Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I watched this sea lion struggle onto the sand this morning. It's a much larger animal than the others I've seen this summer. This creature appears to be an adult. Not super skinny. Not trembling or having seizures from demoic acid poisoning. Not injured as far as I could tell. It was the effort, the struggle to haul out of the water that made me decide to call the marine mammal rescue.

I've been thinking a lot about rescue. How we do it as friends. When to step forward and when to step back. What to offer. What to insist upon. What to just do without even a word of discussion. How the boundaries are different in different relationships. Dan absolutely did not want to recover at my house after his surgery. I'd seen my mom go through two similar lung surgeries and knew absolutely he could not go home to his place alone. A good friend and I staged an intervention of sorts. Look, we said. You won't be able to drive yourself home. Someone has to drive you and you're not going to be driven to your place. That discussion repeated itself when it came time to start the chemo and radiation, but I relented--mostly because his Medi-Cal was in a different county from where I live. It was a mistake. It would have been so much better for him to be here and ride the train.

What do we do when friend needs help? The best thing is just to show up, if that's possible. When Dan was in hospice at my house, people showed up and did a million things. But what if the peril is less tangible? What if there aren't moment by moment things to be done? Advice is cheap, as the old saying goes. I'm not even sure what the hell that means now that I think of it. I often ask advice. I spun around for months thinking about how to get my mom to Iowa for a big family event in October. I weighed the options with a lot of people, asking what they'd do. Fidgeted around with a couple of different plans until I figured it out.

It's the giving of advice that's harder. What if your advice is wrong? What if the person takes your advice and things turn out badly? What if they don't take your advice and things turn out badly? Can we save someone the way marine rescue can save a sea lion? Chronic or acute are the words that are dashing through my head right now. Years ago I  tried to save someone in a chronic bad situation. The results were disastrous.  I bear the responsibility of having helped put a child in harm's way as a result of my meddling/helping. The memory still turns my stomach.

But on the float trip I took while I was in Alaska recently, we rescued a young man. Cold, wet, and lost for a day with a dead cellphone, he climbed down a bluff to the riverbank and flagged us down. There isn't much to think about when the situation is acute. You pull the person into the raft and give him a jacket. You comfort him and hand him over to the paramedics.

Go head. Give me some advice about giving advice.


Ms. Moon said...

The older I get, the less I feel qualified to do it.
That's about all I know.

Suz said...

You appear to me to be a woman of action rather than advice
I like that

Joanne said...

I've learned to only give advice when asked. I ask most often before I help. Some people are afraid to ask and they are eager for offers. Others don't want help and they can say no. I almost had a disaster involving me wanting to help kids. I didn't, it turned out okay. It could have been bad.

Elizabeth said...

I am tempted to just type "following" the way the people on my cannabis Facebook pages do when someone asks a question or posts a comment with a question.

I tend to go with my gut on the advice thing. People usually do what they want to do, no matter what "advice" you give them. I ask people what they think if I need some help, but I also usually already "know" what the answer might be.

Lately, when I need advice I just throw the iChing. I swear to you that it helps every single time.

Anonymous said...

Mostly I just wish I would follow my own advice. I am trying so hard these days to just listen. Mostly I think people don't want advice. They are hearing in their gut what the answers may be. They may just need someone to give them affirmation for what they already know. Ha, advice about advice.

Karen said...

When I'm thinking clearly, and get out of my own way, I ask what the other person is inclined to do, and how he or she is feeling about that. Sometimes people just want conversation, want to talk out the options. That can often be the most helpful thing to do when people are struggling with a decision. I give an actual opinion if asked directly, but in my dotage I've learned that most of the time, people don't really want advice. (I would qualify that to say that, if I thought someone were in danger, I would hope to have the courage to intervene.)