Thursday, December 27, 2012
Brad made an astute observation the other day. He said part of our problem, why we never have time for us, is because we feel obligated to take care of everyone else.
Unfortunately, everyone else knows this.
Example: It is Christmas Break. I don't have to be at school. I have received 10 requests to stop whatever I am doing and GO: to school to do the day care program, water plants, feed classroom pets, meet someone there to unlock the office, come to fix the copier, help them with their grade reports because the website isn't doing something right, let a student in my room to look for a book she'd lost, let parents in to go through the lost and found for other lost items because it is convenient for them right now.
They ask because they know that I am the sort of person who will go out of my way (school is NOT down the street for me, mind you.) to help someone else out.
Here's another example: Brad owns a retail business and guide service for fly fishing. He employs very few people: himself, his mother and dad, wee Matthew, little Matt, and a guy named Kelly. The latter three are very part time, more like sporadic, but they also guide for him when needed. Kelly also owns his own business. He's struggling right now due to a big name screwing him over and he asked Brad if he could get more hours when/if his own business goes belly up (which is fairly likely--unfortunately the little guy cannot win against a huge corporation who is doing something illegal. Brad feels obligated to help him...even if he has to create work.
Today, my mother announced it is cold in her house...my immediate reaction was to go over and check the furnace, call someone to put in a new thermostat or replace the furnace, or try to fix things in another way so that it is warm.
And then I stopped myself.
She isn't telling me she is cold because there is something wrong, and her stating that she is cold has nothing to do with anything needing fixing. She is cold because she hasn't moved in several hours, the sun JUST came up, she keeps her blinds closed all the time so no light gets in (and so "people" can't see inside her house), and the way her house is situated just makes things feel cooler than it is. The fact that it's like 12 degrees outside doesn't help much either, I think.
It isn't MY JOB to fix things for people to make their lives simpler. It's not my duty as a human being to go out of my way to ensure that everyone else is comfortable. My nature makes me THINK that it is. My first response whenever someone says something about a struggle they are having is to give up some part of me, my life, my bank account, my things to make it easier for them or better for them, so that they aren't struggling...and in my head, it's my DUTY to do that for them even if it forces me to give up something I need or want.
We have a couple we know who have just moved here and are living in a city south of us. The wife stayed with me for several months because at some point I said she could. I don't remember even being ASKED. It was just assumed that she would stay with me by herself and her husband because they'd expressed an interest in living out here. Her presence in my house caused me an incredible amount of stress which turned into physical pain and sickness. (I'm an introvert...having to entertain someone I don't know causes me a lot of stress...especially when it is someone who is ALWAYS THERE.) When I went to the acupuncturist to help stop the pain in my neck and back and the numbness in my fingers, she asked if there was stress in my life and I unloaded on her...poor thing. But she too, noted that the "care-giver" in me was why I do the things I do without even a second thought.
I put my students first.
I put my colleagues first.
I put my entire life on hold out of a strange sense of obligation for my friends and family when they need something.
I go out of my way to fix things for people so their lives aren't inconvenienced.
I constantly feel that I am causing a problem for someone else if what I am doing at a given moment isn't FOR them.
My mom is "injured" at the moment with a torn rotator cuff (we think, but she can't get back into the doctor till after the 4th to discuss her options (surgery or whatever), and she can't drive. As an only child, when she says she needs something, I feel obligated to drop whatever I am doing to go take care of it. She needs to go to the store, I leave whatever I'm working on to take her right then because she has already told me I don't do it right. (I went once, with just a list, and a) went to the wrong store b) down the wrong aisles in the wrong order c) got the wrong brand d) the wrong size box e) put things in the bags wrong...the list goes on. So the last time she sent me, she sent me with EXPLICIT directions as to where to find EVERYTHING on her list and in what order they were to go in the cart and the bags...down to the size of the container and on what shelf from which I should obtain it. I still did it wrong.)
It's this sense of obligation that is screwed up. Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that my purpose in life is to make life simpler for others. When I am handed something at a restaurant that I didn't order or that is cold or otherwise not quite right, I never send it back. I don't want to offend anyone or put anyone out having to redo something. Clearly I did something wrong to make them think that was what I wanted. When asking for a refund or an exchange, I feel tremendous amounts of GUILT over it. When I go to buy clothes, I'll often end up with a few items that don't fit QUITE right, but the girl went to so much trouble to accommodate me, I feel obligated to buy them. I don't want her paycheck to suffer because she was helping me when she could have been helping someone else.
The couple who just moved here? They want us to come down for New Year's to "celebrate." They're in their early 20s...we are not. Our definition of celebrate is different--they want to get wasted and we just want to have a nice dinner and go to bed. The logistics of what they are asking is just about impossible. They want us to come down on NYE, pay for dinner out somewhere (for them and their other friend who has just moved here as well, because ya know, we are the only ones EMPLOYED right now). Their plan is to provide very cheap booze, and get falling over drunk. Brad has to work on NYD--the shops are open, and I have school stuff to get done. And we both have family obligations to take care of that day...and the elderly are already complaining about the THOUGHT of us going out of town for any length of time, even just a few hours. The couple who are asking us to come down is complaining that we can't just drop everything and come visit. Whose whining do we acknowledge?
We feel obligated to go visit, to be here to take care of our parents and keep them happy, to work hard at our jobs so we have an income, to take care of the people at those jobs so they aren't inconvenienced when something goes wrong...
This obligation crap sucks.
And I feel GUILTY for wanting to go run today....trying to figure out how I will sneak it in.