True kindness will beat a piece of so-called "good advice" any time, and I am saying this without hesitation. People who have listened or shared my difficulties, who have bought me catfood or given me donations, have done more good than all the self-righteous people who were so eager to preach to me about all the things I should do and especially about the workings of the Law of Attraction. It strikes me that those who are full of good advice rarely say anything encouraging or positive about me. They may preach about the importance of being open and kind towards others but fail to display signs of true kindness and compassion themselves. Their advice is mostly a disguised form of patronizing reprimand that ultimately undermines one's own sense of dignity.
I am writing all this so that people would consider what it means to be a know-all and someone who does more harm through a lack of real knowledge about, and insight into, someone else's situation. I know that we all have a tendency to be this way at times when we wish to help but don't know how. Unfortunately, if we always excused this kind of behaviour as well-meaning babble, we'd remove the responsibility of each and every one to be a better co-human being. I will give an example from my own life, the way I usually do even though I risk being ridiculed. This is not because I have the strength to deal with personal attacks, though. I know it sounds contradictory but I'd like for people to understand someone like me. I have an illness that seriously undermines my ability to deal with adversity but I am a stubborn person who will not give away any of my integrity. Recently I've been wondering how on earth I can make this work for me. Even thinking about it wears me out.
Strange enough, there were three social events this week during which, for a change, I was able to meet people in real life. The first one went well and did help me relax and get away from my problems for a while. The other ones included a person that I don't know that well but I thought of as a nice and happy person, albeit somewhat self-centred. Thus, I was totally unassuming. Well, this lady who is over 20 years my senior started to try and convince me that I have to reply to dating ads in the newspaper read by our linguistic minority. There are times when I cut a contact short very fast because I sense that something is wrong and my integrity is being compromised. For instance, earlier this week I did this with a man online who started off on a flirtatious note but then changed from warm to cool in a matter of days. I knew I had done nothing wrong but when I mentioned this and asked what the deal is, he as many before him started to blame me by turning it around to look as if I was emotionally attached to him. I guess this is a game many men like to play, be it subconsciously or not. I can't accept it, though maybe it will keep me lonely for the rest of my life. I guess I should add that as stated in other blogs of mine I also cannot deal with the stress of unclear relationships. When I was listening to this lady though, I was unable to cut her short. Maybe part of me wanted to give her advice a chance. I know I tend to do this at times. But she was relentless and wouldn't take no for an answer when I didn't agree with her point of view. I tried to explain how stressful the past few years have been in terms of relationships so I'm not sure what risks I can take now, but she wasn't listening. She also figured I am too picky. She has no idea how much I've tried to accommodate to men in my past and lower my expectations, and how I've realized that I mustn't sell myself cheap. Among other things I said that I have enough of egotrippers but she told me straight in my face that I am obviously one too so I have to learn to take turns with someone else who is the same! I felt my heart beat faster and my face boil; signs of increasing stress. Those who heard all this clearly thought she was out of line. My mother said "Vivi-Mari is after all on disability for a reason..." but it didn't help much. In the end I tried to laugh it all off, though in fact my evening was ruined from having been reminded of such painful issues and the feeling that my personal experiences weren't acknowledged by the lady of monologues. I've said a thing or two about overly "positive" people before, but apparently I'm not done with it. There has to be a balance, but who these days is a truly balanced individual?
The following day the group was slightly different but the lady of the endless monologues was also there. After some stories that were somewhat amusing but contained a lot of name dropping and talk about her aristocratic environment she suddenly started to talk about how some people may be predestined to important tasks. I tried to say that viewpoints on such issues depend on each and every one's spiritual beliefsystem, but she didn't listen. Her eyes were almost bulging when she insisted that something is causing this predestination. Then she started to talk about my boyfriend issue again and gave me a whole range of pieces of advice about that and other things in life. Now she felt that I am looking for the prince on the white horse that would "save" me. I said sourly that I am intelligent enough not to believe that anyone would save me (though one naturally hopes someone would appear as a helping hand). No, now I had to listen to a sermon about how I should be looking for female friends instead, without knowing whether I have any or not! She assumed that I keep everyone at bay. I said that I always give new people a chance. "A chance??", she exclaimed. "Don't you realize what you're saying? A chance! Now that is telling..!". I attempted to explain that all it means, is that I try and be open about each new person who enters my life. Does it have to mean anything more than that? She didn't listen as usual but insisted that I'm closed off and unwilling to open up towards people, so no wonder I'm alone!
