Friday, July 21, 2006

Sensitivity training for your friends?

I have this friend. She's an incredibly good friend. One of those rare kinds of friends you find who are just so easy going and you connect in so many ways. She's the kind of person who I think anyone at all would like and get along with. Every time we see each other, before we say goodbye, she always leaves with "we'll have to get together again soon". And she's not one of those who just say it, she follows through. I feel very priviledged to have her as a friend.

However, there is one thing she does that really, really, really gets on my nerves. And we've talked about it. She is always wanting to help. On one hand that's a very nice quality to have. But, on the other, it touches on my achilles heel. As a person in a wheelchair, I get people wanting to help me every day. "Can I do this for you?", "Let me get this for you?", "Why don't I open that for you?". Also, thanks (a little bit genuine, a little bit sarcastic) to my mother, I am fiercely independent. Fiercely. Combine that with all the times I've been patted on the head, told I'm such a nice girl (by strangers who have no freaking idea how nice I am), been given help when I didn't want it and wasn't asked, and yes, I have a big chip on my shoulder. I know it. I admit it. I embrace it. That's me, I'm not going to change. Deal.

Yet, I'm torn in this situation. She knows it bothers me, but she cannot help it. She says she does it to all her friends. I can't help it either. I cannot accept it. It will always be a sore spot for me. I'm a big believer in picking your battles and know that friendships are all about compromise. But this brings up the question of acceptance. People rarely change drastically, but I do believe they can learn to change small things. I can't expect her to change who she is, and I also don't want her to have to be wary around me and afraid to open a door from time to time. But I can't be expected to change either. I don't mind someone opening a door if they're ahead of me. That's common courtesy and I have absolutely no problem with that. But it's more than that. She's always saying "let me". Yesterday we went out to dinner and she came over to my place on the way. I asked her if she would change a light bulb for me. She was glad to. I went in the closet and pulled out the small step ladder. She started in on the "oh, let me". I told her I was fine. Then she changed it and I thanked her and went to put the ladder back in the closet and she did it again. Then on the way out it was "let me get the door". She has also said things like "ok, now this time I am GOING to get the door for you." I ended up telling her we had to talk about this coz it was driving me crazy. I don't want to offend her, but I wasn't going to change.

Yet, I can't shake this feeling of feeling bad about it. I don't want to make a bigger deal of it than it needs to be, but I do want the behaviour to change. I want her to be able to understand that it can't always be her giving. If I'm ahead of her, I should hold the door open for her. If she's ahead, she can get it. And sometimes it's okay to go out of the way to help, but sometimes she has to be the receiver. Otherwise the balance of our friendship is unequal.


George said...

Oh, you're so right .... and then if people don't help they make a point of telling you "because they know you would be offended" or " I know how independant you like to be". Like we have offended THEM or something - Damned if you do Damned if you don't. Then regardless you have to be nice, otherwise you clearly "haven't come to terms with your disabilty" or "have issues!" Issues, Issues? Bah!!!

AL Masters said...

My very best friend is just the opposite. She would not move a finger to help, nor offer help. When I am folding up my wheelchair to get in or out of my car, she is constantly talking about who knows what. Very interesting...