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Archive for the ‘giving advice’ Category

stefpappasI bet you are thinking, what the hell does that title mean. Where is she going with this one?

Well, it is a long, long standing tradition that my mother must comment on my hair, for some reason, every time I see her. Even yesterday, after 3 weeks in her hospital bed, in and out of states of delirium and dementia. I hoped that maybe this time the goodnight goodbye “I love you” could just have ended at that…sweet and silent. But noooooo. It STILL had to be followed by a comment about my hair. By the way, I happen to LIKE my hair.

A month ago at my only uncle’s funeral service she just couldn’t help but toss a comment. There I was, feeling pretty and dressed up for the occasion. Hell, even my long lost cousins said I looked great (at 48 this feels like a nice compliment).

Mom turned to look at me. I thought she was going to blurt out something special, deep, or touching. After all, we were at a funeral. But nooooope. She just uttered, “You need to condition your hair.”

And I still felt a sense of shock and wonder, after all these years. Somewhere inside me I know it is coming from her love for me, but it never feels that way when it happens.

The button is still there. There is yet more work to do on my part.
This last time in the hospital I asked more. I am actually becoming intrigued by this phenomenon. It may seem like nothing to you, but it was new for me. “Why are you still so obsessed about my hair?” I asked her. “I remember how it used to be.” She replied. “But I am almost 50 years old now!” I almost shouted. I left the hospital, still astounded by her constant focus on my hair, and even more perplexed by my own reactions.

So, I wonder what the humid, wet, NJ weather will do for my hair tomorrow. I’m going to the hospital to see her.

Let’s see what she has to say.


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I feel like a tomato without its skin. It’s that sinking feeling in my stomach again. Did I just divulge too much about my recent tragedies, hardships, bad luck, or bad karma to a new friend? The doubt creeps in when I begin to hear her well-meaning advice coming toward me instead of the shared empathy I crave.

The extremes of codependency can appear in a single conversation! Amazing! One person is exposing themselves too much, or “spilling it all too quickly” as it is referred to in certain literature about codependency. And the other person is reacting out of their unconscious need to help, over care-take, or correct the situation. Instead of just listening or empathizing from their own shared experience, they quickly begin to give advice, admonitions, and astute observations as if they were somehow privy to insider information.

Both people in the conversation mean well, but the conversation begins to spiral downward.

I wanted to jump out of my body like it was a Halloween costume worn too long.

“You should pray more.” ” Hum…do you notice a pattern here?” she says to me with her index finger placed over her lip , and eyebrows furrowed a bit like my therapist.

I become queasy. How do I stop this runaway train now? Dizzy discomfort. Oh no! The conversation has turned to “fixing” me. Oh no!

My soul cries, “I don’t want to be fixed! I don’t need to be fixed!”

And simultaneously, another truth dawns on me: I recognize my own self in this situation. I am reminded of the times that I so wanted to help others, I couldn’t plain old listen.

For a moment, I am consoled by this realization, and that the fact that I can empathize even though I am uncomfortable.

I renew my efforts to catch myself in the quest to change anyone. I feel redeemed, and

then I jump back into my exposed pealed tomato body.

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