Monday, July 23, 2012
As we grow older, we find ourselves pulled in many different directions. There are the children, the spouse, the career, the side interests, and somewhere in the mix, there we are. We just don’t have time for all of the “extras” anymore. It is a sentiment echoed a lot lately by many of my friends. A sentiment summed up in two words: I can’t.
And what we can’t seem to do anymore is spend an inordinate amount of time catering to the whims and drama of others. Now, it just seems like a lot of unnecessary nonsense. Besides, we’ve got our own business to tend to. When we were younger, we were far more likely to engage in all manner of tomfoolery; we tolerated so-called friends who really weren’t friends at all, we came to the rescue of those wayward siblings who always seemed to make it a point to find trouble, and we sacrificed for those boyfriends who really weren’t worth our time. Granted, some stuff was serious and real, but it all seemed so crucial and necessary then. And although the words were never spoken, we assumed that there would eventually be a return on our “good deeds” investment.
But something changed. We got older and we realized that it was no longer worth it. We began to realize that all of the extra time and energy it takes to cater to others was no longer worth the extra time and energy. Along with that realization, something else happened (well at least to some of us). Some major event occurred in our lives and the very people that we put so much energy into were not around. For many of us, our initial reaction was hurt or anger. It just wasn’t fair. We cried and complained because we had given generously and often, presumably with no expectation of recompense or reward, but the ONE time we found ourselves in need, we were left abandoned on the side of the road. In our story, we had been used and so we vowed to shut it all down-at least for a while. Because of course, they needed to know. They needed to be taught a lesson. They had mistaken our kindness for weakness.
Then came the pushback. The pushback from all the folks that we had seemingly made dependent on our good deeds. They couldn’t understand our new attitude. Our anger surprised them. After all, nothing had changed for them, except maybe our newly found resistance to making ourselves available to them. Some even went so far as to get mad and tell us that we were trippin’. Now ain’t that something? The nerve. The nerve and the unmitigated gall.
But in the midst of it all, we lost sight of the real issue. And that is the fact that we had elected, appointed and nominated ourselves to be “Superwoman.” We had freely signed up to be everyone’s go-to girl. We got to be the one with all the answers. We got to be the strong one; the level headed one, the mature one. Some of us might argue that we didn’t choose it and that all of that greatness and responsibility had been thrust upon us. But that isn’t true. Despite our protestations and justifications as to why we took on the role, the fact remains that we did indeed choose it. Something about it made us feel important or special. We could at least be honest about that. And for me, along with that honesty, came the understanding that my choice to give does not in any way create an obligation for those I have chosen to give to.
Like every other real, grown-up woman dealing with life’s issues, I still have moments when it gets to be too much. But nowadays, whenever I start feeling overwhelmed and find myself feeling resentment towards the “takers”, I think of what my best friend told me many years ago...…“When God was going around the room asking who wanted to be responsible, didn’t nobody tell you to raise your hand”…and I laugh.