Now I think that it's pretty clear that when you are being bombarded with unsolicited advice you normally do get defensive. In my opinion this is what accounts for the "wall" she said she encountered in me. Maybe I should have been aggressive and stopped her right then and there but I am not able to in a social situation like that. I tried as usual to explain my situation a bit but she told me that I obviously don't want my situation to change since I'm so negative about her advice (implying anybody else's advice too, of course). She was totally convinced that I don't allow anyone close and that it was her job to make me realize that I need to let my guard down. In reality I am struggling not to give up on people and I am also struggling to change my life situation for the better. Really, I should just have yelled "who are you to judge me when you know nothing about me?!" but I was stunned and also unwilling to raise my voice in the company of the lovely hostess of this get together.
I was actually left alone with the argumentative lady for quite some time because the others went to smoke. My mother who was present for some of the time told me today that she did later reprimand this lady for having trespassed my boundaries big time and had also pointed out that I really am not emotionally nor physically equipped to withstand attacks on my integrity. In fact this lady is in the medical field, which probably only made her even more opiniated. It seems to be very hard for most people to understand that someone can lack any stress tolerance at all. I look normal and in general nothing gives me away. I don't exactly want to flag my condition since I'm trying to live as normal a life as possible. But the truth is I am ill. I eventually started to cry because there was nothing I could do to keep her from continuing to attack me. She then winced a bit and came to my side and said that she simply wants to help me when she sees how guarded and closed off I am... She talked about being a Rosen therapist and how I must consider therapy, but of course I would rather be offered a real session than be told to do something I cannot afford. She then left and the hostess came to check on me. The hostess said it's obvious that some people are very eager to pass on judgment and "good advice" without really knowing what the hell they are talking about. She doesn't know that much either but what I have said she has registered. I didn't want to make her upset about the incident in her home so I dried my tears and pretended that I was okay.
What was left of the evening was spent trying to make the insisting lady understand that I really cannot write much by hand anymore because I am ill, and also trying to explain about the internet to her while she kept saying she thinks it's all stupid and she doesn't understand why anyone would like to blog, participate online in forums or talk to strangers. I tried to bring out the idea that one sometimes has to learn how to draw one's lines online, especially someone like me. I'm a little too nice, serious-minded, over-sensitive and not able to cope with stress. This is a reality for all who have some form of fibromyalgia. My point was that I am having to learn to say no to a lot of people, but of course the plaguing lady had to turn that into a negative attitude as well!
When I biked home in the biting cold night I felt very tense and unhappy, when in fact the evening could have made a positive difference in my life. I was thinking how easily people like this can make reality tip over for someone who is depressed and suicidal. As a side note: fibromyalgia causes a form of depression that cannot be cured, but if one has supportive friends and family it's not always a problem. It took me most of the weekend to get over the feeling of physical weakness and distress that these two evenings had caused, though my mother's understanding and supportive words helped a bit. As I'm writing this my heart is starting to race again. I will end here but just remind everyone that you can never know what problems a person is battling with. Granted; the lady I've used as an example probably had some issue on her mind that made her go even more overboard than one could ever have expected. My odd life situation always triggers people and I don't know what to do other than become more guarded. But I should also add as a friend drew my attention to our inner fences and adjusting one's reactions, that I am working on trying not to get too affected by those who attack me. Most of the attacks are just emotional projections, but my stress is real enough.
Artwork: "Cake with Cream" or "Coucou", digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2008