When They Don’t Want Your Help

Truth Byte #46

 

“Not everything is your business.”

 

I am a helper.  Always have been and probably always will be.  So when I hear a cry for help, even a silent cry for help, I spring to action.  I want to heal your pain, solve your problem, and make you smile again.

 

But this winter I have learned that not everything is my business.

 

I come from a very close-knit faith community.  Whenever I go to one of our gatherings, even if I am in a totally different country than where I usually live, somebody in the group will know someone from my family.  We are a community of adventurers, explorers, and pioneers, that left the pain of our poverty behind as we forged new vistas.  We are an immigrant community with international roots, and even though my great grandchildren will likely know little of the cultural ancestry that I have subconsciously marinated in, the rhythms and flavours of “back home” run deep and strong in the caring way we interact, our collective, hidden anxieties, and how we dance and laugh with reckless abandon on the big days of celebration.

 

We have come a long way, both literally and psychologically, and we have a lot to be proud of.

 

But as an intimate, caring community, we are also painfully aware of those who are struggling.  When tragedy strikes in one family, the ripples run quickly through our networks and reach the farthest corners of this planet, all the way to the lands where we came from. Long before the click of a button, our collective information travelled quickly, often with well-meaning embellishment and loving prayer along the way.

 

So when something bad happens to someone in my community, I feel it.

 

And I want to help.

 

But there are millions of us spread all across this blue/green globe. And I can’t save everyone.

 

This winter, I have learned that not everything is my business.  I have sat with people in pain, and allowed myself to be uncomfortable with my impotence.  I have watched the inevitable unfold and been powerless to change it.  I have realized that you can only help someone who is willing to grab on to your hand as they are falling.

 

I now unnderstand that sometimes people unconsciously prefer pain over change.

 

I know this not only as an observer, but as someone who used to live there.  There was a time in my past where I thought I knew everything about myself.  I thought I knew every nook and cranny of my inner landscape, and I had unearthed even the darkest of demons.  I was emerging from an intense few years of personal transformation, and I felt shiny and perfect.

 

And suddenly, the people around me, the people I considered my community, started exploding.

 

Marriages fell apart. Careers were in shambles. Children got seriously ill and injured. Addictions took hold. Friendships deteriorated. Hearts broke. Life just generally sucked for multiple people in my life simultaneously.

 

And I couldn’t save them.

 

I couldn’t fix it.

 

I had all this incredible knowledge and training and experience, and yet I couldn’t help the people who mattered the most to me.

 

Because they hadn’t asked for help.

 

And when they finally did, I wasn’t the one who could get through to them.

 

So years ago, I had to step back.  I had to look around at all those I loved, and I had to make a choice.  Would I spend the next decade furiously trying to fix it, or was there another option?

 

Perhaps I could gently turn back around to the people in my world who were thriving. Could I focus on building something that would last, rather than constantly trying to salvage bits of hope out of rubble of the personal tragedies around me?

 

Even though I kill plants on a regular basis, I know about the fundamental law of gardening: what you focus on will grow.  I was ready to focus on what was already growing, rather than trying to fix what needed repair.

 

And as I shifted my attention, the seeds of hope took root in my heart once again, and my life began to unfold organically. The people who could benefit from my particular flavour of care started knocking on my open door, and the results were incredible.  I was making a real and lasting impact on lives. And those who I couldn’t help also, somehow, began to find their way.  By letting go of the “how”, I stepped aside and the Master Teacher in each person light their own path.

 

Today, my community thrives. The leaders have woken up to the depth and complexity of the issues, and have found solutions that address root causes rather than handing out the sparkly band-aids of the past. I have found my place as the quiet listener who sends prayers and heart and referral letters. And when I hear those calls for help, even the silent ones, I trust that I am not the only one listening.

 

I challenge you this week to take a step back.  What are you assuming about the people in your life who you think need help? Are you giving them enough credit? Can you see their path, even if it’s difficult, as a spiritual unfolding rather than simply a tragedy? Can you focus on their resourcefulness, their resilience, their capacity for recovery? Can you, from a place of true care and compassion, put them in the hands of their Creator, and take a break from playing God?

 

That simple shift will probably make the holidays a lot more enjoyable for all!

