Wednesday, January 31, 2018

If You Want Things To Change, You Have To Make Changes

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone redundantly complains about the same thing yet they don't do anything to change the situation. I'm aware that a lot of these situations can't be resolved overnight. However, if you want things to change, you have to make changes whether it's baby steps or one giant leap. Plain and simple. It doesn't matter who you are or what situation you're in.

Many years ago, while living out of state, a friend of mine, whom I'll call Bee, was going through a tumultuous time with her daughter. Bee's daughter was 18. She had just graduated her senior year of high school. The past couple of years had been trying between Bee and her daughter.

Bee was a single Mom working 2 full-time jobs. Bee had gone through a divorce a few years prior. In order to keep the house and afford mortgage payments, Bee had to work the 2 full-time jobs. In addition, Bee wanted to put enough money aside so she could go back to college to finish her Bachelor's degree after her daughter graduated from high school.

I admired Bee for so many reasons. She was a planner. Motivated. Determined. She sacrificed a considerable amount in order to keep the house, get her daughter through high school, and everything between. Bee did everything in her power to set a good example for her daughter. Even though she worked 2 full-time jobs, she always put aside time to spend with her daughter even if that meant giving up a few hours of much needed sleep.

Bee's daughter was not receptive to much of this. She hated school. She ignored household rules. She refused to do chores. Even at the age of 17 and 18, her daughter threw temper tantrums when she didn't get what she wanted. Many times, Bee would come home and the house would be trashed. The chores Bee assigned to her daughter were not done. Often times, Bee would find her daughter in the living room watching TV or on the computer Skyping with her friends. When Bee confronted her daughter, a war broke out. Eventually, Bee stopped addressing the problems with her daughter. It was easier to whip through the chore list herself than it was to confront her daughter.

The situation with Bee's daughter got progressively worse after she graduated from high school. Again, her daughter was 18. Bee, on many occasions, had lengthy conversations with her daughter about what was going to happen during that particular summer. She told her daughter that she needed to get a full-time job if she wasn't going to college. And, Bee would start charging her daughter rent and a portion towards utilities and food.

Meanwhile, through all of this, every time Bee and I got together, she'd spend at least an hour ranting about the situation with her daughter. As her friend, I listened. And listened. It was midway through Summer. Her daughter hadn't turned in a single job application or showed any interest in getting a job. She spent her days at home, watching TV, playing on the computer, and hanging out with her friends. She didn't contribute to household chores.

After a few months of listening to Bee, I finally got to the point where enough was enough. I looked at Bee one evening and asked, "What are you doing to change the situation?" That wasn't my typical response. Usually, I consoled her and was supportive in her favor. I still was, but I needed to take a different approach.

Bee looked at me. Dazed.

"What do you mean?"

I took a deep breath in.

"For the past few months, and even beyond that, you've complained about your daughter over and over and over again. I've witnessed what the stress has done to you week after week. You were supposed to sign up for college courses by now, but you haven't done that. You hate going home. You're running yourself ragged. You're isolating yourself. You don't laugh or have fun anymore. The entire situation is dragging you down. I feel like a useless bystander watching you spiral down to your eventual demise. What's it going to take for you to wake the F-Bomb up?"

Bee was shocked and remained silent for a few minutes.

"I've tried putting my foot down, but then I have to deal with the retaliation. At this point, it's easier to give in then to enforce the rules, expectations, and consequences."

I sympathized with Bee. I've worked in city group homes. I know how teenage girls can get and when they plot revenge, it's a total war zone.

"I'm not going to sit here and pretend I understand what you're going through. I don't. The only thing I understand is that the current situation is killing you slowly. As your friend, I need to speak up and out. That's what I'm doing now."

I had Bee's attention.

"Your daughter is 18. Right now, she's a freeloader. She doesn't have a job and she's not doing anything to contribute to the household. She has no respect for you. None. She's sweet as pie when you're taking her out to dinner and having mother-daughter time. She's totally manipulating the situation and you. The moment you ask her to do something, your home becomes a war zone. Take a few steps back. Look at the big picture."

I still had Bee's attention.

"I'm not a Mom. I can sit here and tell you what to do, but at the end of the day, I'm not the one who has to deal with the consequences of putting your foot down. Based on what you've said, it's easier to give in than it is to follow through. So, I'm not going to give you Mom advice. What I will say is that if you want things to change, you have to make changes. It's probably going to suck for a long time. You'll have to endure that. But, after everything you've been through, I know you have it in you."

Fast forward to several weeks later...

I didn't see or hear from Bee for almost a month. Finally, she called. I invited her over for coffee. She came. There was something different about Bee. She almost looked defeated, but there was a glare in her eyes. She walked differently. Talked differently. She had a new hairstyle. Color. Her nails were polished. Total. Confidence.

Bee apologized and then thanked me.

"I thought long and hard about what you said. I respect that you didn't sit there and tell me what I should and shouldn't do with my daughter. I get enough of that from family and most of my friends."

Bee went on and told me about what had happened over the past few weeks. She stopped paying for her daughter's phone. She changed the password to the internet and computers and didn't share the new passwords with her daughter. She removed all gaming and other tech devices from the living room and her daughter's room. Bee gave her daughter 30 days to get a job and a printout of what her expenses would be per month between room and board and utilities. The printout also included the chores her daughter needed to do every single day in addition to her employment. No exceptions. Until then, nothing, except food and roof over her head, would be provided.

