Last weekend, I found myself in the fortunate position of having the house to myself for 48 hours.
And I did what most women in my position would do—I cleaned the house from top to bottom, rolled around naked on my sparkling floors, listened to music, drank wine and binge-watched Netflix. (Actually, it was Shomi, but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
One of the things I watched was Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. Now, don’t read anything into that. My current marriage is wonderful. And frankly, I could probably write my own guide to divorce having been there and done that a couple of times—successfully. And by “successfully” I mean that my kids are happy, my exes are my friends, and I spent nothing on lawyers. Okay, I spent $500 on one lawyer back in 2003.
Anyways, there was a line in one particular episode of Girlfriends’ Guide that made me stop rolling naked on the floor and put my wine glass down (yes, I can roll and drink simultaneously). “There’s a new survey that just came out and it says that today’s woman can’t even think about having it all. She’s just worried about doing the sh*t she needs to do without losing it. You know, she’s just worried about cracking up.”
These words got me thinking about some advice I received recently. Frankly, the advice was unsolicited and unappreciated. I felt judged. I was incensed. I mean, honestly, no good can come from telling a peri-menopausal woman with a bunch of kids, a blended family, a husband who travels once a month for work, a more than full-time job, a marriage as well as friendships to maintain and three cats…deep breath in…that she should be doing more. Unless of course, you are a peri-menopausal woman with a bunch of kids, a blended family, a husband who travels once a month for work, a more than full-time job, a marriage as well as friendships to maintain and three cats. If you fit that description, and you are not cracking up, PM me. Immediately.
Even solicited advice can be problematic. And let’s be honest about it—when we actively seek out advice, isn’t it usually because we are looking for our friends/family/co-workers to reinforce a course of action that we have already settled on? Do we really want to hear their truth? Or do we want to substantiate our own? And that’s pretty much human nature. But it’s rarely productive.
Which brings me to another kind of advice—the kind that is serendipitous; the kind that you don’t ask for and no one offers it up. It just happens. With perfect timing.
On this same faux empty nest weekend—somewhere in between naked rolling and trashy television—I also had the opportunity to have lunch with a friend. Now, this friend and I have never really had the occasion to talk one on one. We typically see each other in group settings. So, this lunch was our first foray into deep conversation. At some point, she started sharing her very difficult parenting experiences and I listened—intently. It was as if she had crawled into my brain and could see the synapses of worry firing away or someone had given her the Cole’s notes of my own parenting struggles. But she had no such intel. She didn’t know my situation. I hadn’t had enough wine yet to fill her in on my situation, she was just sharing, and as she spoke, I was taking mental notes. I was thinking about how I might be able to apply the advice that she didn’t even know she was giving.
You see, serendipitous advice is the best kind of advice, because it only reveals itself when someone is selflessly sharing their difficult triumphs and we have enough faith in our own truths to take a hint from the universe.
Having said all of that, here is my unsolicited (and therefore hypocritical) advice on how best to give and receive pearls of wisdom:
1. Don’t give advice unless someone asks you for it. Even if the advice is well-intentioned, you can’t predict how it will be received. This is particularly true if it is being received by a peri-menopausal woman.
2. If you do receive unsolicited advice that you don’t appreciate in the moment, don’t burn it in a bowl on your back porch…I mean…don’t discard it completely. Tuck it away on a shelf in your mind. You never know when it might come in handy.
3. Don’t ask for advice that you don’t really need. If you’ve already decided to run away and join the circus, don’t ask your spouse if they think it’s a good idea. Just go. Quietly. In the middle of the night.
Advice is a tricky thing. Everyone wants to give it. Old people want to give advice to young people. Skinny people want to give advice to non-skinny people. Opinionated bloggers want to give advice to just about anyone who will click through.
The important take-away here is, rather than freely sharing your opinions and suggestions, freely share your experiences. Even the negative ones. Especially the negative ones.
Most people are secretive about the bad stuff that has happened to them. But you never know…one woman’s fiery hell could be another woman’s shot at blissful salvation (too put it mildly and without any dramatic flair whatsoever).
Author: Heather Romito
Image: Elephant Journal/Instagram
Editor: Katarina Tavčar