I often get calls or texts or emails from people I know (well and less well) asking for advice in times of their confusion or distress. For the most part I’m happy to be a sounding board and I try to assist when I can.
Very often these reach outs are about a family member who is ill or has died; sometimes it’s about divorce; sometimes it’s about a partner, child, or grandchild that has a significant problem. And, at times, it’s about something that shakes them at the core.
I received an email from an old acquaintance whose daughter has cancer. She was concerned about managing her own emotional response as she supported her daughter and grandchildren through this challenge.
She wanted to talk with me about how she could be positively responsive to her daughter and son-in-law’s decisions about care when they were different from those she advocated. She had initially been asked for her opinion which she gave them; however, her advice was not taken. She realized that she needed to get beyond her hurt and “sign up for their program.” But it was hard to accept that her advice was not heeded. She questioned: “If they didn’t want my advice, why did they ask me?” They DID want her advice; they just chose not to take it. She felt rejected and confused. She wondered: “What is my role, responsibility, and how can I best serve my daughter during this time?”
Hers is not an uncommon experience. Family and friends are called upon to be there for others with patience, support, time, energy, and periodically, with their advice. When we offer advice, we do just that. We offer and then, as with a gift placed in someone’s hand, it is now the recipients choice to do what they want with it. They can use it or they can put it aside.
It can be helpful to discern whether the person seeking advice is truly interested in our perspective as a source of information to help them solve their problem or whether that person is just interested in having a caring person listen to their problem…without offering advice.
When we give someone the space they need to make their own choices we support them as best we can (even if we do not agree with them) and in doing so, we build a bridge between ourselves and the other person. That may be the essential connector that allows us to access the compassion we need to assist them through a daunting time. Bridge building is always advisable, but it is particularly important when we do not agree with the person’s decisions.
A few months ago, in a previous Sanity Savers and More newsletter, I wrote about unconditional love. Unconditional support is similar to unconditional love. When someone we care for is going through a tough time, they feel especially vulnerable. When they’re in that frame of mind, they require our support, which when we examine its components, is equal parts of love, compassion, and kindness. Our role is to help them as they heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We are more likely to be able to be present for them in that way if we attempt to understand and respect their feelings and choices while at the same time, letting go of our need to be “right.”
Even if you are sitting at your desk, gently move your arms, shrug your shoulders, gently rotate your head from side to side and feel your body’s response.
When you stand on a line, walk in place, sway from your toes to your heels, pick up your foot a bit off of the floor and make a circle with your ankle in each direction.
When you walk from point A to point B and there is a choice of whether to walk on the street or in a park, choose the park. Be in nature as much as possible. It is easier to stop and stretch in the park than on a city street. And just being in nature helps us to calm ourselves.
Consciously keep your cell phone out of reach for specific periods of time. Doing so gives your neck and upper back a rest which can reduce shoulder pain, spasms and tightness.
The hydrangea with the brown leaves.
The plant with the brown leaves concerns me. It seems to be making a great effort to push new growth. And although there are some flowers beginning to bloom, there are way too many brown and yellow stem leaves for my comfort. I base my reaction on comparison. Having planted two identical hydrangeas at the same time in pots right next to each other I expected similar development. It appeared that the environments were identical…pots, soil, sunlight and hydration. But one was flourishing, and one was struggling. Sounds like a case study in family therapy but I will let that be the topic for another day.
When I examine the brown and yellow leaves, I realize that perhaps THIS PLANT might do better with a different type of care. Duh! Rotate the pot, aerate the dirt, add some plant food, check out the nearby insect and bunny access.
But, in the meantime I decided to give it a haircut. That way, while it is soaking up the proper nourishment it will, at least, appear healthier. While snipping away, I thought of my mother whose motto was, “If you look good, you’re bound to feel better.” She explained that sometimes when people are not feeling well it helps to try to spruce themselves up a little – wear a colorful shirt or put their hair in a fancy barrette. Once I visited my mom who was sick in her bed. There she was, wearing her favorite shade of coral lipstick with her hair pulled back by a gem- studded headband (coordinated with her nightgown).
So, as the hopefully soon to be lovely hydrangea attempts to revive itself (with a little help from a friend), it will look healthier and maybe that will influence the trajectory of its healing.