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.

Gracie
Gracie

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Comments (11)

  1. Anonymous

    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.

    Ryan

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yes! I think I’ll just have to keep learning and growing in this way, as it seems to be set up as one of my challenges in life- I often become a doormat without even knowing it. It helps to have healthy people in my life who are able to do this without feeling guilty or like they should be able to do more, etc. Learning by the example of those I care about most is just about the best I could ask for! Thanks for your words. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. pearlstreetdiva

    grace– i cant totally understand your feelings and you know they are justified and you know how to deal with them. I have thought about so many times in that visit where I WANTED to be more helpful but because of our drama felt unable. Like folding up the air mattress!!! or cleaning some dishes!!! thank you so much for sharing your space. I intended to do more for you and while I am really sorry for not, I am also grateful for the lesson that has come from our dramatic stay there!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      No way, you guys were awesome(some drama excluded)! I didn’t feel overloaded by you at all, no need to feel sorry for not doing whatever- I thought you guys were pretty helpful actually. Anyway, I actually really appreciated your presence and energy, it was one of the up sides to my overwhelming couple of weeks. Anyway, if the worst of it is that I decide to watch a movie by myself, I’m in pretty good shape.

      I love you! Are you alright?

      Reply
  3. purerandomness

    Rambling…

    I think realizing that you just want your fruit cup, or your time alone, or a kind word now and again is a healthy step on the way to self-awareness. I know that you’re constantly seeking ways to be better and do better and I wanted to let you know I think you already do an awesome job πŸ™‚ (hello: you had a CANNING PARTY! how much more awesome does it get?)

    It’s hard to know when enough is enough and you just need to be alone. It’s harder now that you’re a mama, I know (!)
    I’m glad you and Jeff have the kind of relationship where you can talk out your troubles, I’m sure that helps you out a lot.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Re: Rambling…

      Thanks. I think your insight about how it’s compounded by mamahood is really good. I do end up thinking “Well, I don’t want to, but I have to, because I’m her mom and… I just have to.” and that obligation can sometimes leave me feeling like it’s just what I need to do for everyone. But that’s not true. Or on the flip side, I’m maybe less able to give of myself to others because I’ve been giving so much to the little one. It’s a whole juggling act sometimes and I just need to learn when to say I can’t. Anyway, I’ll try to keep that in mind these next few days while I’m thinking this stuff over.

      I hope you’re doing well with your little family. That last picture post you had left Jeff and I both swooning over that little guy. He’s unspeakably cute!

      Reply
  4. metalgypsy

    wow you sound more like me than anyone i know! i feel like i could have written this, except for the houseguests part, because i have learned my limits over the years- i have a low sensory threshold! at the same time, am the most patient, open, gentle person i know but often feel like i upset or let people down because i spread myself too thin.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Well then I have a lot I can learn from you! It’s hard to know yourself well, I think. I think one of the hardest realization for me is that sometimes my own patience and openness and whatnot is not really that loving in all cases (which was always my motive to begin with). Sometimes the most loving thing is to put my foot down and say no. I just struggle with figuring out where that is. Anyway, I hope things feel much more balanced for you now. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. prophetsong

    I really empathise with this. I think you and I are a lot alike in a lot of ways. I had frequent bouts of feeling exactly like you describe and it’s really hard, especially when you feel like you’ve tried to reach out for help and still it isn’t forthcoming or when you’ve done something nice for someone and it feels like it’s been thrown back in your face a little.

    Since having Zakary I have to say I’ve been much stricter with myself about ringfencing my time, mainly because, as a lone parent I feel like I can’t afford to get burnt out as I wouldn’t be able to be the best I can for him then. BUT I still find it really hard to say no when others ask things of me and that can be tough, as can dealing with the guilt afterwards if I do manage to stick to my guns and refuse demands.

    I don’t really know what the answer is, just wanted to share that I understand where you’re coming from πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I agree, having Vera has certainly done wonders for me in this area. I only wish that I would be able to know how to do it for myself. I’m also amazed by my friends who seem unaffected by someone’s anger towards them or when someone else is being unreasonable they don’t feel compelled to help solve the situation. They’ll just shrug and say “Yeah, that’s not my problem.” and you can tell they believe it! Wild to me. Anyway, I think that can be bad in excess, too, so I’m aiming for a balance and a good sense of discernment with this issue. We’re just learning, so as long as we keep doing that…

      I agree, you and I seem really similar in some ways. Too bad we’re in different countries, I’d love to see you and your kiddo!

      Reply
      1. prophetsong

        Totally! I think we’d have some really interesting conversations IRL. And for what it’s worth I think the way you’re choosing to live sounds really inspiring and I’d love to see how that works for real. And see your gorgours daughter of course πŸ™‚

        Reply

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