Friday, July 31, 2009

How close?

I'm sitting with my coffee and my laptop in the morning sun on the back deck of the next place I'm housesitting. I just moved over here yesterday, without even going home in between. The dog here, Natty Bumppo, is sitting on the steps near me. Inside are three cats.

With my laptop, I feel like a nomad, more or less at home as long as it's with me. I like that a lot.
As a car-free person though, it is a bit of a hassle moving my filmmaking stuff around. Since I haven't filmed anything much since last fall, it was exciting to get out the red velvet gloves (the sign of the guilt of the House of Atreus) and so forth for the shoot tomorrow, but it's a lot to haul around on a bike.

This week my sister had brain surgery (successful!) to remove the benign tumor discovered a couple months ago. She has asked me not to blog about her life, so I won't go on about hers, but mine's been a bit unsettled over the past year, as I try and reposition myself in the family. Mostly I'm trying to find and maintain a proper, sustainable distance instead of the "entirely entangled or entirely estranged" model I grew up with.

I've been thinking a lot this summer about how we humans can --and cannot--help one another. The topic has come up independently with about five different people.

I used to be of the "get-as-close-as-you-can" school of intimacy, where "help" means being under one another's skin, practically. This was based partly on the 1960's "Let it all hang out" philosophy + the feminist/therapy/addiction-recovery model popular in the 1980s, which proposed talking about everything and hashing over every issue.

This was partly a healthy response to a culture of secrets and lies, where a lot of our families looked like Vietnam or Watergate.
I love the ideal of honest relationships, but at some point (belatedly, like, the other day), I realized that being up close and personal all the time was not working for me with everyone. There is an art to finding and maintaining an honest distance too, and I've never learned it.

Another angle on this question of "how close?" is the question of giving advice, which I've been discussing on e-mail with Lee. One of the things I flinch at when I look back at my life is the times I bludgeoned or badgered people with well-intentioned advice.
Or I thought it was well-intentioned.
Now I think the motivation for giving other people unasked-for advice is almost never generosity of spirit but almost always a desire to control others and to protect oneself. And I can't think of any instance when such advice helped me. (I mean about personal matters, of course. When it comes to computers, please advise me!)

So, my latest philosophy about giving advice is: Don't.
That's too cut and dried of course! But I think it's a good default setting. And then I'm trying to use love, not fear, as an indicator to gauge how close to stand to people.

Maybe that sounds obvious? It hasn't been in my life.

These are just some preliminary thoughts. I'd like to write more about this. But now I'm off to pick up a tailcoat from Allan for the shoot tomorrow! And Sascha has a top hat! It wasn't until about 2 a.m. last night that I realized I doubt a top hat will stay on top of the Fly's domed head. Maybe she can just hold it in her hands.


Rudyinparis said...

Yes, the advice stuff here really resonates. I've found, for me, that once I had kids I became a lot more aware that advice--giving and receiving--can be fraught with issues. I've become very aware of how when a person vents (say, me) that people listening often--almost as a reflex--jump to give advice, but if you are *really listening* you will notice that the person venting did not ask for advice. And advice is, sadly, often so insulting. There's a parenting book I like--and I don't like many of them--clumsily titled: "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk". This book has helped me so much--not just with my kids, but with larger people as well! It instructs on listening, listening to our kids. And teaches us to avoid the advice giving reflex. Most times, people just want to be heard and acknowledged. Not told some dumb crap that any moron would already know. (My favorite, from a well-meaning friend, when I complained of a messy house: "We have S put her toys *away* when she's done with them." Oh, is that what it takes? And here I've been, throwing garbage on the floor!)

Anyway. I have found, that unless someone purposefully and explicitly *asks me for advice* that I should not offer it. This is surprisingly hard. And, Fresca, when you talk about yourself here--I think a lot of this is a quality of youth, and no one can blame you for being young. I also once thought the entire world would benefit from knowing what I thought they should do! Well, I still think that. I just keep it to myself. ;)

We are really looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Fresca said...

Maybe I should read that book, Rudy--I can well imagine it applies to adults as much as kids.

Ha, yes, just because I try not to bombard people with advice doesn't mean I don't, of course, have the correct answers to their problems! : )
For that matter, I have the answers to many of my problems too---but your example of the advice to pick up the toys is perfect--it's not answers I need!

You're right, it was the hot air of youth, not maliciousness, that inflated my most pompous pronouncements.

deanna said...

Good thoughts. Human nature - how complex! But I won't dole out advice on how to deal with it. :o)

Fresca said...

Ha! Thanks, Deanna.