I saw a post on Facebook yesterday written by a woman who, that day, was getting a wheelchair and she was devastated. The comments were all caring, if ablist, about how hard she fought for, with an implied loss of, her independence. Now, I don't know this woman. I see her name every now and then as I read her posts. But the fact that we are friends on Facebook means that there is a disability connection somewhere. But 'friend' on Facebook, for me, is most often 'stranger' in the real world.
I felt that yesterday.
The comments were all from people who seemed to actually know her.
I wrote perhaps ten or twelve responses, and published none of them. I simply couldn't post them. I just couldn't. Even though I tried to be as kind and caring as I could be, even though I tried to give an optimistic point of view, I just felt that, at that moment, I'd be intruding.
I know, I know, she published it publicly.
I know, I know, the comment section is there for a reason.
But I also know that there are times when people need something different than what I have to give or than what I want to give. There are times when people need to feel what they are feeling without challenge and without implied confrontation. There are times when people don't need me and my agenda.
Yes, I know what it is to transition from walking to chair.
Yes, I know the difficulties that brings.
And yes, I know, that the difficulty it brings aren't the ones that are expected.
So, yes, I thought I had something to offer. But I read what she'd written, a singles sentence. I read the emotion behind it. I read what I thought she was asking for. And I decided she didn't need a dose of optimistic prattle about the positive life changes that can come into your life on wheels. It's all true, but it seemed, to me, at that point, to simply be insensitive.
But, I also felt a responsibility to let her know that if she let it, this could be the start of a whole new way of being independent.
And the battle raged in me.
Comments were written.
Comments were erased.
And in the end, I said nothing.
I simply let it go. That was hard to do. And it might have been wrong.
It's not always easy knowing how to best respond, and it's really not easy to respond by simply shutting up. She'll never know the battle I went through. But I hope, in this case, my silence was my way of letting her have the time and space to feel what she needed to feel.
It's complicated being human isn't it?
If I'm in that kind of situation I'd post / fb message something like 'I've experienced the transition from walking to wheelchair user. If you would find chatting to me helpful, please do let me know.' Then its up to them if they do, but the offer is there. What about doing that?
I think I'm with Jenni: maybe rather than trying to say the exactly right thing, just alert her that others have made this transition before her, and that you're willing to listen or to ask questions if that's what she needs. Then leave it up to them to decide whether to follow up with you or not.
Text - lying there on the page - is limited. No facial expression, no tone of voice, no action.
Sometimes it is simply not enough.
This woman will find you, will read your posts, be encouraged - when it is time. Perhaps now is not the time.
Text, over many posts, does better - the nuances start to come out, the repetitions are noted, the differences examined. Your words are still here. You don't know who you've reached. I hope she figures it out eventually. But I can also see this day as being about something very different.
It is complicated being human. I think you gave her the gift of hearing her, and whether she knows you were hearing or not, it is a gift. You are right, sometimes we just need to say something out loud. We already are working it through privately, but expressing our feelings is what it's about and we don't need people to jump on and make us feel better, although I liked the last person's suggestion. I think you made the right decision. In my experience, the gut is usually right--at least when I ignore it I always wish I hadn't.
What Jenni said. But I'd wait a little while before sending a private message. I think your perspective would be most welcome at the right time. Hope is an important thing. From where you're sitting - you can certainly extend a hopeful perspective.
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