Sunday, July 29, 2018

Is She Safe?

Yesterday, after the gym, we went grocery shopping. Maybe I should rethink that routine. However, I got out of the car and into my old chair. It's the one I use in the gym because it's already beat up. After using the new one for quite a while now, this one feels like a clunker, it's heavy, it doesn't glide, it challenges me to get it where I'm going. It's like it's annoyed that I dragged it out of retirement just for the silly purpose of getting toilet paper and wet wipes.

Anyways, I was pushing uphill towards the store and working hard to do it. The traffic stopped awaiting my passage over the pedestrian marked route. A woman saw me, saw the traffic and headed towards me. Joe, who often intervenes in these situations had stayed behind gathering our cloth bags to pack the groceries in. He arrived to see her headed towards me, saying, 'Would you like some help?' with a determined face. I said, "Thanks, but no." She stopped, to her credit, didn't press, a testament to her ability to listen, turned and left walking the stiff walk of the mightily offended.

We got into the store and a short time later I was behind an elderly woman, holding on to her cart for dear life. She had stopped. I asked her if I could pass by and she startled for a second and pulled over to the side. She and I chatted a little bit as I went by, a lovely lady.

Over the course of the shopping trip, my chair grumbling all the way, we kept running into each other. She always had a quip or comment to make. She was funny. She was also, I realized, accompanied by the woman who got annoyed and offended by my refusal of help.

And that scared the shit out of me.

You see, I think if someone is impatient with me, for simply wanting to be independent, what do they do to those in their care. What needs do they get from helping and are those needs healthy? What will impatience turn into when no ones watching. Anger? Frustration? And what will those emotions translate into when they become actions.

Is she safe?

You may think this a stretch. I do not. I think good staff see the word 'no' in relation to an offer of help as welcome. They see it as a sign of independence and effort and even self esteem. I think that good staff feel honoured when someone they serve isn't afraid of their power and their temper and their prejudices.


I help you because I need to help you because I have a hole in my soul that needs filling with your dependency on me. Your vulnerability and weakness is necessary for my feeling good about who I am. Pushing you into the store excuses me from pushing myself into a fuller life.

She may be safe.

I hope she is.

But I fear she's not.


clairesmum said...

Dave, I've reread this piece several times over the morning. I understand the issues you raise in the last paragraph, outlining the ways that 'helping' can be all about meeting the helper's needs and has the potential/actual impact of harming the 'person needing assistance."
To be honest my helping others originally developed in a toxic family, so entering a 'helping profession' and gaining official credentials, remaining in direct care settings and eschewing management roles, and developing a professional persona that is sometimes more comfortable to me than my own full (and rough, imperfect, troubling self) all seemed like ways to "spin straw into gold." I've worked hard to find my own self.
I stil stumble over my own need for control - over what happens, over a narrative, over my own thoughts/feelings/behaviors.
I don't think that as human we are ever free of the drive to have our own needs met, and the struggle to explicate all the elements of motivation that drive behaviors.
I have also been taught by others how they cope with situations that to me on the outside seem to have power and control imbalances...and discovered that people often have developed coping strategies or resources that I had not suspected.
I try not to believe everything I think. I create much distress for myself and those around me...a dust storm of energy that blows away the day and takes me away from my own true self. for years that was the way that I avoided what my heart was trying to tell me.

clairesmum said...

Your writing triggers some serious thinking for me and moves me to respond in writing. Perhaps not what you wish to post. Your blog, your post. Thanks for inviting me to read/think/make space to find my own words about the topic. You are one of my teachers in life. Thanks, Dave (and Joe, too).

Ron Arnold said...

People with Cluster B Personality traits do tend to show up in the helping professions. Sometimes that's OK - most times it's not . . . .