The first week, as Bee described, was total hell, but she held her ground. Eventually, her daughter got bored at home and ventured out. She was hired full time at a local grocery store.

"We're still ironing out the wrinkles, but it's worlds better than what it was. And, I signed up for a couple of college courses that begin next week."

Making changes isn't easy. It's uncomfortable. Scary. Intimidating. Time-consuming. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone. You may even have to put up with weeks or months of bullshit to follow.

Sure, it's easy to stay stuck. In that rut or vicious cycle. It may be easier to stay where you're at. The stress you're dealing with might even seem like nothing compared to the shit that'll hit the fan if you make changes

But you have choices.

Yes, I speak from experience. I lived on the streets in the dead of winter when I was 18. One evening, if friends hadn't found me in the park during a massive snowstorm, I wouldn't be here today typing this.

In my late 20's and into my early 30's, I was involved with someone who had a very heavy hand. For 2 years, I endured beatings. The injuries I sustained went untreated, not by choice. I brushed the hands of death on a few occasions. I escaped. It took 3 months of planning, but I did escape.

Sadly, the injuries I sustained that went untreated contribute to the chronic pain and TBI symptoms I experience today, but I don't let that stop me from doing what I do. I'm grateful that I'm alive. I'm here. 

In 2011, I made another gigantic change that involved giving up a house that was paid for, the money I had put into it, and leaving 80% of my stuff behind. All. To. My. Ex.

Best. Decision. Ever.

None of the above was easy. Not even close. At times, things got messy. At times, I threw myself down on the sofa crying like a baby and screaming into a pillow.

But, in the here and now, I have no regrets.

Since the summer of 2011, when I moved back to New England, Lisa and I haven't had it easy. We've been thrown under the bus and sold out by a handful of family and friends. Our decisions to become Dog Moms to 4 beautiful kids have been criticized. We've distanced ourselves and severed ties.

We've also lost many loved ones to cancer and other illnesses. 

I'm 44 years old. I can honestly say, at this point in my life, I'm content. Satisfied. I can look in the mirror and say, "I like you. You're a badass. You're cool."

Yes, I walk with a limp. Yes, to this day, the injuries, both bodily and head, affect me. I have physical limitations that I challenge. When we have company for dinner, it takes me an entire day to prep for that. By the end of the evening, I can barely walk.

But, I don't let that stop me.

I'll admit, at times, I have to take a step back. I tend to have a hard-ass approach to things. I know that's due to the changes I've made in my lifetime. And why. And, what I've had to endure to get from point A to point B.

That hard-ass approach can come off as me being unsympathetic or judgy. 

That's not the case.

There was a time when I used to consider myself old-fashioned because I believe in hard work, contributing to the household, earn what you want and have, and working together as a team whether it's friends, family, or your spouse.

But now, I no longer consider that trait "old-fashioned."

It all boils down to morals. Ethics. None of which should go out of style and fall into the bucket of old-fashioned.

To better explain this, if you're an 18+-year-old who lives at home with no financial responsibilities and you use the excuse of "laziness" to justify why you don't contribute to the household, my tolerance for you is going to diminish rather quick.

If you're an able-bodied teenager/young adult who watches your parent or guardian tend to housework and yard work and you don't help out, my tolerance for you is going to diminish as well.

If you're the parent of either of the above and you want to judge me because I frown upon your lazy spawn, so be it.

Please note, it kills me to see you in this situation. Especially, when you make excuses for them time and time again and reward their behavior. Or, do nothing about it. Or, don't see how destructive it is. 

Lisa and I work together as a team. I work at home. She works outside of the home. Lisa is the "breadwinner" of our family. However, in her eyes, we're equal.

We've both made many changes over the past decade.

None have been easy.

In the here and now, we have no complaints about where we are in life.

By no means is our life perfect.

Perfection doesn't exist.

We have our fair share of battles. We're both very stubborn French women.

But things always work out.

We're good people. We do a lot for others. We extend random acts of kindness because that's the kind of people we are.

We work really hard for what we have. We plan ahead. Or we do our best because life is never short of those infamous curveballs.

However, at this point, it's time for me to put my foot down after many lessons learned.

Any relationship is a 2-way street.

If you continue to take, take, take, and put little or no effort into a relationship, well, that speaks for itself.

About 4 years ago, I got close to someone who we really, really liked. We did everything for her and went above and beyond despite exhaustion and work schedules. Then, out of the blue, she dumped us. No explanation. I was devastated. To this day, I still have no idea why she eliminated us from her life. When I allow myself to think about it too much, my heart breaks.

I can't and won't go through that again.

If you continue to complain about the same thing over and over and over, involve Lisa and I in the process and solution, and do nothing to change your situation despite our encouragement to do this or that, what else can we do?

If you continue to take, take, take, and not follow through with anything, don't be disappointed when we slowly back away.

Lisa and I are human.

This year, in August, we are celebrating Lisa's 50th birthday. I'll be celebrating my 45th birthday in December.

We're too old for this petty "I hate my life, but I don't want to put in the effort to make changes to change that" mind frame.

We're fed up.

We're sick and tired of people accusing us of being mean and scary and old-fashioned.

Hard work. Ethics. Morals. Making changes to enforce the changes you want in your household. None of that is old-fashioned.

It's necessary.

If you want change, you need to be willing and have the endurance to make those changes.

If not, the only person you have to blame for your current situation is you.

*drops mic*

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