It’s a familiar trap, a pattern many recognize–getting caught between wanting to do the “right” thing for someone else or for the self.
Trying today to unwind my thinking, past my feelings, habits and impulses, to identify my needs. I am caught up in the should’s. And I dislike it.
Yes, I grew up with a mother who attended co-dependents anonymous and that may explain why, in the past, I instantly responded to calls for volunteers for the school, sports organizations, non-profits, family and friends whenever I could. I built habits for some need I had to fulfill to help. But what about now?
The balance of helping others and helping myself is the challenge. Getting it right is not always easy, but I am more interested today in examining these knee-jerk reactions and judgments that come with “I should help this guy out” compulsion.
I give a lot of time and attention to a long-time friend who cannot reciprocate, and I am becoming resentful and disinclined to see this friend any more. This would seem like a no-brainer, dump the freeloader, but it is not that simple. I don’t want to (thinking) be beholden to a give to get something or quid pro quo value system. The impulse to give irrespective of gain is in line with my values.
Resentment (feelings) arises for sure in this equation, but the more important question, if I give myself time to respond the next time my friend, who I will call Ash for convenience, calls and asks to go out to lunch to talk (read: monopolize the conversation), is why I feel compelled to be the sympathetic ear, ignoring my own therapeutic need to be heard and share thoughts and feelings.
Mind you, this friend does not always take but often enough where the obligatory “should’s” hit me whenever I see that text or telephone number on my screen. The first reaction is a tiny wince and inaudible sigh. I have known Ash a long time and spent countless hours being a friend. Is it habit?
I wrestle with passive-aggressive responses too–unavailability, calling back much later, too late, and just plain ignoring. That is not a good friend, I chide myself. Feeling guilty is not helpful, either. The spiral of internal chain reactions is exhausting…I shouldn’t ignore…just say what I feel…don’t want to hurt someone for what I perpetuated…time I cannot afford and don’t want to give…others who need it more…giving unconditionally…compassion…
…and on and on.
How to get past the stuff, the gunk (too much thinking or not enough), to the discerned need, my real need in this relationship, occupies my day today. Being truthful.
I know the answer–for me, anyhow. Time. Give myself time to decipher my need–for that moment, any given moment–before saying yes to engaging with Ash. Examining the relationship a bite at a time may lead to the larger answer that I sought today, too overwhelming, as to what I need in this relationship, not want, project, hope or atone for in it.
The Stones got it right: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.
Given enough precious time.