Unsolicited advice feels like criticism.
Man, that one hits. In my personal life, I have most assuredly been guilty of this. I have given it and received it and it sucks on both accounts. My hope is that my writing does not come across as criticism of you, dear reader.
If it has, I offer you my sincerest apology. My intention is not to tell you how to make choices in your own life but rather to share my own conundrum and chosen path through it. In the event you run into a similar problem, my mission is to provide useful tools to find a way out. Not the only way, or the best way, just a way. I am a wayfinder, simple as that.
When I ask the questions at the end (the writing prompt), that is meant as an opportunity to discover an insight of your own. There is one expert on your one wild and precious life and that is you. Asking yourself questions, not taking a poll of other people, is the only way to your truth.
If you are a regular reader, you might be wondering why this “Friday Story” is rolling in on Saturday afternoon. Well. At 8:46 on Friday morning, I received a phone call that changed the whole story. I must have had a sense it wasn’t over. This piece usually goes out first thing. For some reason, I couldn’t wrap it up. Then the caller quite literally told me it was not over.
I admit to feeling some level of relief that I didn’t have to share that story yet. Why? Because the decisions I made are definitely not the norm. In my social circle, my past choices around this are unlike anyone I know with the exception of maybe one or two others. I was concerned about being judged.
When this has happened in past stories, I sometimes receive feedback about how I should have done better and how I could make different choices in the future. To these folks, I have taken the time to explain my thinking and provided further facts. I have defended myself. While I totally appreciate readers sharing their thoughts, my aim is to serve as a jumping off point for your own insights, not to invite you to convince me to live my life differently or to regret the past. If it had been the right thing for me to do at the time, that’s exactly what I would have done. As Byron Katie says, defense is the first act of war. I don’t wish to be at war with anyone, not even with myself.
The lawyer in me does love to be right, however, so I have engaged in a back and forth with readers whenever the opportunity has presented. Here is what I ask myself and you: what would be possible if you didn’t have to be right? What if you could openly listen to someone else’s perspective and just let it be their perspective? It doesn’t mean you have to take it on, nor does it mean they have to accept your version. It just means you are able to hold space for someone else to be who they are.
That may be all we ever really want in this life. For someone to be silent long enough to hear us out, resisting the urge to offer suggestions. To actually listen and understand what we are experiencing. To get it right. To ask questions to make sure we are understood. To be curious. To be the compassionate witness for what is happening inside us. And, when we are totally done sharing what we have to share—you will know because you’ll have asked if there is anything else—to assure us we are okay and loved just as we are. We resist the urge to say this is just like someone else I know and this is what they did. We didn’t ask for that. When we want advice, we ask. Unsolicited advice feels like criticism.
So that is my message today, dear reader. You do not have to defend yourself. If people disagree with you, that is their right. You do not have to fight with them. (If you are a lawyer you kind of do, but not in your personal life, Mark Heise, and all you attorneys out there. Love you!)
The Friday Story I allude to will likely come out in the next week or two. When it does, you’ll know it. It’s a hard story to tell and it’s been difficult to live. I’m still living it. When it is over and all my lessons are learned, I will happily share them with you.
Until then, I wish you peace in making the hard decisions in your life and good people to support you through them. I am lucky to have those people.
Know that ultimately, enlightenment feels exactly like freedom.
When you make choices that are right for you in the moment and you do better when you know better, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.
WRITING PROMPT: Do you hesitate to share your decisions for fear of being judged? Who are the safe people in your life to share what is true for you?
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