I just want my damn fruit cup.
In kindergarten we’d all stand in this line to get a snack- usually a fruit cup and some milk or something. Apparently a little boy decided that I was the perfect person to cut in line, repeatedly, for most of the year. Nothing really came of it, until one day, I went nuts on him. I guess I threw quite the fit, and my teachers were really shocked that sweet, patient, quiet little Gracie had just blown a fuse on this kid. I guess the little boy was scared straight and it never happened again. I don’t remember this, but my mom tells me this story, and it just makes sense to me. We all have our own personality quirks, and this happens to be a big one of mine.
I have to keep an eye on myself, sometimes. Almost like I’m looking down on things from above. I need perspective, otherwise I find myself in these situations- having given far too much of myself without realizing it, until I am left almost completely dry and I go into this survival mode. It understandably surprises those around me, when I suddenly cease up and shut down or start to demand things. On the one hand, I am very aware that this is uniquely "my problem", in the sense that I need to be able to create healthy boundaries and ask for help when I need it. This is something I am working on, and am getting much better at, although it’s difficult for me to know what I need before I reach that point. I think there are a few reasons for this problem. The first being that I really value generosity and kindness and graciousness. I think being that way makes me more of those good things, and I build muscle in that area and am able to handle more than before. I want to push myself in these ways, I would rather be overwhelmed by others than all alone and unable to spread any love. I recognize that I need to get better at identifying what I need and asking for it, before I get to the point of breaking.
On the other hand, I see ways in which I do ask for what I need, in that healthy way, and yet people ignore or stall on it, and then I end up in that place again. I think that occasionally I do get taken advantage of, but it’s never really intentional or malicious, it just has to do with my much more passive personality and someone else’s more energy-intensive or more self-centered (in the nicest sense of the word) personality. I end up asking myself what they need from me much more than they ask themselves what I need from them. A pattern develops, and it’s just complicated and not any one person’s fault.
Or it has to do with the volume of things, like there are far too many people asking me for things, and so on an individual level it wouldn’t make sense to ask them for anything more (or less, depending on the situation), but collectively I’m giving far to much of myself and unable to figure out how to tackle it or to get what I need. Last night was one of those circumstances. It wasn’t any one event or person that set me over the edge, but I found myself grabbing a bowl of ice cream and shutting myself away in our exercise space to watch a movie by myself. I did this very abruptly without saying goodbye to my friend who was over or explaining to anyone that I needed a little time alone. I realize now that I was too overwhelmed to even deal with any questions about it or I might have just burst into tears. I can give myself a break on this one, I’d had like a week straight of just people people people everywhere and a baby who I’m pretty sure is in a growth spurt and likes to nurse all night, and I just… felt tired. It was as simple as that, nothing anyone had done wrong, or anything I had done wrong, I just needed to go- right then- and be by myself.
I struggle with getting what I need and feeling like I have that "empty tank". To some degree I love feeling needed and I nurture these relationships and I truly don’t want to rid myself of any one of them. These responsibilities are natural. To live in a community and provide for one another is really one of the most important things to me. However, I have felt less support about it than I’d like to have, like this value is just not shared by as many people around me as I’d like, and yet everyone seems to benefit from it in some way. I guess I think that I’m up against a lot if the community doesn’t return the favor. Like, we’ve had a lot of house guests and company lately, and I’ve heard a bunch of comments about how we’re (Jeff & I) kind of crazy for having all these people here, and that we should just chill out or something, but it’s not like we’ve actively sought it out or anything, we’ve just been open. Plus, this always comes from people who have asked for our attention and help, so it doesn’t make much sense to me. In some ways it makes me feel overwhelmed for the first time, seeing that people are starting to judge what we do rather than support it, or that maybe I’m missing something. We had friends stay with us this weekend (on top of our friend moving in downstairs and our friend living in our other spare room for the past couple of months) and we had two family events and a "canning party", all this past weekend- plus trying to finish the downstairs apartment. It was busy, for sure! I was thinking it would be fun and lively, and everyone would just help themselves and each other, and we’d spread out outside or whatever we needed for space. My friend who shares my feelings on this was really encouraging and said that she loved that kind of thing, and was nothing but positive about it (I love you, Lindsay, you were great to have around). We talked about choosing to be light hearted and fun about it. It was good and empowering. Later after they left I heard a rumor that our friend who’s been staying with us has thought about leaving recently because of all the people (this, after he’d just asked us to stay for a few more months), and that left a bitter taste in my mouth. I can’t deny folks their boundaries, you know, and to some degree I think I need a little space for the next few days to just take care of myself, but I don’t know. Some of my other friends have made comments that weren’t meant to be criticizing, but they just weren’t helpful. It brings me down, especially when it’s in the context of "I want to spend time together, quit spending time with other people…" or like "I can’t live like you do, it seems crazy to me, but I admire it." The last one was a tough case to crack for me, because there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. I think it’s just that I’d like to hear less opinions and less comments, and more encouragement and participation. I just don’t want to be cast as an outsider because of my values and choices, although I’m finding that I may just be that. Whatever.
I’m really glad that Jeff and I are a team in all this. He lets me be weak and just figure my shit out… and I do the same for him with his crazy anxiety. This morning I talked his ear off and came away so much better for it. I only wish that he wasn’t spread so thin on the other side- he’s always working on some project and it feels hard to reach each other until we collapse in each other’s arms at night. At least there’s that, some people don’t even have that much. And in the quiet of the night, before Vera starts her relentless nurse-fest, we whisper about the importance of loving each other and our friends, the blessing that is this house and our ability to share it, how passionate we feel about life and our ability to do the right things, and how well we’re doing. All said and done, I’m really happy. I’m learning though, and those frazzled moments are for my benefit really, even if it feels like weakness and doubt at the time.
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It’s always a challenge to set boundaries. Doubly so with good friends. I’ve found that part of learning to be responsible is figuring out how to say no. If I did everything I was asked and never said no I’d be all stressed out under a mountain of things to do and everyone would be mad at me because I couldn’t fulfill my obligations to them. It’s another one of life’s crazy balancing acts.