 

Questions? Comments? Email me at connect@talktosaira.com

Retiring Thirty Years Early

Truth Byte #45

 

 “Pushing yourself makes things harder.”

 

This month, my parents visited.  They live in a different city, so having them in town is a huge treat.  Whenever they arrive, there is laughter and joking and a whole lot of crazy-indulgent gifts for the kids.  Nani and Grampa come for a week or two, and I get to relax.   All those big plans of what I would do when I had unlimited babysitting hours get pushed aside as I catch up on my fair quota of sleep, meals prepared by someone else, and long, late night conversations.  They remind me that it’s okay to just be, without a screen, or a book, or a task to complete.

 

And without any guilt.

 

I remember when I was a kid, and my mom and stepdad were just as busy as I am now.  They flitted and fluttered around at their jobs and our activities and their full social and religious calendars.  I remember my mom dropping onto the couch exhausted after dinner every night, and falling asleep before our family sitcom had reached the first commercial.  I remember my stepdad filling our weekends and school-breaks with adventures to the mountains, and watched him as he brought his files along to squeeze in a little bit of work where he could.

 

Every year, my grandma would visit us.  We called her Nanimaa.  She would mostly just sit on her favourite spot on the couch, and hum sweetly under her breath while she clinked her prayer beads.  And every single weekday at four o’clock, my non-English-speaking grandma would ask us to turn on the TV for her so she could watch The Young and the Restless.  Nanimaa moved slowly, and smiled deeply.  Her hand-skin was wrinkled like a soft, paper-thin elephant and she told the most intricate yet humorous stories about her childhood.

 

Nanimaa showed me, as my parents are showing my kids now, that life doesn’t have to be so busy and serious all the time, and that home could be a place to just be.  She did not push herself, and she did not force herself or us in any way, at any time.

 

My parents, now grandparents, are living that life now.  Even though my step-dad still runs his accounting practice, his approach to work is so much more relaxed.  He doesn’t take on the high-demand clients anymore.  He has learned to take regular holidays, and doesn’t bring work to the dinner table or on vacation.  My mom has relaxed too.  She has gone back to school in a completely different field for the pure love of learning, and is acing her classes alongside people younger than her children.

 

I always looked forward to old(er) age, because I thought that was when I would finally get to retire. Or at least relax.  But in the last few months, I have had an epiphany.  I don’t have to wait another thirty or forty years to stop pushing myself!

 

I could just stop pushing now. 

 

At first, that created panic in me.  I thought if I stopped pushing, my business would fall apart, my house would be in chaos, and my family would be eating microwave popcorn for dinner every night.

 

What I have found to be true is actually the exact opposite. 

 

When I stopped pushing, I stared allowing.  Opportunities that I would never have noticed started to drop into my lap.  Things that seemed hard either fell away or suddenly became manageable because I was brave enough to ask for help without thinking it meant I had failed in some way. I was happier and more connected, and so my friendships deepened and grew.  People I would have walked by before, now became fascinating co-collaborators and mentors.  And like my grandma, there was one daily thing I became totally serious about and dedicated to.  For her it was her soap opera (and through it, learning English), and for me, it’s dancing (and through it, releasing those endorphins I need to maintain positive mental health).

 

I have learned, in a very short time, the power of relaxing.  I have learned the importance of my home as a sanctuary.  I have learned that pushing creates illness and tension and rifts between people.

 

And I wanted to tell you that so you could test it out for yourself.

 

This week, I challenge you to stop pushing.  I challenge you to allow Life’s river to pull you along to the next restful moment instead of always pushing against the current.  If something is hard, maybe it can wait till later, until you have the energy and enthusiasm to do it, or until help arrives.  You may be really surprised how it really can all work itself out when you stop trying to control it all.

 

Watch our YouTube Show, Today is Your Day to start crafting the life you have always wanted, free from the heaviness of pushing too hard, and let me know if you live in the Vancouver are want to join our Get Happy Club!

 

Want to keep crawling?

Truth Byte #44

 “Evolving means un-learning.”

 

I have been watching my kids, and how quickly they learn.  One of the critical skills they also need for success is to be able to un-learn.

 

Let me give you an example.

