Monday, November 2, 2009

The hamster wheel

I wrote about taking care of myself here:

It's not something I learned growing up.  I just need to be honest about that. Setting basic boundaries, saying no gracefully, dealing with guilt were things I didn't learn.  There were many reasons for that, it isn't as if everyone in my life started from scratch thinking "how can we be more codependent??"

And the codependency thing - it's that it wasn't okay to ask for things for oneself.  It wasn't okay to admit to feelings that didn't go with the overall family/religious narrative - feelings of anger and frustration.

So it is always really interesting to me when I come in contact with people who have an unrealistic perspective of family or family interactions.

A healthy family, it seems to me, is one where people can feel free to say no without consequences.  Where family events are flexible - given family members' time, money and child care concerns. 

There's a form of acceptance that this takes.  That hasn't worked for some very mormon relatives of mine.  To my mind, it is actually a little sad for me when I interact with these family members. 

Because I realize - they don't understand it yet.  They don't understand that we're not the perfect family, that I am not the perfect granddaughter, cousin or niece.  I have other priorities.  

And I realized that there was quite a bit I was ignoring while I kept trying to do things to make everyone else happy.

It's so much easier when a person can sit back and appreciate what is there.  What we do have.  Instead of trying to make all these grandiose plans.  I want to say to them - I understand.  I have been there.   

There are these concepts of love and honor  - if you really loved so and so, you would do x.  That's the rub - that's how a person gets caught.  If you loved this person, you would not listen to what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family. You would attend this event. 

To my mind, it is very important for each individual to do what they need to do to make themselves happy.  Not to get on the hamster wheel trying to live up to these expectations. 

From my understanding, the only thing you can do in these types of situations is decline gracefully, hold boundaries and let it go. It still feels awkward, however.  It doesn't feel natural. 

There's a part of me that says "I can make it work - I can adjust".  In the end, however, I know where that's got me in the past - and where it will probably lead. 

And as a success story, the more I set boundaries and speak up for myself, in some situations the better I feel.  Some people respond really well.  I stay in the present - and so do they.  We don't get involved in what happened in the past - and we talk about expectations instead of assuming we're all on the same page. 

PS.  I know I have some family members reading this blog, although not the family members I'm specifically thinking about.  Please feel free to email me personally and I can explain more about what I'm talking about.

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