Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do what makes you happy

I have a distant aunt and uncle that are some of my favorite people on Earth.  When I was young, they were a big influence on me even though they likely didn't know it.  They were fun people, my aunt was always ready with a big hug, a hearty laugh and you always got a sense when she asked you how you were doing, it wasn't a nicety...she really wanted to know.  She could be goofy or serious as a heart attack given the topic and always looked you in the eyes and touched your arm to let you know she was listening.  It's love at first meet with her as the Mr can attest.  The first time she met him there was no handshake, she went in for a great big hug, schmoozed with him and told us what a great couple we were.

My uncle was a charmer, sometimes to his detriment but he could sell water to a drowning man and not in a used car salesman kind of way.  He was just good with words, always up for a joke, passionate about his hobbies and always seemed perpetually 10-15 years younger than he was.  He always made me feel special by treating me like an adult and not like a kid.  He could relate to kids by not talking down to them because he enjoyed being around young people.  Unfortunately the Mr and I aren't quite as hip and find ourselves with nothing in common to talk about with children.  The dreaded "how's school/what grade are you going to be in?" spilling out of my pie hole as I desperately try to stuff that phrase back in because I know how lame that sounded when *I* was their age.

As awesome as those characteristics are in both of them, they also have always marched to the beat of their own drummer.  They will show up to once a year gatherings but they're always late.  There have been other family gatherings and sometimes they'll show up, sometimes they won't.  It drove the rest of my family up the wall not knowing if they could count on them being there or not.  Honestly, I think it just depended if they got up that day and felt like coming.  While it might be rude to some, I thought it was awesome.  They were people living by their own rules and to hell if other people liked the way they lived their lives.  It was no skin off their butts and when they die, no one will ever say in their eulogies that they didn't live life their own way.  While I never fully adopted their way of thinking most of my life, I find as I get older that I'm leaning more toward it.

I've always fallen in a safer category of going to obligatory family things but doing our own thing for most of my life.  We've dealt with in-law situations with the Mr's family where we tried to please people, show up when it was expected and a few times when it wasn't, do nice things, etc and it was never good enough.  We still got talked about, we still got criticized and it was very "what have you done for me lately?"  (Miss Jackson if you're nasty.)   We decided that since we were going to get slammed either way, we were now going to dictate how our time was spent with them and if that meant other people had their undies in a twist...oh well.  We now have a relationship with boundaries where everyone knows their roles...we give from the heart with the intent of spending quality time when we're able to give it and they gripe that we never do enough.  Got it.  As long as everyone is comfortable with their role in that.  (We are.)

I always felt like my family wasn't quite that level of judgmental but as they age, I'm finding they are changing too.  It seems like people rarely contact us unless they want a favor to the point we get pits in our stomach when the phone rings.  The latest is they are trying to dictate who I could and couldn't invite to my birthday celebration in a few months.  I told the Mr this was going to happen.  I told him it is supposed to be MY gathering and they would make about THEM and I was right.  I knew it was coming to this at the last bigger birthday gathering we had and my gift to myself is a drama free birthday when it rolls around.  If anyone wants to place the blame on why I didn't get the birthday gathering they wanted, I'll just say "look in the mirror.  You all made my birthday about your lack of sucking it up for 2 hours.  Happy Birthday to me."  I can't really have the kind of birthday I really want to have anymore anyway because Grandma doesn't know me and my uncle stopped coming and it felt forced at the last one.  You wouldn't get an invite to a party, show up, not be thrilled with someone on a guest list (who is a wonderful person, by the way) and then go up to the birthday girl/guy and say "why did you invite THEM!?"  So what makes you think it's okay to try to control things before hand and insist not only do we not invite a very good friend of ours but that we'd better invite a distant aunt and uncle?  Oh you mean the attention seeking emotional vampire of an aunt that isn't happy unless she's complaining every second you see her?  The one that they have refused to invite to their birthday dinners for almost 15 years because they want to enjoy their birthday?  That one?  Double standard much?   I mean cripes, is this what happens when you get older?  Utter tyranny?

It really sucks because the people I would most like to celebrate with (you know, the ones who could suck it up if they gave a crap about the guest list, which they don't), all live in other states.  They are all positive, wonderful people I wouldn't dream of asking to make the drive just for a dinner out and maybe a game night back at the house or something.  But damn it would be nice to be around people whose only agenda is to have a low key good time and celebrate me.