 

When my fist little guy started crawling, it was bells and whistles all around.  We were so excited and encouraging of him, and finally he could get around on his own, kind of.  A few months later, he was mastering a new skill: walking.  As expected, we celebrated with whoops and hollers when he mastered the wobbly dance of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.
And for most parents, that would be that.

 

But since I am obsessed with the human potential for growth and change, I couldn’t leave it at that.  I was really interested to see how he would make this transition.  After all, he had spent months getting his muscles and mind to work just so to be able to crawl, and now he had to forget all that (or maybe build on it?) and move to a completely different skill.  Sometimes he would opt to crawl instead of step-step-fall, especially at the beginning.  But as time passed, he chose the “easy way” less and less, until the point that he could say to me “Mama, crawling is for babies”.

 

My daughter, on the other hand, had a different learn-unlearn trajectory.  She learned to sit up, then scooch forward on her bum, and one day she just stood up and walked.  Once she started walking, she never went back to scooching.

 

She is better at un-learning things.

 

And I see this in other aspects of their personalities.  When he makes up his mind about someone, he interacts that way with them for ever and ever.  So if he likes you at first, he likes you forever.  And if he doesn’t really like you, too bad. But with her, she gives you a fresh chance every time you meet her.  She will adore you one day, and then be distant the next.  She has un-learned who you are and what you mean to her as soon as you are out of the room (though, like most kids even she has one or two favourites).

 

And while her life seems more tumultuous (she is three after all!), she is also living in the moment a lot more, rather than being informed by the past.

 

I have seen how as my children develop through their natural developmental stages, they become less adaptable, less able to unlearn.  It’s almost like Nature is saying, “You tried that before, don’t make that mistake again, if you want to stay alive!”  And they haven’t even hit double digits yet!

 

And so fast forward to you and me and the adults all around us.  Many of us have spent decades learning, and not too much time un-learning.  Even when what we had initially learned has become maladaptive, we continue acting that old, safe way.  We continue to crawl, even though we suspect walking would get us there faster.

 

The first requirement if you really want to grow is to be willing to un-learn.

 

Which means you have to be willing to say, “Maybe I have been wrong about this or that.”

 

And for some reason, for certain people, admitting they are wrong is worse than ‘being a baby’.  It’s just plain out of the question.  They continue to trudge along in their usual, unhappy, unfulfilling way of doing things, judging the people around them as ‘uniformed’ or ‘living in the clouds’ or ‘clueless’ or ‘lucky’, while day after day, they insist that their way is the only way and the rest of us should stop running forward into this great glorious life and crawl instead.

 

On our hands and knees.

 

Feeling bad about everything and doubtful about ever reaching any of our big dreams.

 

You may have people like this in your life.  I sure do.

 

When I run in to them (which happens more and more infrequently, I must say), I remember my infant son.  Maybe one day they will decide to take the first few difficult steps, and I will happily be there for them as they master the new skill.  But I can’t keep pretending they are so accomplished when all I see is crawling and complaining, year after year.

 

I can no longer play along with that lie. 

 

I have also learned, through painful mistakes, not to call them ‘babies’, and feel somehow better or 'more advanced' than them.  This is a really slippery slope in the field of personal development.  We hear phrases like, “Oh, she’s just not there yet” to help explain the closed hearts and minds around us.  Here’s what I have discovered: some people genuinely do not want to be there.  They are happy where they are, and don’t want to be told that there is a way out of their drama.

 

It’s not fair for those of us who can run to taunt the crawlers. 

 

All we can do is keep running, keep laughing, keep playing, and trust that if they are meant to stand on their own two feet in this lifetime, they will.  And if they don’t, it’s not our personal failure.  It’s simply the unfolding of their journey.

 

Human consciousness is evolving.  And for those of us at the leading edge of those changes, we will have to un-learn, and un-learn fast.

 

My challenge to you this week is this: think of something you believe, from the bottom of your heart, to be true, that is making you miserable (for example, germs are everywhere, or life is short, or success takes hard work, or there will always be poverty). I would challenge you, just for a week, to see if you could unlearn that fact.  Pretend, just for a week, that something else could be true instead.  See if you can challenge yourself to un-learn the “truths” have you have been entrenched in for years.  Self-reflection, followed by conscious evolution is the way out of personal chaos, so today, “I’m starting with the (wo)man in the mirror.” How about you?