Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Illusion of Confusion

You know the scenario. A loved one is struggling and comes to you to talk. You catch a glimpse of a vulnerable heart and your own heart surges forth to meet theirs. All you want to do is help. It's stressful.

At least it is when this happens to me. My chest tightens. I want so much to provide a thread of hope, nuggets of wisdom, and black and white crystal clarity. I strive to confidently and capably save the day.

More often than not, however, as I hone in on the issue at hand, the person I am attempting to rescue recedes into themselves, wrapping that vulnerable heart in layers of their usual coping facade, obscuring the kernel of their pain. Even when they tell me my advice is spot on, or the information and resources I am providing are useful, somehow I rarely feel I've given them what they need most of all.

On the flip side, when I am the one asking for support, I am often frustrated by well-meaning attempts to help. I feel compassion for my well meaning would-be helpers. I don't know what I want from them either.

Recently, I have been sharing my worries about not having a port catheter, a surgically implanted device that makes the infusion of chemotherapy an easier task. There are risks to getting a port, including serious infection, and two surgeries to endure: one to put it in, one to take it out. Though my doctor has been adamant that I shouldn't have one unless it's needed, I have wondered if ultimately I will regret not pushing for it. When I admit my worries about painful failed needle sticks almost everyone tells me, "Get the port." And here's where the frustration hits.

I recorded a vlog about it. It's kind of raw. I didn't think I'd post it. But in the process of making this video I unwrapped my own vulnerable heart, found the kernel of my own pain, and came to a conclusion that feels right for me. And in so doing, I was reminded that, given the opportunity to explore our own minds and hearts, we find our own threads of hope, nuggets of wisdom, and black and white crystal clarity. We'll expose and melt the offending fear or shame or grief and our own clear thinking will be restored.

And so, a new resolution: In the future, when someone approaches me for support and I feel that familiar tightening in my chest, I plan to take a few deep breaths, relax my neck and shoulders, and remind myself not to buy into the illusion of confusion. I will make it my primary objective simply to listen, to trust and validate the mind of my struggling loved one. Because ultimately, we are all uniquely qualified to solve our own problems.

But it helps to have cheerleaders.

And I will cheer with all my heart.


Anonymous said...

currently sporting pom poms and a pleated skirt in your honor. Whatever you chose to do I support it and will do my best to listen and hear you. This was one of your best posts btw, raw and true and beautifully written.

mocha said...

You have outdone yourself with this posting. What you share is both toughtful and articulate. I love how ideas unfold in your writing.

Anonymous said...

you are just the most amazing woman, and i feel so blessed to have happened upon your blog. thank you.

Kerri said...

God, thank you for unwrapping your vulnerable heart. I so feel you. And I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to feel "part hospital" with a constant reminder surgically implanted in you.

I'm certainly not advising you what to do, but just to share my experience - I've done 8 out of 12 Taxols without a port, plus 4 rounds of another chemo and weekly Herceptin infusions since last August, and bad needle sticks haven't been a problem yet. I'm about your age and my veins are holding up.

But like you, most women I know who've had ports say they're glad they did. Right now I am glad I haven't. My mastectomy scars are enough of a reminder without having a hunk of plastic in my chest too. That's just how I feel. And thanks again for sharing how you feel!

Also, are you allowed to swim with a port? That seems like a big consideration for you.

Anonymous said...

How dare you make me cry at work?

So compelling and so real--both the vlog and blog posts. You let yourself unravel and feel and you came down to core truths.

Please, keep in the back of your mind, that someday when the question of port or no port is long gone and the question becomes if you can get a run and a swim in on the same day, you will consider taking these vlog's and creating a documentary. I think you put am authentic and compelling voice and a face to a process that is needed and appreciated. Everyone has been touched by cancer--directly or indirectly.

Big hugs to you, Amy, from sunny California. I continue to be jealous of your snow.

Paula said...

What a beautiful, articulate post about the art of listening over advice-giving. It's so true! And what you say in the vlog is also profound. Often, we may not share a situation with loved ones (ex., when I was going through infertility) specifically because we don't want unwanted advice. It's our own job to make peace with our decisions and no one but us. You are incredibly eloquent! Thank you.

Delaney's Duds said...

Amy. <3

Chuckie dupster head said...

Jesus H christ what the fuck are you doing driving down the road video bloging. Next time you decide to do that let me know i'll give you a call on the cell phone,oh wait its illegal to talk on the phone while driving in CT. I couldn't even pay attention to what you were saying, I had to stop it and write this note... I just kepth thinking she's going to crash... I love you and hope to see you soon. Now that I've got that off my chest I have to go back and watch and listen. Peace and Love, Charlie!