I was reading an article on awareness of obesity the other day telling us that many times, people don’t know they are obese until they are told by someone else. Ouch. Pass the Band-Aides. But it aired our need to stay connected, speak up, and listen. It also prompted me to reflect on mental illness. How often I’ve sat with someone’s emotions-history in my hands, looked at them and realized they didn’t know. They were there, emotions bleeding all over the place but didn’t grasp their injury.
Um, excuse me ma’am. Let’s apply some pressure on that and get you some help.
Bloody news like this reminds me of my friend Jack. He was waterskiing with my brother and I when we were college’ish-age. Jack was not so capable on the water, although he wasn’t afraid. As you probably know, three is the perfect number for waterskiing – one to drive, one to hold the flag when the skier is setting himself up, and then of course the skier. Any more and there are way too many polite smiles and way too much advice for the bobbing body in the water. Jack was working on his slalom moves, thrilled with his progress and after about the third fall, was still ready for another go.
Our boat, Rosewater, eased him out of the water and he was up. Jack has a way of celebrating like no other. He whoops and yells and his whole body joins in. And so he was in his happy place, up on a single ski, unconcerned with the world at large. It was lovely. Until the wake of that other huge boat threw him down and his face slammed into his spectacular single ski. Up he came and we just looked at him, quietly at first. Jack paddled up to the boat and wondered if he should try again.
Um, sorry Jack. Let’s apply some pressure on that and get you some help.
Jack had a huge gash, copiously bleeding all over his face and he had no idea. He was wet already, cold from the water and didn’t feel a thing. I still feel the creepies skittering up my arms and chest thinking about it.
When we told Jack, he was a little unbelieving.
Are you sure? Is it bad? I think I’m alright. It’ll wash out and I can try again….
Oh there wasn’t much pleasure in telling him the bloody news. Generally there isn’t that much pleasure in telling someone they are fat or suffering from mental illness either. It’s the follow-up to that statement where the fun comes in. The hope that we link the first punch-line to. Good news is, …along comes the second punch-line. Hope. And presence. Being with someone where they are at, as they are, and with patience doesn’t mean leaving him in the dark, bleeding out.
The reverse is true of course as well. If we don’t stay connected with others, we may lose the opportunity to see ourselves through their eyes. It is an opportunity. When we are with someone we trust, respect and think see’s us as the precious thing that we are, it is.
Self-Care Tip #195 – Stay connected with others and listen without fear – something good is coming. Be a friend to yourself.
Questions: How do you deliver “bad news?” What is the best way you’ve ever been given “bad news?” Please tell me your story.