Tuesday, April 26, 2016
A different play book
It shapes you in many ways. We are a product of what happens to us and how we choose to react from the biggest to the smallest of decisions. We all have certain personality traits that are inherently ours. They can be influenced by events, people, arts and all kinds of things.
I think our parents (or the people that raised us) obviously have the biggest influences on how we react to things. Kids are always watching, aren't they? My dad was always very stubborn, strong willed and kind of commanded respect but he was also a schmoozer from what my mom said (a side of him I rarely saw) and was an engineer so he was a planner. My mom was always kind hearted, emotional, thought of others and later developed her own stubborn streak. With two sets of stubborn streaks on either side of the family, you can imagine how charming I am! HA! I'd like to think I'm a good mix of both. I am the first to admit I'm stubborn and I fly off the handle like my dad used to when he was in my life. My family always knew I didn't take crap. I stood up for myself and I wore my emotions on my sleeve. On the opposite side, I also was (and still am, I think) a thoughtful, kind hearted person who thinks of what she can do for others.
I have always been a type A personality and much of this was not just inherited but also by the circumstances I found myself in. As a child of divorce with a lot of instability throughout my childhood, I was always anxious about would we get child support on time and knew as I grew up I wanted to always have a plan. I needed to have a financial plan and a social plan. (I was and am still very against smoking, drinking and drugs.) It just brought me comfort to have a plan for the best and worst situations because I knew one of them would be right.
The same continued into early adulthood. I was a planner (we had a 2 year engagement) and I had to make some pretty hard life decisions after we were married about people who were emotional vampires. It sucked because I was not getting a reciprocal relationship with a few important people in my life and I had to take a stand for myself and what I needed. (I don't think a few emails or outings every couple months is too much to ask, is it?) But when they made it clear they had no interest, I cut my losses. I remember my family being very upset about this because it's not the way they would handle it. At the time, they were people who were I guess what you'd call pushovers to keep the peace. They had no problem complaining about people and situations behind the scenes but wouldn't do anything to actively rectify those situations. They became mired in regurgitating the same complaints with no resolution. I'm not built that way but I can respect it if that's how they choose to deal with things.
However, I always found myself on the end of having a different playbook handed to me. I felt like "how is it that I can respect your handling of a situation even if it's not how I would handle it but you can't do the same for me?" As I've gotten older, I have really tried to work on my initial reaction to situations. I have no interest in rehashing the same family turmoil with some members that just can't seem to get their crap together. It's not that I don't love them, wish them well and to find some peace but I've literally heard the same complaints for 30 years. I do not wish to bond over gossip. I have better ways to spend 3 hours even if it means I'm not as close to some people as a result.
One example of something small that really irritated me as a highly sensitive person, is an interaction I had with my mom at a holiday gathering last year. I had posted on my personal social media page a hearty congratulations to the opposing football team who creamed our team. It was nothing snarky, it just congratulated the team who showed up to play. A few people commented their disappointment we sucked but that I was right - the other team showed up, some liked it just like with any post. Well that had been at least 3 weeks by the time I saw my mom and somehow the game came up and she's like "yeah I saw your post and said "congratulations my ass...HIDE." I kind of laughed and was like whatever...until she reminded me two more times that she hid it. Okay...I get it!!! You didn't like what I had to say because you're a zombie fan with no desire to look at a stupid game objectively, I'm taking offense. Do you know how much of her crap I've had to hide because I didn't agree with her viewpoint or wasn't interested in that particular thing clogging my feed? But do I have to say "yeah, that opinion you had about that thing? I didn't like that so I hid it. Yeah...totally hid it. To remind you, if you post something like that, I will hide it." NO. I hit hide and she didn't know any better. But it's just a case where I consider others feelings and I don't get the same in return.
I remember one time someone asked me when we were leaving for a trip and I couldn't recall the exact date. I got an eye roll and a "PLEASE, you always know and have everything planned to the tee six months in advance. Don't act like you don't know." Uh...scuzi? Yes, when I was 23 that was true. Now, I have to practically be tasered to force me to plan a trip. I cut it way too close for my own good and cause myself unnecessary stress. (For those who may say "just wing it!"...nope. Tried that a few times, it was a disaster.) It just knocked me over how utterly irritated this person was at my lack of an answer to their satisfaction and more so that they thought they knew me...they just assumed I was the same person I was 15 years ago. How many of us are?
