening their living rooms.
No sooner than we'd knocked on the front door she'd quickly start pulling weeds out of the planters around their porch and henpecking me to pull their trash bins up from the street.
Once inside, instead of just sitting down and enjoying their company—or taking the temperature to see if they actually welcomed the help, she just assumed that's what they wanted.
She would dole out copious, well-intentioned advice on how to keep their plants alive and train their dogs to stop begging.
Because what busy mom wouldn't want someone to come help around the house?
My mom shows she cares about people by doing.
And I'm very much the same way. Which drives me insane.
It embarrassed me because while she was in a tornado of clearing mugs from coffee tables, I was quietly reading the subtle expressions on her friends' faces. Sometimes confusion, sometimes contempt—many times embarrassment, and very rarely gratefulness... even though they expressed sheepish, polite thanks.
My takeaway—apart from paying attention to people's needs, is that we can't love people the way we want to be loved. We have to figure out the way other people want to be loved and... you know, do that.
This is hard.
Figuring out how someone wants to be cared for (and how they communicate) is a challenge in every relationship.
At the end of the day, people want to spend time with and nurture relationships with people who make their lives better, who challenge them to be better and hold them accountable... but who are also actually enjoyable to be around and who are receptive to what they actually need.
Stop talking, stop doing, and pay attention.
Sometimes friends don't want advice when they come bearing life problems—they want to be heard.
And they want wine.
Always bring wine.