I think because I was an outspoken perceived wild child in my youth that people just assume that's how I spend my time 20 years later. People who should know better.  Since I've gotten married what part of my life has resembled my teen years?  Nothing!  We travel.  We enjoy at home movie night and board games.  We go to farmers markets and antique shops (sorry Mr!).  I love cooking wonderful meals to make my man or anyone who gets an invite to our home, happy.  I love shootin' the breeze in small, intimate setting and hate crowds or a table with more than 6-8 people at it because I feel it's hard to give people proper attention.  It should not be expected that I suddenly want to start changing that to please other people's expectations when they don't have the same expectation for themselves and how they celebrate their own birthdays.  WTH?  It's not that I'm not grateful to have people who want to celebrate the day of my birth but dictating who I could and couldn't invite when I'm a grown ass woman isn't about what I want, it's about what other people want.  If they're that set on having a particular guest list of people they can't even stand, they can go to dinner somewhere, cut some cake and party on without me.  I'll be enjoying myself with people who actually are grateful I would want to spend what's supposed to be my "special day" with them.

I know some people who are people-pleasers to the nth degree and so worried about being a martyr or what others will think, that they will delay their own happiness when people don't even ask them to... much less when they do.  I know people who just say "screw you", are selfish, think only of themselves and not what they suck out of others with their actions.  I don't want to be either of those but I'm going to have to redefine some boundaries with my family and give what I'm able to give because my health is suffering otherwise and I'm not going to do that.

I had to remind myself of the motto on the pic at the top because you get one life and you should live it the way you see fit, not what others expect of you.  I find when I have expectations, they're rarely met.  So, I'm going to do what *I* want to do in a few months.  The Mr and I are moving some funds around and I'm rewarding myself for getting through this summer, this remodel, other people's crap and not smacking someone with a week's vacation.  We're hopping in the car, pointing to a spot on the map and getting the hell out of here.  So pfffft!

Do you sacrifice your own happiness to attempt to meet the expectation of others or do you do what you want to do (within reason obviously) figuring they're going to talk about you anyway, why not be happy?

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  1. You know, if there is one bit of wisdom I think I have learned or figured out in my 41 years it's that most of the criticism we take from others is more about them than it really is about us. We all do it from time to time and I would be a hypocrite if I claimed I didn't too. But the way we handle that criticism makes all the difference in the world and while it is hard to do, I do agree with the mentality that you should just do what makes you happy first and foremost and let others worry about their own crap. Life is a gift we were meant to enjoy to the fullest and there is plenty of stuff out there to get us all down so why add to it if we don't have to.

    1. I agree. I think there is some expectation that people have of how other people should be and yes, I'm guilty of it too but the difference is, I keep my mouth shut. You can want something for someone but if they don't want it for themselves then it's pointless to say something. (Regardless of what it is from something stupid like a birthday dinner to the way they live their lives.) When it was made clear at the last gathering that they were going to get pissy about who they did and didn't think should be there, I wrote this bday off for myself. Honestly, I'm okay with that. I'm not turning 16 so it's not some major blow to how I will live my life after the fact. My gift to myself this year is the remodel and it's a gift we'll wake up to every day we come downstairs. Good enough for me! Well that and spending my birthday with you. :-)

  2. My mother had terrible family issues that always haunted her. It stemmed from her mother, and it made the rest of the relatives act badly too. It really was so sad because my mother was an amazing woman and didn't deserve it.

    I had Sirius radio in my car when I first bought it so I got to listen to Dr. Laura for a year and I wish my mom could have been able to have listened to her when she was younger. Because what I hear from her is that just because these people are your family, doesn't mean they should be in your life. Just because your mother gave birth to you, doesn't mean she is an actual mother unless she proves it and if it a poisonous relationship, it is OKAY to walk away from it. And you do not have to feel guilty about it. You wouldn't put up with friends that treat you poorly, why put up with your family just because they are your blood.

    My grandmother lived until she was 93 and until then, my mother felt bound to her. I know she did a lot to distance herself over the years, but really, until she died, my mother was not free. So many (too many) years wasted dealing with her.

    The only good thing to come out of this is that it made my mother the most wonderful mother. It was like she was able to take all the bad my grandmother gave to her and turn it around to be the best mother that she always wanted. I grew up in a wonderful, caring environment. She picked my dad knowing he would be an amazing partner and father and created such a great life. They raised us without judgement. They raised us with compassion and by being such a great couple together, showed us what we should look for in our lives. Us kids are all not perfect, but without my parents upbringing, I don't think we would have become who we all are today. Even if it took some of us longer than what is expected.

    Life is so short, don't put up with anyone's crap!

    1. I'm so sorry your mom had to put up with that from her mother. Our mothers are such influences in our lives for the good and bad. We can look at their actions and either get sucked into the cycle or pick and choose what we take on and adjust to how we want to live our own lives.

      It is sad when you have to cut a parent out of your life. I don't have a relationship with my father. He's a very 'my way or the highway' kind of person and one day I just gave up after years of trying to be what I thought he wanted and chose the highway. I would be more than happy to have dinner with him when he's in town (and I know after the fact that he does come to town) but I've just never been put on his list. I want a relationship with him but only one that works for us both, not just one of us.

      I'm glad your mom was able to take the example of her own mom as what not to do and give you a wonderful example to follow!

