Many studies have shown that every event will be described differently by each person who observed or experienced it. I attribute this to two issues:
- Where and how did they experience it?
- Do they see the world in “black or white” or as “shades of gray?”
This issue of perspective was brought home to me over the weekend when one family member decided to skip the traditional Christmas celebration because another family member was going to be present and might or might not behave in certain ways. A serious and dramatic situation developed last year. While steps were taken to provide more safety and security, it was not “fixed.” The person the situation revolved around was not banished. The “plan” wasn’t followed all the way through. Ambiguity remains.
I understand ambiguity. I don’t see the world in black and white. My “best choice” in a given set of circumstances could be different from yours. We are born with genetic tendencies, we grow up in varying circumstances and environments and we accumulate experiences based on those and the choices we make. We value things differently. We cope with stress differently.
The hardest thing to do in any relationship, regardless of type, is to provide assistance and then let go of the outcome. Once you give someone anything, what they do with it is solely up to them. If you attach strings, then you attach your values and you will reward or punish them based on what YOU think SHOULD have happened. Then your self-esteem, if they don’t follow through as you expected, is dealt a blow. That’s what I believe is going on with this family member. I don’t believe it is the only factor, but I think it’s the major contributor.
Sometimes you do things that make you uncomfortable. You hope the drama won’t get out of hand. You mitigate the circumstances. You make sure the host/hostess accepts those risks. And then you show up. You don’t demand everyone else accommodate you.
I’ve framed the event triggering this post vaguely to ensure the relative privacy of those involved. However, it very much reminds me of the incidents surrounding my 50th birthday brunch which everyone bailed on except a single friend. When a later event was planned and treated as though it completely cancelled out the other, I participated but I remained mad. I evolved the incidents surrounding my 50th into an anecdote called “blowing up my life.” It became part of a bigger story and I moved on, but some of those involved still don’t like me even mentioning it. To me its a story about being too accommodating and being taken for granted. I am not punishing anyone for my disappointment or their failure to act as I expected. They had valid reasons for their actions, but I had equally valid reasons for my feelings. They don’t get to choose my actions or control my feelings … even if they get involved. That’s a hard lesson and especially hard for people who see everything as right or wrong instead of nuanced.