In a TED talk she gave recently, Annie Lamott served up some advice for parents of grown children. I wish I could capture the plaintive quality of her voice--and the slyness of her humor--when she recited her "12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing." You can listen here but I'm stuck with delivering the words I transcribed as she spoke.
This is what Lamott, the author most famously of Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year and Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life , had to say about hovering over our adult children and trying to help them--or anyone we hold dear--find their way:
There is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way unless you're way inside an organ. You can't buy, achieve or date serenity or peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth and I still resent it. Faith is an inside job. We can't arrange peace or lasting improvement for those we love most in the world. They have to find their own way, their own answers. You can't run alongside your grown children with sun screen and chap stick on their hero's journey. You have to release them. It's disrespectful not to.
And if it's someone else's problem you probably don't have the answer anyway. Our help is not very helpful. It's often toxic. Help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don't get your helping business all over everybody.
That was rule number 3. Rule number 2 was more succinct but also lands a punch:
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.