Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Switch

I'm no saint. Believe me. Far from it. I can be selfish, withdrawn, completely introverted. I can be. But mostly, I'm not. With all false modesty stripped away, I try to be a giving person as much as I can. Though I am the youngest in my family, I am, in many ways, the eldest. My siblings rely on me for a whole variety of things, and they are not always grateful. That's okay. My friends and colleagues get a whole bunch of "freebies" from me, both in terms of professional favors and just run-of-the-mill favors. That too is okay, and in many ways, these are reciprocal. In many ways, though, they are not, and once again, that too is okay. If you do things for people for gratitude or reciprocity, you will ALWAYS be disappointed, and ultimately end up bitter. I know people like this, people who gave almost too much and when it wasn't given back, or they didn't receive proper thanks, they turned the opposite way and became very closed, selfish people. I refuse to be like that.

I don't do things for my family or friends for gratitude or for reciprocity. I have worked on myself long enough and have enough self-awareness to understand that I cannot have these expectations. But I can't help but have the expectation of acknowledgment. This is different from gratitude. I don't want to be thanked. But I want the recipient of my kindness to at least let me know that he understands what I have done. Of late, this has not been forthcoming from my family members, who sometimes seem to be endless askers of favors. After losing my father a few years back, I vowed to try to give more to my remaining family members, and so I am truly happy and grateful to have family members to do things for. This is why I refuse to expect gratitude or reciprocity. But then when I am told that I am not doing enough, I get upset. And I stop giving.

For friends, it's a little weirder. It's not so much that I want them to acknowledge what I am doing, it's that I want them to give up the expectation that I will always do it and that I will sacrifice in order to give precisely the way they want it. Their demanding, their getting upset when I don't deliver exactly on time, when and where they want it....these are the sorts of things that get me upset. And I stop giving.

I take my family and my close friends very seriously. I value them, treasure them, am unbelievably grateful for having them. I am never afraid of "being treated like a doormat" because I know that they love me and don't want to hurt me and I truly enjoy being able to give to them. I think giving is one of the greatest joys in life, or it can be. I don't often give voice to this frustration, not verbally, at least. But I am getting to the point where the giving seems to going into bottomless pits, and then a switch flips. And I get upset.

And I stop giving.


come running said...

When I feel that way, my mother always tells me that just because I might respond or act a certain way doesn't mean that someone else will, even if they are a relative or friend.

Yeah, doesn't help that much does it. But I still try to remember it.

WebGirl said...

Actually, I don't expect anyone to act the same way...that's what I meant by not expecting reciprocity. I just want some acknowledgment. It's different, I think.