Monday, June 25, 2018

It's Okay To Have Expectations

I heard back from an old friend today. And, when I say "old" I'm referring to both her age and how many years we've been friends. I know she won't mind me publishing that bit of information. I've lost count how many times she's referred to herself as "an old biddy" who is set in her ways. It's kind of a standing joke between the two of us.

Our correspondence happens in spurts. We'll go several months without sending an email and then we'll spend a few days catching up. During the process of catching up, my old friend will hone in on a "necessary topic" and that's what we'll focus on as we go back and forth.

She bases her topic of choice on my recent blog columns, social media posts and the content of my emails.

This time around, the topic she chose to focus on was expectations.

With her permission, I'm sharing one of the emails she sent to me. Hands down, this is one of the best and most inspiring emails I've received in my entire life...

If I had a dime for every time you've said "times have changed," I could hire someone to weed my garden for me. I'm not disregarding your sentiment. I think every generation has those moments when they throw up their hands in frustration and say, "Times have changed." I'm in my late 60's. I'll admit, I say that quite a bit and that includes with your generation as well. I can remember my parents and grandparents saying that as I'm sure you can too.

What is both remarkable and sad with your generation is your view on expectations. It's either black or white. To an extent it is, but there's a large, gray area that no one wants to acknowledge. 

An example of the acceptable black and white area can be summed up easily. On one end of the stick, if you hold the door open for someone, you're not going to confront them and say, "I just held the door opened for you. What are you going to do for me?" A simple thank you will suffice. Random acts of kindness also fall into this area.

On the other end of the stick are the expectations that are socially acceptable. You work 40 hours a week. You expect a paycheck to compensate you for those hours. You go to a restaurant and order food. You expect your server to deliver that food. You pay your utility bills. You expect to have heat, running water, and electricity. 

Everything else falls into that huge area of gray. This is where your generation has shifted and jaded those lines of what's acceptable and what isn't. I believe you do this out of fear. 

Remember the fiasco that happened with my daughter and her husband years ago? At least twice a week, they asked me to babysit their 2 kids. Sometimes it would be at my house. Other times, I'd go over to theirs. I always said yes. They're my grandkids. I love spending time with them.

This went on for several years. Then, I had a chance to go on a cruise with some friends. It was the first time I had traveled since my husband passed away. It was a big step for me and something I was looking forward to.

I asked my daughter and son-in-law if they could take care of my 2 cats while I was away. All that involved was stopping over once a day to give them food, fresh water, clean the litter box and spend a little time with Henry and Harriet. They put up a fuss and eventually told me that they didn't have time. 

At the time, I let it roll down my back. They were my first choice to babysit my kitties, but not my only option. A good friend of mine ended up volunteering. I went on my cruise and had a wonderful time. 

Two days after I got back from the cruise, my daughter called me mid-afternoon. She needed me to babysit my grandkids that evening. I told her no. I didn't have the time. She thought I was joking, but I wasn't. 

In the weeks to follow, that was my answer every time she called for a babysitter. Our conversations ended on a bitter note. Eventually, she asked what my problem was. I told her that I didn't have a problem per say. I then explained why I wasn't providing babysitting services. 

She didn't speak to me for many months. That was a hard pill to swallow. I missed my grandkids. I missed seeing my daughter and son-in-law. However, I was sick and tired of being a doormat. And, when I needed them to help me out, they couldn't be bothered.

Do you see where I'm going with this? The situation with my daughter falls into that big cesspool of gray. Sure, I could have ignored the situation, but I didn't. I spoke up. 

Another situation that comes to mind is when my husband got sick. He wasn't able to work. We had health insurance, but it didn't cover everything. The medical bills piled up. We went through most of our savings. I struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table. 

Prior to that, and for many, many years, we provided endless meals for our neighbors, friends, and family when someone was sick or had a baby. I have baked thousands of cookies and cupcakes for fundraisers. We've been "secret Santas" when we knew a neighbor or friend was struggling during the holidays. My husband and I had volunteered many hours of our time for local events and community picnics. 

The entire year that my husband was sick before he passed away, people knew about our situation. However, I can count on one hand how many people helped out. Sadly, I can count on one hand how many times people assisted us. 

Not even 2 months after my husband passed away, one of the ladies in our community group asked if I could bake a bunch of pies for a charity picnic. I told her no. Normally, I would have jumped at the opportunity, but this time I didn't. To say the very least, she was shocked and asked why. I told her the same thing I told everyone else from that point on, "I've always been there to help you out, but when I needed help, you fell off the face of the Earth."

The point I'm trying to make is you need to address those gray areas. Like me, many moons ago, you're avoiding it like the plague. You skip down the path of doing an immeasurable amount of deeds for others without expecting anything in return. 

I've read your blogs and emails over the years. You've tested those cesspool waters. You know it's there. I know you've lost a lot of friends and family over the years because you have spoken up and stood strong when it came to enforcing what you'll tolerate and what you will not tolerate. 

You still have a lot of work to do. I'm sensing you have relationships in your life that are slowly sucking the life out of you. They're off balance. You're doing too much. They're doing too little and have let you down time and time again. I'm also sensing that these relationships are burning you and your wife out. 

Every relationship needs to have balance. It's not always going to be 50/50. In fact, it very seldom is. But, over time, the "give and take" should balance out. If it doesn't, then you've got to do something. Maybe that "something" is speaking up. Maybe it's distancing yourself. Or, maybe it's both. 

There is nothing wrong with having expectations with the people you have relations with or do stuff for continuously. If they're constantly letting you down, you need to examine why. Once you figure it out, it's time to set some boundaries. 

There is also nothing wrong with expecting friends and family to speak up and stick up for you regardless of their relationship with the person who needs a bit of a verbal ass-whupping. I do have to give my daughter kudos for that. On a couple of occasions when one of my grandkids blatantly disrespected me, she took action immediately, made him apologize and then grounded him.

You are married to an incredible woman. You have a beautiful family and home. I enjoy reading your blogs and posts and emails. You and Lisa have made a tremendous amount of much needed changes over the years and I'm proud of the both of you for doing that. From experience, I know that's never easy and often times, there is retribution.

I know that you continue to struggle with expectations and that people have recently let you down. It breaks my heart that you've retired from academic and independent living tutoring. Your reasons behind it rip me apart. If anyone can straighten today's youth out, it's you. I know you've mentioned that you haven't closed the door yet. Please don't. Reconsider building that up again. 

Don't let crappy people diminish that fire in you. Speak and write in your voice without hesitation. Speak loud. Write boldly. Teach. Create. Stop investing time into relationships that are letting you down time and time again. If people don't like what you have to say or write, that's their problem, not yours. Let them walk away. Wave to them. They're usually the type who likes to be surrounded by people who put up with their shit. They live in a self-created bubble.

If none of this makes sense or you find yourself questioning your gut feeling, ask yourself one question. Out of all the paint strokes it took to complete your painting project, how many of those strokes were done by other people? 

I'll be looking forward to your upcoming blogs, posts, and emails, as I always do. 

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