Asking for help is a strength we all need
I get an email every Sunday morning from TED Talks. These can be absolute time sucks if I let them but I love them so much I can't quite give up the addiction. They highlight one talk from the week and then add a whole bunch of eye candy talks below it. I have no idea how they pick them but my guess is most of the time they are spying on me and pick the one that is going to wreck me for a day.
Las week they sent me a delightful talk that made me late for brunch with a friend. The talk is from Michele Sullivan, who is disabled in her physical body but worlds more able bodied than me when it comes to sheer intelligence and wit.
Her talk strikes a chord in so many ways. As she says "none of us are what you see..."
It reminds me to listen to others rather than jumping to a conclusion based on my own struggles. Asking someone for help doesn't mean they understand where I am at, it just means I am sharing the struggle with them, and just maybe adding tot heir understanding of a world they may never live in.
For me, this listening has taken a few new viewpoints this month:
I hear someone talking about their new marriage and thought"well, just wait until it gets hard. Then you will change your tune."
Rather than, tell me about how wonderful it is, I think I remember that time in my life and I would love to hear how you are experiencing it. I can tell you about my experiences if it helps you to stay your course.
Having trouble with your teenager? "You have no idea how hard it can really be."
Instead: tell me about the struggle. It is hard, I've been there and I know how you feel but maybe in a different way.
Health insurance deregulation? "you're an idiot and your viewpoint will kill people"
Instead: please tell me why you feel that way. I'm struggling to make sense of this without a lot of emotion. What do you see as a positive in this? Can I tell you why this is so personal to me?
Anxiety? "Just take a breath for Gods sake and let it go." (After 20 years of living with a daughter diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you would think this doesn't cross my mind. Sadly it does sometimes.)
Instead: I can see you are struggling. I don't know how that feels but I can offer my support and none of my judgments. I'm right here if you need me.
It reminds me that I don't really know what feeds into a persons beliefs or behavior. I have no idea what it's like to move through the airport in a wheelchair. And here is the thing. I never will. I can't walk in their shoes because I am not them.
"The only shoes you can walk in are your own," she says. "With compassion, courage and understanding, we can walk together, side by side."
If you have a moment, watch the video.
Actually, I give you permission to be late to wherever you are going. Its worth it.