I’m always surprised (not to mention really humbled and flattered) when people ask me for help with their problems or say they got good advice from my blog rants. I guess I feel that way because most of the time I’m grappling with so many of my own issues, I can’t possibly see how I could have any helpful suggestions or advice for anyone else. But recently I realized that in some ways, that’s the point. Because of my personal experience, because I am working through my own marriage, work and family issues or ranting about what’s going on in our nation and our world, my efforts to try to understand and make sense of it all for myself, is what helps me empathize or give advice to someone else.
We all want help with the issues challenging us, no matter where we are on our life journey. Everyone - regardless of age, race, gender, economic status or political persuasion – seeks answers to the things that confront and occasionally confound us in our lives.
I started thinking about some of the things people have asked me about over the years – some seeking answers, some venting, others needing a shoulder to cry on. The questions ran the gambit from marriage, divorce, family and work life issues to concerns about child rearing, schools and developmental milestones. I’ve had men and women (who in some cases I barely knew) confide in me and ask about fertility concerns, substance abuse, grief issues, domestic violence and even whether or not they should consider aborting a pregnancy that was the result of a one night stand. (I’ve come to think I must be the kind of person, like bartenders and hairdressers, who people feel comfortable confiding in, either that or I'm just way too into hearing everyone else's business!) More recently, the concerns of the sandwich generation seem to echo in my ears, just as I’m feeling like the cheddar in a grilled cheese sandwich myself. I even had someone ask me a financial question, which if you saw my last Amex statement you’d know why that is ludicrous – that question I farmed out to a good financial planner. Oh, and the fashion questions…really, fashion??? I can hear my friend Allison laughing now…given that I missed that day of instruction at girl boot camp and that my idea of dressing up is changing into a clean pair of sweat pants and a headband which isn’t stained with perspiration, fashion questions are ones I’ve never tried to field.
I think having these conversations with others is something I have been able to do, benefited from doing, and hopefully was able to be helpful doing is because in most cases I have (or someone close to me has) gone through these issues before. I’ve done my own research and fact finding, and asked myself the same hard questions I needed to in order to empower myself to help myself. Some of the issues I've been successful at addressing, others are challenges I continue to try to work through. But from my experiences, I have been able to pass whatever I had learned to someone else dealing with one of life’s many questions, both important and trivial. BTW, one of the reasons I love talking to really old people is because I think, for the most part, they have a fabulous perspective on life, having spent so many years living it. They generally seem nonplussed by things that make the rest of us rush for the Zoloft.
I really think all these tv, radio, newspaper, internet advice givers are, in a more formal way, really just the 21st century version of neighbors talking over the back yard fence, sharing ideas and common sense. We’re making suggestions, giving tips, and providing advice that will help point us towards the tools, resources and courage we need to help ourselves.