spirit of the staircase


I mean, really: what business was it of mine anyway?

Every time I take a cool, hard stare at myself, I’m stunned at the level of “control” I seem to desire. Why can’t I just let people live where they want to live, make the mistakes they’re going to make, and understand that my involvement, while occasionally cute and very occasionally germane, doesn’t necessarily make anything better?

I so wish I hadn’t said anything, just enjoyed the company and not worried about Changing Anyone for the Better. Perhaps it was all those years fighting to be heard by a family with too many voices and conflicting agendas, maybe we all learned the lesson that to get what you desired in our house, you had to scream, cajole and manipulate. That might have worked in that microcosm, but the greater world sees the plan, and like God, it laughs.

Everyone knows I’m just here on a thread of coincidences anyway, right? A few unmade beds and a wrong left turn, and I’d still be back in some house somewhere, suffering from a surfeit of ideas and a poverty of cash, nursing crushes and resentments on roommates and wondering if the Insurgency had begun and I missed it.

Who says I have any idea what the right path is for anyone else, when my own journey was fraught with such bullshit? I feel like the opposite of the “Footprints” parable, with the worst of times being littered with a gazillion footprints in the sand, and my path being as garbled as cursive. If someone had come to me in my lowest hour and been even the slightest bit judgmental, I’d have told them to fuck off but fast.

I am calling a moratorium on my advice. I begged my friends to move to a place that was quickly attacked with three thousand perished, what the fuck do I know? I have set people up on dates because I liked the idea of them being together, and only served to embarrass myself. From now on, I am just trying to be a worker among workers, no more dime-store interventions, no master plans.

I’m here as a favor, through the kindness of strangers, through the good graces of those who love me. In return, I can provide witty banter, an hour or three of in-depth analysis of minutiae, a three-shot latté with Macadamia Nut syrup, pretty much any pop song on guitar, and a trundle bed for you to rest on. I will try not to presume anything more.

0 thoughts on “spirit of the staircase

  1. Sean M.

    Sean’s theory on advice, for anyone who cares…
    Regardless of whether the advice was solicited or crammed down someone’s throats, the choice whether or not to take the advice lies with the recipient. Assuming that the advice giver does not or cannot know with any certainty what the outcome of their advice might be, and that their intent was to make things better for the advice recipients, then he/she can only be judged favorably for trying.
    Intent is a big deal with me. And without knowing the details of the situations you speak of, I think it’s safe to assume that your heart was in the right place when you gave the advice, set those people up on their dates, etc. I’m sure there are at least as many instances where everything worked out fabulously due entirely to that advice that you gave. Focus on those instances.
    I have a feeling I’ll wake up in the morning and nothing I just babbled on about will make sense even to me…but with that, I need my beauty rest.

  2. KTS

    I like your advice. Not that I necessarily follow it. I often don’t follow my own advice, more than I care to admit. So, my advice, is to keep giving advice. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? You could fuck someone up for life, I suppose, but I wouldn’t worry about it. After all, you were only trying to help. C’est la vie!

  3. Steph Mineart

    Advice is just adding outside perspective and information to someone’s decision-making process. The decision is ultimately up to them, but helping provide them with more context to make the decision isn’t wrong, unless you have some agenda that’s working at cross purpose to their goals. That doesn’t sound like you, though, so I’d say keep offering advice.

  4. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Good luck with that new resolution! You sound like me. . . I am always full of advice, and I literally get mad when people don’t “do” what I think they should “do.” Over the years, I have lightened up, mainly due to a shortage of time and energy, such that my focus of my control issues is on my little family. Actually, I don’t want to be a control freak with my only child, so my husband bears the brunt of the “my way or the high way” technique. After 11 years of marriage, he tells me to shove off.

  5. NOLAcathie

    As the eldest of 5 siblings and mother of 4 grown children, I know that advice is a word that we both love and hate. When in the midst of a difficult situation or decision it is sometimes comforting to have another’s perspective in order to clarify your own. And, under the best of intentions, it usually comes from a position of wisdom or experience from the advice giver. The negative comes from ulterior motives, or perhaps having someone else also point out the difficult decision you might be faced with. I’ve learned to be more careful about randomly doling it out, but in certain circumstances, especially with my own children, I’ve generally “been there, done that” and it’s only out of love that I throw in my 2 cents worth. They can take it or leave it…
    I believe we are all here on this earth to help and support one another by sharing what we’ve learned to make things better.
    Ian, you do a great job at that, so please don’t stop now!

  6. Sean Williams

    I would say that, simply, advice is worth a tenth of what work is worth. It is really easy for a person to say “you should move to Chicago”, as an example, and an entirely different thing to say, “I know three people who are interested in talking to you about a job, and I found an apartment near us in Chicago that you might be able to afford.”
    The truth is that master plans, especially toward no real end other than maybe “fun”, are pretty useless anyway. When you had no connections and no money and no flexibility, then big ideas were your only outlet. Your charm and your basic goodness have led you to the point where you are now, and what you accomplish now with your resources is actually a moral imperative.
    Everyone’s got big ideas, and everyone’s got advice, but the side effect of “gettin’ away with it” (as you call it) is that it’s gonna be hard to get anybody to take you seriously. From where you sit, leading by example might be a much more sound approach.

  7. Bud

    Ah, Ian — don’t go changin’ to try and please us.
    We love you, not in *spite* of your flaws, but *because* of them. Well, mostly.
    We never paid any attention to your advice, anyway. :-)
    Now go — GO I say! And ROCK the Côte d’Azure.

  8. Just Andrew

    I helped my mother in law last year when things were at their darkest for her. A year of therapy later and I’ve come to realize that “doing the right thing” and “helping people” are overrated.

  9. oliver

    “Advising” is sort of like trying to make a sale of your opinion. It’s the selling that arguably should be illegal. So just opine. That’s what I think.


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