Sunday, January 12, 2014

365 day blog challenge, day 12. Good advice

Day 12: the best advice you’ve ever heard or ever been given

As with yesterday, I have always tended to to follow my own lead. Some would say I am headstrong.

That being said, some of the great advice I've heard is also some of the most common.

  • Be true to yourself
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Be compassionate, you don't know what someone else is going through
  • Take a risk
  • Listen first
  • etc...
It looks a little trite, written out in front of me.

Let me tell you a story about unexpected good advice.

When I was in my mid-twenties, my job required me to interview former psychiatric patients, often in their homes. It was fascinating; I learned the basics of skip tracing (remember, this is before the internet was pervasive), learned how to deliver psychiatric interviews and developed tremendous respect for those who are fighting for their own minds.

Most of the people I interviewed were lovely with a history of depression. A few had more complex histories. A few were still ill. Of the hundreds of people I interviewed, I only ever felt nervous about a few.

One of the people who made me nervous was a man who had a history of depression with psychosis. This means he was depressed and heard voices or saw things no one else could. When I arrived at his home it was clear he was still outside the usual measure of "normal." The place was in terrible disrepair. There were abandoned toys over his front lawn; they looked as though they had been there for years, half submerged in the dirt. He was unwashed and couldn't hold eye contact. I was, I admit, cautious. I was alone in the house with this man.

As the interview progressed I became more nervous. He had a great deal of anger towards his ex-wife which spilled over to anger at women in general. He did nothing to suggest a threat to me, but his words were alarming. Most of his answers had something to do with the evil of his ex-wife and women. I felt quite wary, but didn't feel as though I needed to leave.

We finally got to the part of the interview where I was asking him about his family. After raging about his ex-wife (again) he told me about his children. He glowed. He sounded so proud of them. And then he told me he hadn't heard from them in 20 years. Everything he knew was because his sister kept him informed. His kids wanted nothing to do with him and he hadn't made any effort to reach them. He kept their toys in the yard because he missed them and he thought maybe someday his grandkids might like them, if he ever met his grandkids. In that moment my fear shifted. I was still wary, but now I could view him with compassion.

And then he said this, "You don't regret the things you do. You regret the things you don't do. I guess I should've called them years ago." He was quiet for a minute and then finally met my eyes in a quick glance. 

We finished the interview and I never saw him again.

But his words have stuck with me. Maybe that's the advice I needed to hear then and I certainly carry it with me now.  You can twist it into something it's not, but I think it's worth remembering - life is here to be lived.

You don't regret the things you do. You regret the things you don't do.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Nice little story Laura,
    Same with speech!
    Although I've regretted saying and not saying....sometimes..
    There's a story in there somewhere?


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