  3. That just doesn't make sense to me. It's your party, you invite who you want. What makes other people think they get to dictate your guest list? I can see a reminder (did you remember to put Aunt Sue on the list?) but not an actual statement of who you can/cannot invite. I don't blame you taking a getaway vacation instead. It almost sounds like when couples elope to avoid the pressures of wedding planning. You should definitely do what makes you happy and what you are comfortable with, and when you do host a gathering you should be able to invite who you want and leave out those you don't want. If one invited guest has a problem with another they can either not come, or suck it up for a couple hours.

    I really only have my parents on my side (rest of their families live far away and I was never close to them) and hubby only has his 2 sisters (his mom passed a few years ago and he's been estranged from his dad since before I met him) so we don't have too many family problems. His sisters can be challenging, but they both seem to be mellowing a little with age.

    Geeesh - people!

    1. I know, right? It would be different if they were close relatives or people that always came to bday dinners but they purposely don't invite them because *they* don't want drama. Oh, okay. But *I* should deal with it!? Yes!! This is totally like the elopement situation. I so get it now! I mean, I got it before but now, away people! Run away! LOL

      It's like you don't know whether to be grateful or sad for people who don't have as much family to deal with. I love them to death and I know I will miss them when they're gone but man, it feels like it's been the Mr and I against the world for so long in so many ways. To quote Jareth from Labyrinth "I'm exhausted trying to live up to your expectations of me."

  4. OMG I wrote you a response twice and lost it!
    Bummers. Suffice it to say the weeding process brings bliss!

  5. I'm the black sheep in my family and I'm ok with that. I made a healthy, conscious choice to not stay in contact with anyone except one aunt and we don't talk about "family" stuff because I don't want to know any of the drama. I have no relationship with my sister and feel very good about that. The rest of the family thinks I'm a horrible human being--even though my sister does not attempt to speak to me either and she's four years older than me. I've always quietly let go of friendships that had changed to the point where they were too one-sided and I actually dreaded the phone ringing (much like you said). With my mom's illness I've really learned who are my real friends and who aren't, and boy, hasn't THAT been a painful wakeup call. It's stickier with my family because I cannot share this with my aunt (on my father's side) because I believe (although I'm not entire sure) that she still has contact with my sister and mom absolutely does not want her to know about any of this. The nasty collection calls mom and me get with people looking for my sister are bad enough. It's made for a very lonely road with trying to deal with this stuff with mom, but I lean on God every day and am thankful I don't have the added stress of screwed up family members who make life miserable. There is one person who's trying to weasel her way back in and the hubs is letting her and I have to stand out of the way and allow the natural consequences to happen. I used to be such a control freak about stuff like that, but that, too, was terribly unhealthy for me, so now I don't try to step in and "save" him. He'll figure it out...just like his now-deceased brother figured it out (too late) that she's poison. I have to take care of me--and I don't have to be defensive or prickly about it--just pretty matter-of-fact. I find the less I'm around nasty people like that--who try to dictate who I should live, eat, work, celebrate, etc, the calmer I am and I don't fly into rages anymore. I'm criticized by many who know me for being a homebody, a sports fanatic, not terribly social, etc.--not "feminine" at all, and that used to really, REALLY bother me. But I can truly say it doesn't bother me anymore because I'm honoring myself by staying true to who I really am today--and just for today. Kudos to you for thinking it over, pondering your choices, and acting instead of reacting. You didn't cave to pressure and you can feel good about making the best choices for YOU regardless of what others think. My birthday is next week and it's not going to be what I hoped it to be. Hard? You bet. But I'll really be ok...and I *finally* believe that now. Big hugs, sister! You are making healthy mental choices for yourself--a victory indeed!!

    1. Doesn't it suck that some of us have so few people we can lean on for the serious stuff? People like us tend to be the emotional rock for so many but rarely get that in return or we get it with a quick glaze over answer like a one liner will make 10 minutes of shoulder leaning worth it. Thanks. I used to fight tooth and nail to make my points and I just don't have it in me anymore. Think what you want to think, I don't care. Apparently we were accused of not liking the newest member on the family tree and no matter how many time we say she ignores us, is bitchy, etc it's somehow our fault. Okay fine. So the next time you tell us how much we don't like your new Pinterest BFF, I'm not going to deny it. I've given my effort, she's made it clear she doesn't like us, they like kissing her ass so pucker up butter cups, we'll be talking to the people who actually treat us with respect.

  6. So my comment isn't as long or profound as others--I really enjoyed reading a few of them--but I resonate.

    I used to REALLY worry about how people viewed me...then I heard a life changing story about the man, his son, and his donkey (sound familiar by chance??) that totally helped me to understand that you literally CANT please everyone...

    So as the song goes, you might as well at least please yourself! It's tough to remember, but I am happiest when I do!

    Thanks for being inspiring!!!


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