Sunday, March 2, 2014

Knowing what to do

Sometimes I get it right, knowing what to do.  And sometimes I don't. And sometimes I don't know.

I have a an old friend currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She and I had coffee months ago, when she'd just received her diagnosis and was making her plans. She is fairly young, full of energy and anger at the unfairness of a cancer diagnosis. She had blue wristbands made for supporters. Each one has "Believe" engraved on it. On the days of her chemo I wear the blue band. And every morning I send her a Facebook text: Believe, or Believing, or Believe!, or I'm a Believer, or a similar phrase. I have been doing this for the last 60 days or so. I can tell when she's feeling good because she reads my text within an hour or so. Some days it takes her 12 hours, or until the next day, and then I know she's struggling. I'm a texter, and so is she, and this communication works. I know what to do.

I have a newer friend who sat with me in the hospital for five hours the day Art had his cardiac arrest and checked in with me for a couple of weeks afterward. She doesn't text or Facebook. She calls. Last week her partner had a stroke. I knew about it when I saw her on Monday, but I didn't talk to her until I saw her again on Saturday. I thought about her every day, wondering how she and her partner were doing. But I didn't call because I didn't want to be a bother. I didn't know what to do. I told her that when I talked to her on Saturday. She said what they most needed was positive energy and prayers for her partner's full recovery. I can do that, now that I know what to do.

I have another newer friend who is helping her ailing, aging father. The father is getting a divorce from his wife of 20 years. There is a lot of conflict in the household; the father, the daughter, and the stepmother are entangled in the anger and stress that is so often present in these situations. My friend asked me if I would go to the house as a "neutral third party" on the day the stepmother came over to go through the household possessions. I'm a mediator, so I did that. In the four hours we were all together, I did a lot of listening, some coaching, and some affirming. I really was neutral. I think my friend expected me to be more of an advocate for her, but we had discussed my role and she said she wanted my neutrality. I'm pretty sure the day went much better with me than it would have without me. But it wasn't a "happily ever after" day. We were all very tired at the end. I did my best, but I don't know what the outcome will be for my friend or her family.

I wish I knew what to do every time, but I'm thinking that's unrealistic. I just need to give each situation my best shot.

16 comments:

Linda Reeder said...

All of them are extremely fortunate to have you as a friend!

Bonnie said...

I so admire your training and practice of being a mediator.

#1Nana said...

You are a good friend. You are also a mere human like the rest of us. None of us know what to do all of the time. We do our best and hope that is enough. Sounds to me that you're doing a pretty good job.

Olga said...

You are a good friend. I noted that when you did not know what to do, you knew to ask in an honest and humble manner. Thai in itself was a kind of knowing wisdom.

DJan said...

Those are some hard situations to be living through. They are indeed fortunate to have you around. Your mediation skills are definitely in demand, Linda. Not to mention your friendship. :-)

Arkansas Patti said...

I hadn't thought before how useful your mediation skills would be in everyday life among friends.
I like that when in doubt, you asked.

Tom Sightings said...

In the end, all we can do is be there for each other. And because we're human, anger and stress is part of the mix. I bet anything you had more of a positive impact than you think.

Meryl Baer said...

Your training and your instincts have made you a wonderful friend and go-to person. The people you help are lucky to know you.

Rian said...

That's a lot on your plate also... dealing with friends' problems. But you've trained to be a mediator so you have a bit of an advantage. However, I agree with Tom... just *being there* for them is what's important.

rosaria williams said...

Even knowing what to do we can get it wrong. I'm sure, when in doubt, a note slipped under the door, letting the friend know that you are available to talk, run errands, whatever she needs might just be the thing that will lift her spirit.

Bob Lowry said...

The key is to care enough to do something for a friend, neighbor, or even a casual acquaintance. We can't let lack of official training or feeling entirely comfortable keep us from coming to the aid of our fellow man (and woman!).

Linda, you have given us some great examples.

Retired English Teacher said...

Linda, you are one of the best friends anyone could ever wish for. I appreciate your sensitivity and authenticity. When you say you didn't know what to do, I see how real you are and how much you want to help, but want to make sure the help is what the other wants. Your are gifted in know how to mediate and listen and respond. I am blessed to say you are a friend. So are these others.

Dee said...

Dear Linda, it seems to me that your conclusion--about giving everything your best shot--is the most that any of us can ask of ourselves. To do more can be interfering or enabling or breaking down our own health and stamina so that we are of use to no one. Peace.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Linda, you are a wonderful friend to those in need! Just being there for them and doing your best -- which seems very good, indeed -- is enough.

Dave Brown said...

Hi, I have been catching up on your blog. With Art's health scare you have been through the mill. I admire your energy. All the best.

Suzanne said...

Linda, I don't always trust my instincts, and consequently, I miss a lot of opportunities to serve others. Your post today is an inspiration and a reminder to just put myself out there. My good is good enough.