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Unsolicited Advice…My Fear of Driving…And Why Words Matter

So, as I said in my last post, my husband had his first seizure two years back. At the time, we were extremely stressed and I was even more vulnerable than usual. I know a lot of people who hide these things from others for a variety of reasons. However, being the younger kid (I guess?), I always look for support from those around me. I tell everyone close to me if I’m going through a rough time, and look to them for support and for telling me that everything will be okay.

I derive my strength from my support system and I’m fortunate that I’m surrounded by the kindest, most caring of people (touchwood), who are always available for us. However, after my husband’s first seizure, I realized that outside of our support system, there were a lot of people ready with unsolicited advice that didn’t have anything to do with our concerns at the time.

Since then, I observed others’ and my own interactions with people, and I noticed that unsolicited advice is, more often than not, people’s (including me) spontaneous response to conversations about challenges. So, I have been trying my best, since then, to listen without interruptions to anyone sharing their worries with me, and respond to them with anything other than unsolicited advice. There have been slip-ups, yes, but I try to make up for them through follow-up conversations.

The main reason why unsolicited advice fails, according to me, is that it is based on the premise that others’ priorities are the same as ours. At the time of his first seizure, my husband was a commercial driver. So, our first concern was about the status of his job, since we knew his licence would be suspended after his seizure. Second, we were worried about the reason behind the seizure. We were still getting a lot of tests done, at that point, so we didn’t know if there was anything we needed to worry about. That being said, when some of our acquaintances found out about the seizure, their first worry was that I didn’t drive. They felt that this would add to my husband’s stress (one of the possible triggers for seizures) as we would have to walk to get groceries or take cabs for doctors’ appointments.

Although this unsolicited advice came from a good place (like all advice does), it was as thoughtless as the firefighter’s comment in my previous post. One, because it ignored our state of mind and all our concerns about the seizure. Two, because it made me feel like I was adding to my husband’s stress, which was even worse than the first.

Instead of giving advice, when someone is venting out their stress, we should let them get it all out of their system. Especially when someone has been through a challenging situation, we should quietly listen to them. When they’re done, we should probably say something like – ‘I’m sorry you have to go through this. Tell me what I can do to help.’ Some of the beautiful gestures shown by our loved ones after these episodes have been:

  • Coming over with food and watching our kids (not possible this time, due to Covid-19)
  • Leaving food, snacks and flowers outside our door (this year)
  • Getting groceries
  • Checking in on us from time to time
  • Helping out with hospital visits/stays

My husband had his third seizure earlier this month, and with the stress of Covid-19 and life, in general, a little sensitivity/kindness from people around goes a long way towards decreasing our stress and anxiety levels. I understand why driving seems so important, particularly in the current scenario, and I would love to learn how to drive…I have tried taking lessons twice, but perhaps because of a nasty accident we were in, when I was a child (I’m not completely sure why), I dread being behind the wheel. I know it is up to me to overcome my fear, and perhaps some day I will, but until I do, criticism from people hardly increases my drive to drive (sorry…word play runs through my veins). In fact, it bothered me so much that I wrote a poem about it, in typical writers’ fashion.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice? Do you think it is justified? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do let me know through comments or drop me a message here. Stay safe and well, everyone.

Here is my poem. It is a little dramatic, when you read it in context, but a poem is the perfect place for a little drama, don’t you think?

Behind the Wheel

They made me sit behind the wheel again.

“A woman must learn how to drive,”

they said, condescendingly,

“Learn how to be independent.”

I silently chuckled as they failed to comprehend

The inherent irony of their claims;

As they took me on a road I didn’t recognize,

To a destination I had no inkling of.

As I struggled to find my way

On the path they chose for me,

Their loud lamentations deafened my ears,

And their passionate protests clasped my mind.

“Women are such bad drivers,”

They derisively exclaimed,

“They have no sense of direction, I say!”

I listened to them silently,

Filled not with rage, but a surprising determination.

Oh, I will sit behind the wheel again;

I will learn how to drive.

I will learn how to drive when I’m guided

By the music of the clouds in the clear blue sky,

Not the jeers of my backseat drivers.

I will learn how to drive

When I choose my own path and destination,

Not when I have to follow another’s directions.

I will surely learn how to drive

When independence is a necessary link

In the chain of my existence,

Not a skill to be learned,

And definitely not a boon to be granted.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

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