Blog Archive

Get in Line... On Being All Things.

I like to take glimpses into the world of other people and how they manage their lives, their priorities, and keep wits about themselves. How do you let competing demands and criticisms roll offa you? How do you keep your sanity when there is so much around you... pawing at you and trying to suck the life out of you? HOW DO YOU DO IT? Did you learn to say NO early in life? Do you know something I don't know?

Fortunately or unfortunately, I was raised by a couple of hardworking, Catholic, New Yorkers with big hearts and big heads who did for themselves and never, ever ASKED for help. In fact, we always were the bearers of aid to all God's children and anyone who ever came forward. (You never really know if who needs you is an angel in disguise). We are strong women in my family... Lithuanian women -- a heritage of a working class who are physically powerful and full of endurance. There is this PRIDE thing in my family... a work ethic, a moral basis in living life, an ego the size of Minnesota (chip on the shoulder, I daresay) that, "we don't need nobody" (yes, the incorrect grammar there, makes the phrase even more powerful to show my roots). But we know people need us... and we are THERE always... in places we never imagined, doing things many people would thumb up a nose to do. It's about being good for good's sake. It's about dropping in bed exhausted having taken care of all needs around us.

Went to dinner with my mom and sis yesterday for mom's 68th birthday. Just us girls. We are each different personalities.. or shall I say, Mom and Denise are much more alike (logical and nonyielding) and I'm somewhat the freer spirit with a more poetic outlook. But we all seem to have similar plights in life as overachievers. It's about wanting to please, about longing for getting credit for what we do, about making things happen, cleaning up everyone else's messes. We attract people who depend upon us and while we love doing and giving, we ultimately end up seeking reprieve, hiding from the world in reclusive places to avoid all the "taking" that eats us up in this life. And so all that "tough talk" we say to each other about "Fuck this or that and let it go".... we never were really good about abandoning ship when the going gets tough. We carry torches saving our families, kids, neighbors and friends.... And as we shared tales at dinner last night, I detect among us a certain resentment about being loved only for what we do.... never for who we are inside.

I have pondered this recently and it makes me sad. I don't want my kids to be takers and I want them to be powerful and self-sacrificing, but also balance all things. Had a meeting with my kids this morning about the need to share responsibilities and get some of the intense pressure off of me.... things like scrubbing the bathtub and not waiting for mom to come home to whip up meals, but really caring for each other. We need to communicate more and be kind. We need to show love more and criticize less. I think I "done" good with them today.

I have a couple of people "mad" at me right now. I turn off my phone when I work on my dissertation. The work I do requires silence. I can't be at everyone's aid in a moment. Fixed a friend's computer by phone across the miles.... hours of work... I do additional work on weekends for the job, lend a sympathetic ear to friends with money and relationship issues... it's never enough. And when I "crack".... end up a puddle of tears... I am "undesirable" and rejected. It is failed expectations to realize not everyone has within them the care to understand someone as competent as I (and I don't mean that to sound haughty), but I bleed, too! If others did understand, maybe they wouldn't need/demand/criticize so much. So caring for others and being a good mom or sister or daughter or friend is sometimes hard when it goes unappreciated. Not too many people "get that" when their vision of you is that you wear a cape and fly through the air.... "Even heroes have the right to bleed...."

And as for allll the criticisms I feel I get mercilessly from the world.... I remember a wonderful quote...

It is not the critic who counts nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt


Jilly said...

look, it's okay to turn stuff off and not be right there to fix everything when someone needs you. if they really loved you and supported you, they'd understand how horrid the dissertation process is, and offer you a raincheck to listen to them later. IT'S OKAY TO SAY NO to people, and it's even better to ask your children (one and adult and the other almost an adult) to step up and help out. these are all good things, don't feel bad. We sometimes need to lean on people, even if it's just to remind them when you can't take a call.

my guy is about to do the comps and siddertaion thing and i know that i'm going to be the biggest factor in him making it through the process or not. I'm going to have to continue to understand that him being home doesn't mean he can do for me and remind him that he's still a great dad even if he doesn't get to literally be a dad every day. I'm serious when I say that the loved ones should get a desgree too when someone completes the phd process.

when you feel run down and there's just too much to do, you HAVE to make a list of the top 20 things you NEED to do and then pick 10-15 that you can do and the 5 that you'll do if you have time. If it takes 3 days to do the dishes, make one of the kids do it, or just let them sit. They can wait and it doens't make you a bad person, it makes you a human who's under a lot of pressure.


Spidey said...

on a personal level,i decided to stop being everything to everyone about 5 years ago and i am much happier now. i make myself available to my son and daughter and husband. i am there for my mom and dad if they need me, but that's it. sometimes you have to be selfish. there is only so much life that can get sucked out of you. i have learned to ask for help when i need it. although it is hard for me sometimes, i realize that the bitterness i feel when someone doesn't step up to the plate is far worse than asking for the help.
as far as work goes.. that is another story.