We like to think that we are a society of action. In our multi-tasking, crazy fast-paced world, we feel that we always must be doing SOMETHING. We are bombarded with the media to "Just Do It!" Writers, when facing that dreaded blank page (although usually these days it is a screen) are admonished to just write even if it's crap, and edit it later. Get the juices flowing to start. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Get busy living..
We are a society geared for action.
A body in motion stays in motion...
Blah, blah, blah.
Don't get me wrong. That is all fine and dandy, and sometimes, when we're stuck, we should just take what little steps we can to get ourselves moving forward. FlyLady is based on that idea that just a little bit at a time and we'll make more progress then we might realize.
It is easy to get stuck looking at the "big" picture and get overwhelmed and paralyzed. It is easy, then, to do nothing. Lord knows there is enough in my life that I have faced that it was easier to put off than to do.
But that isn't what this post is about. This isn't about the hyperactive do everything, and everything must be done mentality.
This is about those situations where the answer is to actually do nothing. Where what is best is to do nothing.
Those situations, sometimes, are the hardest to deal with. They can come in many forms. Such as bedrest for a difficult pregnancy. Staying off a limb or joint after an injury. Or healing emotionally after a trauma.
We want to get moving. We don't want to stay still. We want to believe we heal faster than we might. We want to push ourselves. We don't know how to stop. We see that light, or hope for that light, at the end of the tunnel, when we aren't being pulled back by our limitations.
Those situations are difficult.
But I pose, perhaps, they are not the hardest. At least not for me. For me the hardest situations are doing nothing when someone close to me needs help. Or, at a minimum, is hurting. Because really the whole point is that they may not need help. Or more accurately, they may not need my help.
And I see this issue over and over again when I watch adults figure out how to parent. Where to set boundaries. When to let their children make mistakes. We want so hard to protect the ones we love, and it is so hard to realize that we can't always protect them, and that sometimes, even harder to accept, our protection is not really helping protect them after all.
It is easy for me to see these things professionally - to figure out where to streamline. To figure out where taking more time NOW to get the process right is better over the long run for the business, and overall will be more efficient.
Figuring these things out personally is much harder. At least for me. How much do you help your kid with his homework? At what point are you no longer helping but hindering him?
At my age, many of my friends around me are re-evaluating their long-term relationships. Having journeyed down this trail, I have some perspective on what to expect and how hard it is and ways to make it easier and ways it will be harder. I have seen enough to have a fairly good sense of when something is worth saving or even savable, and when staying will merely be spinning one's wheels. I know intimately the vulnerability and the fear that comes with the territory.
Much like a parent can see the troubles a kid might encounter if they take certain actions, I can often see the results of particular choices. And I care deeply about my friends and want to protect them from harm. I want to set up a flare of warning - no, don't go down that path - wait, come this way. You can go that way, but be aware that this might happen and decide what you want to do if it does.
Sometimes that is helpful. Sometimes that might even be wanted. But we all like to think of ourselves as masters of our own destiny, and think we know ourselves and our own situations best. And I am no exception. I am just as stubborn when others try to warn me. I think I will be different. ;) So I can respect my friends might feel the same way about their own journeys.
The hardest thing to do as a friend is step aside and watch them take the journey on their own. To find that right balance of being there for them, to catch them if they fall, hug them when they need it, but let them learn their own lessons, take their own path. It is hard to give someone that space even when it is what they need most.
I've had to do this with many friends. With one friend recently, I have been better able to step outside and recognize that no matter how much I may want to help them avoid certain pitfalls, I cannot protect them from everything. I am able to be amused standing outside and looking in. Early on, I warned her that she might not want to do x. She did x. It didn't work out as she would have hoped. I tried to bite my tongue and not directly say "I told you so..." but instead, more gently say, "I was worried about that happening."
She would innocently ask me why I didn't warn her. I'd tell her I did. She'd say "Oh". I'd laugh. Sometimes out loud with her. Sometimes not. But after the first few times I realized that she would hear my advice when she was ready to hear it. On the surface she wanted the advice, she was ready. But inside, she wasn't ready to accept the changes that would be happening in her life. Who really ever is?
And I began to realize that it matters not whether I warn her. That she, just as I did before her, will do whatever it is that she needs to do. And she may get hurt. I can't fix that. I can't protect her. I can't prevent it. No matter how much I may want to. Because it isn't about me simply protecting her from others. It is, I have realized, about me protecting her from herself. And she has the inside track to herself - I can't get between her and herself.
This has been a tough journey for me, too. Realizing that what I think helps is not always what helps. And that I have to step back and let whatever will be will be. That truly loving someone is letting them be themselves, and learn and grow and discover and experience their life. We cannot protect the ones we love from everything. We can't protect them from much. All we can do is love them and support them no matter what they do.
And that sometimes, the best thing we can do for them and for ourselves is nothing.
Resistance is futile.