Whatever else was missing in my childhood, manners and certain principles were drilled into me. Always say please and thank you. Don’t reach across the table (fork to the hand kiddo) or talk with your mouth full. Do unto others… They hold as strong now as they did when I was young, and trying to figure out right from wrong. Frankly, to a fault. Because things have changed folks. It’s still best to not talk with food in your mouth (yuck) and please and thank you are always appreciated. But having an expectation that if you truly do unto others, as you would have them do unto you, is often an empty and self-destructive endeavor. If you’ve been reading for a while, then you know that I’ve talked a lot lately about the entire notion of expectations, and being attached to outcomes. It’s a sticky, sticky place for me. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever put my mind to, mainly because I just keep stumbling… right into those expectations.
A wise and caring person I know, has said to me
too many times: “You are entitled to your labor, but not the fruits of your labor.” Honestly, when I first heard that phrase, I thought it was bogus. It sounded to me like a clever thing to say, but it didn’t gel with any of the things I’d been taught. Over time, that saying has become a true thorn in my side, as it’s repeated each time I find myself disappointed or bumping up agains walls of expectation. It’s not fair, I’ve whined responded— over and over. It seems totally reasonable to me, that if I call a friend regularly and invite them to do things, they will return the favor. If I invite you to our parties, you invite us to yours, right? If I take the time to read another bloggers blog, regularly, they will check out mine. If I comment and give feedback, they will do the same. If I return your calls right away, and don’t use caller ID to avoid you, you will call me back too. Right? If I support you through your hard times (be it the death of someone you love, job changes, emotional stuff), you’ll have my back when my time comes. If I stay home, buy makings for s’mores, and allow you to have your friends over… you will be reasonably nice and responsive to me, when I need you to do things, right?! Ok, maybe all bets are off when it comes to one’s kids!
Maybe that many examples aren’t necessary. I’m sure you got it… without the list. Maybe I have an issue with passive-aggressive too?
Maybe Clearly I’m not that good at this whole detachment thing, that’s for sure. Alright, I suck at it; I want the damned fruit! I feel “entitled” to it. I do. I believe in do unto others, and generally, I try really hard to do the best that I can unto others. The problem is that it hasn’t really played out the way I expected. The way I felt entitled to. For the record, I am a lucky woman. I have very good friends, and many people who love me. Those I count as close friends, have been just as thoughtful, just as committed to me, as I am to them. That’s why we’re close friends. My fruit has been abundant. I do know that.
So why do I find myself stuck on the trees that don’t bear fruit? Instead of celebrating the good, I get overly focused on those who have not “done” in return. I stay hurt over things that I really should let go of. I dissect outcomes and worry about what I could have done better; what I should have done differently, and why things didn’t turn out how I wanted or hoped for. I turn myself inside out, trying to figure out things that have no real reason. I find myself saying, over and over, but if I did A, why is there no B? I know I should let things go, and I get the idea that if I choose to do those things, I can’t then expect the same in return. Do unto other has kind of passed out of fashion. We’ve become a culture where these principles just don’t apply as much anymore.
Our kids will always be our kids. If you think they’re your friends, I believe you’re missing something. It’s they’re job to be a little selfish when it comes to the boundaries between you. Whether your kids are the type who work to do nice things in return, and aim to please, or they do their own thing: which more often involves not considering your desires, they are not your friends. A good friend who has a really “good relationship” with her kids, now in their 30s, recently told me: “I thought we’d get past the mom-kid thing and be friends, at a certain stage. Now I’m seeing that that never really happens. Ultimately, they always look to you to be the parent, even when the playing field seems level.” Her point was an interesting one, and hits to the crux of my issue. Like me, my friend is entitled to her labor: listening to and supporting her adult child through some difficult times, but she is not entitled to the fruit of that labor: having that same child return the support, when Mom is going through her own life issues. Her daughter is not able to fully empathize or be there, she has her own expectations: those of a child who wants their parent to be a parent.
Friends and acquaintances don’t always follow through the way we hope they will. If you continue to invite someone to be a part of your events, when they don’t invite you in return, you are left to decide whether your expectations are realistic, or whether you let go and accept things as they are. There are people who just don’t return calls well. What you put out is not what always comes back to you. I’m working on accepting that, and letting it go.
Letting. It. Go. That is the biggest challenge. It’s one thing to see the pattern, but another to move past it and let go. It’s the part that’s sticky; it’s where I get stuck (read that post too). Accepting that you’re not entitled to the fruit is the real challenge. You’re lucky if you get it, but you can’t expect it. It’s
often self-defeating to do things hoping for a return. Expectations, when attached to motivation can be toxic. All of it is a hard lesson, for me, but I’m working the program; I’m working on myself.
“Change is a funny thing. Not everyone can handle it. It can sneak up on you. You’re whole world is transformed. You realize that the ground beneath you has shifted. Things are uncertain. And there’s no turning back. The world around you is different now.” (GA)
When we work on change, the world does shift. It can be uncomfortable at first, but when things begin to fall into place, it gets easier. As I work on change, I’m trying not to be attached to the outcomes. I’m working on noticing the positive things, and letting go of the negative. It’s hard, hard, hard, but change is gonna do me good! So, I’m focusing on doing unto others… in a way that’s right in my own mind, not as I hope will be done in return.
Tell me what you think. Is this a sticky spot for you as well? Or are you the kind of person who doesn’t worry about expectations? Leave a comment and tell me. Check out Tales From the Motherland on Facebook, and hit like.