I turned the big 4 0 two years ago. Yep. I’m getting up there, I tell ya. At the time of my 40th I had this great idea of writing a blog post covering 40 random things I’d learnt about life. I was going to make it a little bit quirky, a little bit serious and a little bit….whatever……..I’d figured that by the time you’re forty there are a few things you know. Most of them learnt the hard way, of course. But learnt none the less.
I got as far as planning out a few of my forty points……..
- Always wear socks on a long haul flight. No-one wants to wear shoes on an overnight flight, but bare feet………in a bathroom on a plane…..after hour four…….that’s a big no no. Trust me. I learnt that one the hard way.
- Baby wipes aren’t just for babies. Stash some in your glovebox, in your bathroom for wiping down the basin when you have unexpected visitors arrive on your doorstep and you just know that boys 2 and 3 tend to treat toothpaste as finger paint from time to time…….and just basically don’t leave home without them.
- Do the ‘change the time on the clock trick’ while your kids are too young to notice and but old enough to know what the clock should look like when it’s bedtime. Fast forward your day by an hour. Trust me. That’s a sneaky hour that’s well worth it on the days you need to do it.
- Gee. Such a shame. The ice-cream van is playing music to let us all know he’s out of ice-cream. Soz everyone.
So I worked away on some of these points. Did the start of a draft blog…then life kinda just got in the way. And those old thoughts of ‘who am I to give any half-decent advice?’. ‘Why should what I think and say matter to anyone else’, made me stop in my tracks.
So I let the draft lie there…..and well…….as it tends to do……life carried on.
But just recently I’ve been thinking about this again. And I’m glad I didn’t persevere with my original blog post. Not because those types of blog posts aren’t interesting – they are. I’ve read some really clever, fun and informative ones along the same lines. I’m also always keen to learn from others.
But the main reason I’m glad I didn’t continue with that post is – I’ve recently had it hammered into me that it can be a dangerous and possibly at times, arrogant thing, to think we know what’s best for others.
People who are helpers by nature – Hello Enneagram 2 – y’all reading? – I’m especially talking to you because, I KNOW………we CAN’T HELP OURSELVES……WE LIVE TO HELP!! We hear of problems/ issues and we yearn to be able to help. Not just ‘put a band-aid on it’ help, but also fix the root problem help……we want to find solutions, and we want to find causes.
And sometimes we’re absolutely right. Spot on. Nailed it.
Sometimes it just makes complete sense that this problem or issue is happening because of x, y ,z.
Even more than that. More useful, more compassionate, more practical than me talking about whatever it is that I think you may need to hear…….(ummmm, hello, arrogant, much?)
More than that……
Better than that……..
I realized just recently that the most helpful thing I could ever say to anyone, in any situation is – ‘help me to understand’.
Help me to see things as the way you see them.
In the middle of any situation that is good or bad or sad or makes you mad, or worry or scared or doubt yourself, or frustrates you or anything……..in the midst of the swirl of anything that is going on, I have this crazy thought that most people just want to know two very important things;
1. That they can be understood. That their feelings are not too unbearable for anyone to sit with, to hear, to hold. That they are not unique in their reactions.
2. And they are not alone. Whatever they are facing….they are not facing it by themselves, because challenges in life tend to isolate us. Whatever advice I may or may not have for someone is useless unless they know that I’m there for them. That I care. That I will enter into their hard and desperate space, so that they know how much I care, before they know how much (or as little!!) that I know.
I promise to not ever presume to know how you’re feeling. Or to know the challenges you face. Or to bombard your inbox with 40 things that might make you smile a little, or learn a little new thing or give you the answer to a very random question in some random pub quiz, way off in the distant future, but I’m determined to do something more useful for you. To ask you – ‘what’s going on with you?’ ‘Help me to understand.’
When we can sit down with others, and open our hearts and ears to whatever is on their minds – that’s a priceless gift. Way more valuable that forty random things that I think may or may not be of any use to you.