It amuses me when people get irritated that you answer a question or handle a situation differently than you did when you were in your teens or twenties. They have an expectation of your reactions and when you don't fit into the mold they cast you in anymore, they feel threatened by it. It's like they want to keep you in this box and not allow you to grow and change as you acquire more wisdom and ways of coping with life. If I'm somehow "different" to you then you've never taken the time to get to know the real me. What does that say about you?
I have this weird need to want to connect with people on a deeper level that doesn't seem to be shared by most people in my life. There are a few exceptions to the rule. I have a few people in my life who aren't afraid to go deeper than the surface and I'm so thankful for that. But I find myself only knowing many people in my life I used to be closer to by what they present on social media or how they act at the few times we get together and it's always pretty vague answers. Is that all we are is asking about each others jobs, what immediate plans are within the next few days or what we brought to a get together? That's crap you save for the family reunion people that you see once a year. (We won't even go there.) I'll admit that when I see some family members who are in their mid twenties and early thirties, I see their little faces as they were when they were kids so I can understand why I am still seen that way by some people but I don't treat them like the fools they were in their teens. (Despite they're actin' a fool but in a different way now...HA!)
The Mr talked about how he left his childhood and old traditions back in his old hometown. His whole life changed when he moved as a teenager so he mourned that then. Now he sees me dealing with losing the glue of our family (grandma) and how much she really represented all that made up the important times in my life and how it has gutted me. He said when you see something change and there's nothing you can do, you have to make new things that will become the norm or do what makes you the happiest. I felt immense guilt about telling my mom we wouldn't be here this Christmas and ran through every horrible comeback she could have and put myself through a month of physical agony and panic attacks just thinking about it. In the end, as long as we still had a Christmas together even if not on the day, she was okay with it. I need to learn to not put her in the same box I don't want people to put me in. (Though I have more experience getting what I expect, ya know?)
I had to take Christmas back this year and I look at it as a way to finally break the mold people put me in. "Anele the Christmas freak..." or the second a flurry falls I get flooded with snarky messages about how I must love it while they proclaim their hatred of it. Well if you'd been paying attention the past few years, you'd see that Anele has rarely had a smile on her face Christmas Day. The first clue last year should've been when someone said at Thanksgiving "I bet you're excited for Christmas", I couldn't even mask the dread and just blurted out "actually no. I just want it over with." They looked shocked I said that but do you think they asked why? Nope.
Me? If I knew someone was a Christmas freak and that was their response, I'd pull them into a private room and ask what was wrong and what I could do to help. Why is it I think of these things for others but no one other than the Mr (or a few select online friends) will think to do that? I know they love me but I also know some of them would do it for each other. I don't need to be all up in everyone's business but man how I would like to know that we're all equally there for each other. It's something I used to feel and now feels like a thing of the past. I try to take responsibility for my part in it but there seems to be this old expectation of who I am to them that I can't seem to shake. I also feel like they think they can't relate to the "new" me. I actually have people kind of recoil when I bring food because they're afraid I'm going to feed them healthy food. Perish the thought! I will throw out something I am interested in as a talking point sometimes and when the eyes glaze, it's like "okay, guess not." I don't care about some of their interests but I listen to them...sometimes for 10-20 minutes but don't get the same courtesy. I've literally been in the middle of sentences and had people turn away or start other conversations. Wow...thanks? I don't want to make it sound like I'm Dark Helmet and surrounded by assholes but I guess I don't know where I fit in anymore and it doesn't feel so hot.
I will try to navigate through it all and hope for the best outcome. I'd say it can't get worse but I know we'll be dealing with grandma and her husband's death in the next few years and when death comes...I've experienced how it rips families apart. It blows so yeah, not looking forward to that time for a myriad of reasons.
How has your personality or coping mechanisms changed as you've gotten older? Do people in your life accept the "new" you or assume you're still the same person you were 10-20 years ago?
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