Friday, October 27, 2006

Things I have learnt this week

Advice is a funny old thing. Erica Jong said in one of her books, that you seek it when you already know the answer and wish you didn't.

My experience of advice is mostly getting it when I haven't asked for it, which is enough to piss anyone off. It's usually to the effect of, "You know what you should do ..." or, "If I were you, I'd ...", or, "Please don't take this in the wrong way, but ..." - traditionally handed out by the likes of my grandmother or mother.

I'm fairly good at listening to it, when I've asked for it - knowing that what someone is going to tell me is not always what I might want to hear. "Yes, well, if you want to get a body like Linda Hamilton circa Terminator II, it will actually require you to get off your backside and make it to the gym, and stop eating so much crap." etc.

The problem I have is that I like to fix things, and if I cannot, I find myself feeling helpless and guilty. The truth is that when it comes to people, sometimes you can't fix stuff, and more often that not even if you could, it's not for you to fix.

I got myself into hot water with a friend this week, telling him that he was smart, attractive, strong, had a great career (all of which are true), and that he was not defined by his (now ex) boyfriend who had left him. I thought this might provide inspiration for helping him to deal with it, and eventually move on. But instead he got angry at me for not appreciating the extent of his hurt, and shot back with "I want to see how strong, smart, and attractive (no mention of career - because, well, I don't really have one) you would feel if Robert just upped and left you without a proper explanation."

He had a point.

I've learnt the hard way, that sometimes as a friend you don't need to try and fix something - but just listen. Sit there, buy a few rounds, and let the person say what needs to be said. To get it out of their system, to have someone to sit with them while they are in a bad way. To look them in the eye and say, "Yes, that really sucks, and I'm sorry you're hurting." More often than not people don't need solutions, they just need to feel heard - and the rest has a way of working itself out from there.

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