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17 July 2009 @ 02:05 pm
In the Office  
All right: I'm breaking one of my former taboos and posting from work. But, honestly, it's Friday afternoon in mid-July, which means that there's nobody here - when I look around, all I see is actually empty workplaces - and there's nothing to do. Or rather, there are things I could do, but nothing that needs to be done right now. In my first weeks here, I used to dread my phone ringing, now it really makes me happy since it means something unexpected is happening, and sometimes I get tricky questions so I have to do some research before phoning back. It's more stimulating than writing the standard letters I've been busying myself with ever since that day when I was left alone because everybody else was at some conference, and I first realised that there was something I could actually do.

To my defence, I'll also mention that it doesn't seem that anybody else here is getting that much done today. Two of my colleagues went to the midnight premiere of The Halfblood Prince and are a bit distant. Myself, I had an impromptu call from my friend Martina last night and skipped Thai boxing practice in order to sit on the balcony and drink beer with her until long past my regular bedtime. She has an interesting problem that I don't think she's aware of: her dreams very often come true, and they're never what she expected them to be. Actually, when I think about it, several of my friends have lives that work more or less like that, and I've had it happen to me, too. Is there a way to point out that there's a lesson to learn without sounding patronizing?
Frescafrescadp on July 18th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
"Is there a way to point out that there's a lesson to learn without sounding patronizing?"


Or, well... maybe there is, but I haven't found it!

That's a tough one. After years of trial and error, I've arrived at this philosophy, which I don't always practice:

"Never give advice unless it's asked for--or unless the person hasn't noticed they are about to drive off a cliff. I mean literally, in a car, not metaphorically."

I admit I base this as much as anything on my own reaction to unsolicited advice, which I've always felt came from the giver's desire to control [me/the messiness of life/their sense of powerlessness] more than anything.

And often when I want to give advice, if I examine it, I find it really is about me not wanting to deal with the messiness or pain of watching someone make mistakes...
That is hard.
But I don't think I can really save them from those mistakes anymore, especially if they aren't asking for help.

I think of Thich Nhat Hanh and others who say the best advice is to be a happy, loving, trustworthy, *patient* person yourself.
What a challenge that is for me! Maybe especially the patient part.
And also to practice a kind of compassionate detachment (which is NOT the same as not caring).

On the other hand, we can talk about ourselves--is the friend doing things that are a problem for us? We have the right and responsibility to attend to that, of course.

Also, I welcome honest questions from friends that are NOT about a desire to change but truly just a "how does this work for you?" type question.
You know, questions that are not covertly offering advice or pointing out lessons--like, "Gee, have you ever thought about how watermelon has less calories than ice-cream?" (a thin friend actually "asked" plump me that once when I was eating ice-cream)-- but rather an openhearted shared "how do we get through this life?" query.

After years of trying to help or fix up people myself, I have started to find what works better for me is to find and maintain the proper distance/closeness in each relationship.
That's quite a trick too...

Well, Mrs C., perhaps I've written more--and more seriously--than fits your situation, but this question has been on my mind lately...

On another note--I read "The Day of the Triffids" this week and laughed to note that one of the people who helps save humanity is a woman who had "worked in continuity." The author, John Wyndham, doesn't say what field she was in (film?), but he presents her as one of the keys to continuing civilization after the apocalypse. She becomes the record keeper for a group of survivors.
I wondered if the author saw himself in that role.