Sometimes it’s terrible being an ex-nurse. It’s so tempting to come up with solutions for people, drawing on my tremendous reserve of advice and knowledge to make their lives so much better than they are right now.
Because of course, I would know. (Note sarcastic tone). After all, no one could deny my life is totally organized and successful, what with my multimillion in book sales and such…
The older I get, the more I realize I don’t know. And as I get older I am — gradually — learning to keep my mouth shut rather than advise, at least most of the time.
It helps that I teach a “self-help” group where we are expressly forbidden from offering advice, encouraging the much more knowledgeable class to share their ideas. It’s a good reminder that the group knows more than I do.
And heaven knows I hate being told what to do. Sometimes people may have great ideas for me, for my writing, for things I could do or should do to make things better. Sometimes I listen. Often I pretend to listen, then go off and process the suggestion. Ignore it. Adapt it. Maybe even use it.
But sometimes, people force their suggestions down my throat. Sometimes I get too enthusiastic with my offerings. It’s an easy slip from helpfulness to bullying. Mostly done in the spirit of trying to help, but there’s that fine line there…
As I grow older and presumably wiser, I truly hope I will learn to take suggestions with equanimity, and give them rarely.
And gradually, I’ll get quieter and quieter, and maybe one day be thought wise. Like that owl from the brownie poem:
“The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Oh why can’t we be like that wise old bird?”