A Hand Up vs. Enablement


I try and feed people when I see them struggling.  I can’t adopt anybody or be more that a friendly face in passing, but I live my life trying to do no harm.

I know we all sit in judgement on each other with our first, subconscious thought.  I hope, though, that we each take a breath and try and reconsider what small thing we mght be able to do to help, and to not be an enabler.

In my case, there are a series of events going on, where I hope that I am not being an enabler and stopping someone from getting the actual physical AND mental health they may need.

Pride is a huge stumbling block to many people, and the choices we each make should be sacrosanct in our own lives.  However, it gets a little crazy when you are somebody’s extra pair of hands, and they make different choices than you would make, given the same circumstances.

Pride and Boundaries rear their ugly heads, and whether you are the helper or the person being helped, you have to pull in your horns and let a lot of stuff go.  As one of my bosses used to say, “Not My Monkey.  Not My Circus.”

In my case, my willingness to provide someone a meal, or a little extra cash, for someone who is a friend of close to 20 years standing, may have contributed to this women’s unhealthy view of the world.

I’m manning the boundaries like crazy, but I can’t see where this friend is able to cope as she’s aging (she’ll be 69 in March), so I’m trying to help but not enable.  It’s a fine line to walk, never mind try and walk it successfully, without losing the friendship.

Taking my friend to and from traffic court dates is particularly maddening, as she can’t keep her situation straight and doesn’t seem to see the situation clearly enough to get out of her own way.  For example,

My friend had dental surgery this month, the dentist having pulled out all her teeth and addressing her gum disease / infections from her own failing teeth, and getting fitted for dentures.  A family member helped by paying for the entire thing, but the state of her mental health and depression / anger doesn’t let her see that this action, which is costing them thousands of dollars, is truly a blessing.  She feels like they have so much that it doesn’t hurt them financially, so they kind of owe her.  Very perilous and unhealthy, entitled thinking.

Since the surgery recovery period also happened while she was also due back in court for traffic violations (driving without a license, expired registration which caused the bench warrant and loss of her license, major car accident which further messed up her bum leg / knee), etc., etc., etc., she cancelled her court appointment and did a no-show, even though she couldn’t get  anyone on the phone to accept her request for rescheduling, and even though I stood ready to transport her there and back on the day in question.  She has no concept that she doesn’t get to deal with all of this hassle at her convenience.

So, another bench warrant was issued.

Another $3,000 fine (which she cannot pay) was issued.

We spent all day yesterday, running from court to court to lunch to the DMV trying to get ready for the next court date, and she got angier and less able to cooperate as the day went on.  She has no understanding that this was all her fault and is meant to be a penalty or penance by “the bureaucracy” to get through to her that she’s lucky she’s not sitting in jail.

In the middle of all of this, she has a meltdown because she’s moving 2 hours away (she found an affordable apartment that will take both her and her dogs – hallaleulah !), and they can’t move her court date to her new county.  Nor will they give her a court date between now and the 15th of February, before she relocates.

And, she won’t get her license (her ID) back until the ticket is paid off.

And, on a fixed income, she has no way to pay off the ticket.

So, I paid off the ticket (hoping that she’ll pay me back, someday, but knowing that she probably won’t pay more than the $50 she insisted on yesterday).  At this point, I just want it cleared so that she can get some sort of ID, and I hope that I’m not falling back into the “enablement” cycle.

As someone is aging, it’s a fine line between able and not able for managing one’s life.  I’m walking that fine line myself, as I’m working through the disability process for trying to understand what the next phase of my life may be.

Hopefully, by paying off this ticket, I’ve freed her up from a small monetary issue and have not taken the undesirable step of putting keys to a car in her hands.  We won’t know for quite some time about what the outcome is likely to be, but she should not be behind the wheel, IMHO.

Today, however, I was out and about doing my own errands, and noticed another older woman, about my age, standing in the rain in the parking lot, begging for change.

I can’t adopt her, either, but I’m momentarily flush and I can spot any single person a meal.  We all can.  So, I gave her a card to a local fast food place that has both hotdogs and hamburgers as well as grilled cheese (in case she’s vegan), and will let her sit inside for the length of her meal, where it’s warm and dry.

The grey man (homeless guy in my neighborhood) seems to be doing better as he turned down a meal card and wanted only money last week, something I don’t hand out lightly, and I’m hoping this other lady will reach that sense of stability where she can have choices once again, too.

For now, she gave me this pretty crystal bracelet and ring in the picture (as she didn’t want me to think badly of her as someone who would just take, and take and take), and we both left the experience after a friendly talk about perseverance, hobby’s protecting one’s sanity during challenging times, and keeping one’s head high as she kept trying to get ahead and waiting for her number to be called from the homeless waiting list for a real home.

There’s no easy answers for any of this as I muddle through this blog today, trying to make sense out of a variety of passing images and moments from my week.  I’m just grateful that my friend and her dogs still have a roof over their heads, and that we’ll go see her apartment next week to get her familiar with her new neighborhood, and hopefully back on her feet in a more stable and mentally healthy living situation.

No answers here.  I’m just grateful I’m doing ok.

To quote an old song from my youth, by the Five Man Electric Band:


And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply”

So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why

He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do”

So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight

So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, “Hey! What gives you the right?”

“To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”

“If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
Now, hey you, mister, can’t you read?

You’ve got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat

You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat

You ain’t supposed to be here
The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside

And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray”

But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay

So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign

I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Sign, sign




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