Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Oil Spill

Sometimes help comes in unacceptable packages.

I have been tricked into accepting help before. Worse, I have been the recipient of intervention. Once I was basically kidnapped. I was given an ultimatum one time, and it was a very close thing whether I would accept the help or not. In each case I accepted the help but I had to go against my instinct to do it. I still preach against the “kidnapping” (I was 21 at the time). I would never do that, even though it worked in my case, even though the one needing the help might die without it. It didn’t work that well, not from my side of things. My part in that one, I could have walked away any time in the next four months.

The alternatives at the time would have been possibly starving to death, military prison, some other kind of jail, perhaps help in some other form a little later down the road. As the dust settled, I knew enough about my situation to know these things, so I stayed in sanctuary.

I have been the one who had the oil cleaned off my body. You would have to trap the gull, kidnap it essentially. The other choice, wait for the gull to be so ill that it might be too late. That was the dilemma my mother faced with me, when she kidnapped her 21 year old son. I would be unable to do that. Even though it worked, it should not have. Most times it doesn’t, not with us humans, and not with gulls either.

It is, however, a choice the rescuer makes. I spent ten years in Alanon over the pressure of a drunk and dying wife. I learned in the fire. I discovered that intervening is a matter of doing for me about someone I love, not doing for them. Since the intervention almost never actually works, then the motivation must be mine about me. I intervene because I must or else lose my integrity if I leave the situation alone. That’s where it actually landed with my wife. I would not let her die on my watch, not if I could help it. At that point I didn’t care any more whether Annie wanted to live (about half the time she did). I was dialing 911 to save my soul. That’s what the 1990s were about for me.

The Oil Spill

In the sand a gull
struggles with the goo that coats
her and now the sand
coats her too. Tarry
oil from the damaged tanker
going south has killed
her, is killing me.
I try to help but she runs
fighting for her life.

March 18, 2009 12:30 PM


  1. I can relate to that gull--though never "kidnapped" as an adult, I was subject to an awful lot of "professional help" I didn't consent to as a child and adolescent (well, technically, my parents said I wouldn't have to go if I didn't want to, I said I didn't want to, and they kept pushing until I said yes...a repeated numerous times over my teenage years). And, ultimately, this "help," well meaning as it might have been, did little but give a professional seal to a deep feelings that there was something inherently wrong with me. As such, I've found it very difficult, ever since, to let anyone help me, even when I ask them to...

  2. Pharma gives a list of possible side effects for the drugs prescribed. We don't even try to establish the possible side effects of emotional pressures.

    My mom and dad taught me to hate them in the fourth grade. They didn't mean to do that but it is what they did. I didn't do anything about it until my teen years.

  3. Oh god, yes..... been there done that on both ends of the stick.
    I don't like the slick.....nope, don't like it at all.
    Just for today I will accept that I am powerless over another's death....

  4. I am the other person, watching someone I love slowly kill herself and eating away at myself daily for not kidnapping her to save her. You're so right, Christopher, it's 911 for the caller's soul. What is a soul to do?

  5. Michelle, I am tracking with you on your journey, know the path you are walking. The grand sweep hardly matters in the moment. I had to clean the bed, mop up the mess on the floor, wash the clothes. I had to visit the hospitals. Yes, I know. I love you. I am by the way not the only one who knows, dear.

  6. Karen, you live with the consequences either way. What you do or don't do will always contain the echoes of the other choices. Intervention often doesn't work because it always violates rules of integrity. Not intervening doesn't work for the same reason. We are left with the painful truth that integrity is vulnerable and that is a thing we find excruciating, nearly unbearable, and one source of the phrase, "a fate worse than death."

  7. 'I intervene because I must or else lose my integrity if I leave the situation alone.'

    this post really touched me deep... loved especially the above sentence... it made me sit here for a long time and think...

    thanks for sharing your life and feelings with us, christopher... always full of wisdom... and truth...

  8. Thank you, human being. I know you live in complicated circumstances.

  9. Oy. It is tough, especially when the gulls don't want your help, even when they know they need it. But the most one can do is make sure they know can turn to you if they want to, no matter what the cost, and that even as they lay dying, it's ultimately their decision.

    I can't even imagine what it's like for people who have to clean off that oil as their day job.

  10. You are right, of course. Wise, old soul!

  11. Karen, this is not happy knowledge. There is no way to redeem the places we must go sometimes, turn them into "lessons" or some such garbage. "You are right where you are supposed to be"...what crap, if this is the place I am in. This is the book of Job here on the planet.

    I think back, and though I had many people witnessing my passage, no one actually said such shit to me. For that I am very grateful. My wife was dying in my house and taking a long time to do it and taking all hope of retirement with her. I had nowhere to run and few to actually help.

    I didn't ask for help much. She did get help from friends, one of whom funded her last treatment stay, about 10k. I did place my pain in other people's care however. And then I would go home and drop the dime on my suicidal wife, call 911.

    I think of medics in Viet Nam. Triage. You let some of them die in the pressure of the moment because there is no other choice. In my life I had a moment like that as we divorced, I knew she would die anyway. But I wouldn't. She passed in 2001. I am still here, still have a mortgage. However, I still have no retirement nine years later. It's what she lived on in her last years.

    I am still raw, but basically, I am at peace.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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