Saturday, October 10, 2015

OK, Joe, I Think I Get It ... Sorry

I just realized that sometimes, when I don't realize it, I can be easily perceived to be a nag, or a jerk or extremely critical. And ... I'm, in those situations, none of those things. (Although I accept that Joe may disagree.) Only a few seconds ago, Joe was getting ready to take a bag down to the car. I suggested he go down and get a cart. I saw his face set with exasperation and he headed downstairs.

Now Joe has handled the luggage and the packing of the car for a very long time, He's kind of an expert on the subject.

Another example, Joe was driving me home from work and I saw a spot where he could swing over and speed up and get around a slow vehicle in front of us. Joe's face set, again with exasperation, and he simply shook his head and said he'd get around the vehicle when he found a space where he thought it was safe.

Now, he's been driving since I became disabled. He gets me where I want to go safely. I know that. He's a good driver.

There are many more examples of this. Where I pipe in to his work and give my opinions and suggestions for how he can do what he does well, better.

It was only this morning, when I saw his face, that I kind of got the inkling that my helpful hint may not be really all that helpful and that it might be even worse than nagging, it might be some kind of subtle suggestion that I know better how he should do what he does well, or that, in a terribly and only slightly subtle way calling him a name. There are all sorts of ways of name calling that doesn't involve name calling.

In my head, I'm helping. I find it frustrating that the things I used to physically help Joe with, or help Joe do, I can't any more. It troubles me that he has to do this all on his own. He's getting older too and it isn't as easy for him to do what he has always done. He's open about that.

So, now Mr Helpful, being me, is leaping in with suggestions and ideas and helpful hints - which to me is saying 'I really want to be part of this, I really want to help,' but Joe's experience of that message may not be the same. I think he hears something else.

I've only just realized this.

I'm writing this as an apology to Joe - whom I love and would never want to hurt in any way.

I think my disability-thinking has made everything about me and my needs, I need to think of your and yours and maybe, just maybe, shut up. That may be the best way of helping you do what you do well.

So, I apologize, take the bags down any way you want.

You always get them there, packed in perfectly.

My need doesn't trump your ability.

I get it.

It's not about me. Shut up.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this.
My partner is disabled and this happens to us a lot.
She asked me for help making cookies today and started telling me for each cookie I put on the tray whether it was too big or too small.
I get that she asked me to be her hands to mix and shape the cookies. I said yes so maybe I should have my hands do the work and her brain and eyes do the quality control.
I didn't feel ok about the feedback so I got the scales out to measure each cookie like they do on the expert baking shows.
My partner stopped giving me feedback on each cookie and said that as I'm the baker in the family I should get on with it.
I didn't feel ok about that either.
Sometimes it feels like disability has stolen away the possibility of me being myself.
Othertimes it feels like disability has brought us so close together and taught us so much about togetherness.

Marna Nightingale said...

Oh, gosh, yes, I am this disabled person sometimes.

I want to be involved. I want to be heard. I want to be useful, and have control over my life and my circumstances.

... I don't want to be controlling or critical or undermining the people around me. I don't want to abuse the power I do have, that it is so easy to forget I have when I'm in pain, or exhausted, or feeling helpless because of a thing I couldn't do.

Sometimes we screw up. Then we need to use the power we have to make amends, and, now that we know better, do better.

It's not my place to comment on whether or not you've made a good apology, because it wasn't for me.

You wrote a good thing, though.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Self-awareness is a terrible thing.

Necessary, but terrible.

And Joe could have said SOMETHING, you know - so don't take the entire blame.

You're both trying to contribute AND keep the peace. Often those are contradictory aims.

But if neither person is self-aware, these things can fester.

I don't know Joe, except through your, possibly slightly biased, eyes. But YOU shine through your words, and you are definitely self-aware.

Gift AND curse. As I said, terrible.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to marriage!! Give and take. Hold the tongue or speak your piece. Sometimes when "we" need to be so organized just to do simple tasks, I think we might assume that we do almost everything the right way. Yet, it is only right for us. I am so guilty of what you speak, so guilty. Thanks for the reminder.

wheeliecrone said...

Well done, Dave! Some people never get it.