Getting or Giving Bad News Without Fear

Slalom skier

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Hit it!

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.

What’s Happening in Your Space?

Almost finished a triathlon today.  If it wasn’t for that chafing because I forgot my biking shorts, I think I would have.  I was wearing surfer shorts.  I will never poke at people who whine about chafing.  They’re right!  It hurts!  Enough for me to cut my run in half twice.  And I walked.   People I saw afterward kept saying “At least you finished!”  I felt like I had to confess but then I’d want to explain so I left it all out which I know in itself is a little lie if there is any such thing as a little lie, so I’m atoning by confessing to you.  There.  (Breath.)

The truth is, even though I cut across lawn, and walked the cross walk, and broke all sorts of athlete-codes of honor, I had such a wonderful time.  With all my abbreviating, I caught up with my brother, Vance Johnson, and his 10% body fat.  He’s always been sensitive, so he kindly slowed to walk me down the last stretch.  We don’t get to spend enough time together and even a few moments like that are golden!  We were laughing and strolling and probably looking too pleased to be appropriate for the last 40 yards of a long race.  So, of course it took us both a few extra seconds to realize what the woman had yelled as her large frame thundered by.  “If you aren’t going to race, get off the road!”  It was extra shocking because it was like a parallel universe suddenly collided ours.  We were happy.  I with my swollen inner thigh, and Vance with his little sister as audience.  It was over-cast, perfect weather for the day.  The beach was a few yards to our right.  Everything else was San Diego green.  Then, Pow!  “Get off the road!”

At first, I was ticked.  “Listen …,” I said in my mind.  Not nice.  But then I saw my brother.  How could I be angry?

There were many scenarios of this woman’s life that a carousel flashed on the screen in my mind.  Maybe none of them were true. Maybe she was simply an avid committed athlete who found us people soiling her turf.  Whatever the situation was, she was finishing the race and looked like she’d done well for her potential.  She hadn’t cut lawn and street.  She wasn’t walking.  She was running or galloping or something.  But she wasn’t happy about any of it.  Looking back, she might see us as the reason her mood soured.  Regardless the reason or the date and time of onset, she was sour.

It was only a few moments really that my thoughts stayed on her.  Vance had moved on to another subject and I didn’t want to miss it.  Reflecting now though, of course I’m struck by the perspective of success and failure.  A race is a perfect stage for demonstrating something with a beginning, middle and ending.  Sounds like a shortened version of life.

I’m not sure who first said that there is only one beginning and one ending to life.  “It’s the journey that matters.”  Probably God.  Someone who is timeless and infinite would get that.  Today He blessed us with that.  I can’t count on myself to have it the next time.  God knows I’ve been the one screaming something like, “Get off the road!” enough times before.  But next time, I hope I remember what God gave Vance and me today.  I hope I will succeed as happily as I did today when I lost the race.

Self Care Tip #65 – Get into the in-between spaces in your life and go for the joy!  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What have you been finding in your own space?  What do you think?

If you’d like to read more blog posts on the journey, read here.