Monday, August 07, 2006

Things I'm trying to figure out these days.

1. How high a standard to set for other people's behavior, particularly in regards to me. I don't want to be a whiny bitch who demands that other people take care of her. I fear being a high-maintenence person like the plague. But I am cognizant that sometimes people treat me badly and I just put up with it because I honestly have no clue how else to respond. I really, fundamentally, do not expect people to change. I can suggest ways they could improve their behavior, and sometimes do with gusto, but I pretty much accept people in my life as they are and assume they won't change. When they become more trouble than they're worth, I quietly let them go.

And I get that when I let a few people's bad behavior put me in a depressed mood, I become hard to be around for everyone. (If you get depressed and don't understand that you are rather difficult to be around when you are in that state, I highly recommend the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two and the beginning of season three. I love Buffy and those episodes are for me damn near unwatchable as I find her sadness over losing Angel brings the entire cast down. I didn't completely get how powerful one sad person could be until I saw them.)

2. I had a crisis-based childhood. Everything, budgeting, time management, parental attention was always focused around who was the biggest mess, who needed it the most. At the time, I basically dropped out of the competition and let my brothers compete for who could be the biggest screwup. That cost me some things that I am discovering now that I could have used, but I'm a lot better off than they are, to put it mildly.

But now I find I am repeating some of the same patterns. Not to the degree my parents did, but I do have a tendency to let things slide until they force me to deal with them. I want to stop. I have some plans for fixing my own life and making things run more smoothly, yet crises are still popping up and part of me still goes "Oooh! Aaah! A crisis! Wahoo! I know what to do now!"

Sometimes I think I'm really good at improving things that suck, but I have no idea how to get things past "OK" into "good" or even "Wonderful."

Anyway, that's me, being all introspective. Comments welcome.


1 comment:

Doug Muder said...

I resonate with 1.

Through a combination of luck and foresight, I've built a life with a lot of slack in it. I have control of a lot of my time, I have enough money, and so on. Now, part of how I did that was to limit my desires and ambitions: My wife and I decided not to have kids, not to have a house, and not to try to rule the world in our careers. We're hardly monks, but we have surplus because we choose to live within our resources, not because our resources are infinite.

One side-effect of this decision is that I'm always dealing with people who are more stressed than I am. My social life revolves around other people's scheduling constraints, and things frequently fall through because they can't get babysitting or for some other reason that wouldn't apply to me. I'm constantly talking to people who need to be listened to but don't have the spare cycles to listen -- they want to and maybe even think they do, but they just can't. And so on. I'm sure you get the idea.

I do a lot of things for other people -- household projects, unfreezing their computers, watching their kids, etc. -- because I can. When I watch people I care about trying to juggle too many balls, it's very tempting to say, "Hey, let me hold that ball for you. No problem."

I used to be part of a men's group, maybe 15 years ago. At the time, one guy was unemployed and watching his money run out. Another was being divorced by a wife he really loved. And my problems were ... oh, never mind. That was it for me and support groups. I was on the committee that set up Small Group Ministry at my church, but I never joined a group.

Mostly I like living this way, but occasionally it gets to me. A few years ago, my wife went through one of those cancer treatments that leaves your immune system compromised. For three weeks she couldn't leave the apartment. The doctors' instructions were not to let kids visit. We had two visits in those three weeks. One couple brought their kids and I took them to McDonalds while the grown-ups talked with Deb; the other guy was two hours later than he said he'd be. Another couple said they'd come, but their babysitting kept falling through. They never made it.

This weekend we're moving, and I wonder if anybody will actually show up to help. I think they will, but I wish I felt more sure of it. And in October I turn 50. Deb's 50th was a big deal (three years ago) because at the time people were afraid she was going to die. I wish mine could be a big deal without a major illness, but I don't see that happening.

So anyway, I'm trying to figure this issue out too. How much reciprocity should I insist on from my friends, and to what extent can I just be generous without expecting a return? I don't have an answer to that.