Friday, September 30, 2011

My Quest to End the Stupid Battles

My feisty grandmother died almost five years ago.  I don’t think about her every day anymore.  And I’m not sure when that happened.  She wasn’t sickly or elderly ever.  She just had a heart attack and died one night.  I am grateful for that, really.  Because she will always be strong and vibrant to me.  Because of this, it took me a couple of years to realize she was really gone.  
I have a  very rough draft an outline of a book about her.  I write this as evidence that she is not easily, nor quickly definable, so I won’t even attempt it now, as this post is really about me, not her. 
I was of adult age, but without children.  I asked her to do something she didn’t want to do and she replied,  “I don’t want to” or “I don’t feel like it,” or “No”, or one of her favorites, “Hell no.”  I may have tried to convince her for a minute or two but I know I didn’t try long.  When she didn’t want to do something, she wasn’t going to do it.  Period. 
What I did say was this:  “I wish I had a grandmother that was a pleaser.” 
And she replied, “I wish I had a granddaughter that wasn’t a smart ass.” 
I open with this story because I was about to open with explaining what a pleaser I am.  And then the thought of anyone that I know in my real life reading it began to consume me.  They would laugh, discredit me, and try to expose me as a fraud.  And chew me up and spit me out.  
But I am more of a pleaser than people realize.  By people, I mean everyone.  Friends, family, kids, parents, husband, and especially myself.  I am finding a little joy in realizing this fact.  
First and foremost, I am a straight shooter.  I tell it like it is.  I call a spade a spade.  I can see how this could be perceived as not being a pleaser.  Because sometimes what I have to say is not always pleasing.  I have learned over the years that the truth doesn’t always have to have sharp edges, and I have acquired a light filter.  (Yes I have.) But life is complicated enough than to have to try to be someone I am not, and this, directness, if you will, is as much a part of me as my  hazel eyes and  the Mississippi of my youth. 
The other reason people may not think I am a pleaser is my refusal to do some things.  I do many things.  And I do many things I don’t like to do.  But every now and then I adamantly refuse to do something I don’t want to do.  To hell with the consequences.  And every now and then, I may do something that no one else thinks I should do, to hell with the consequences.  And many times, an apology should accompany these actions, but most times it doesn’t.
This is a good segue into why, actually, I am a pleaser.  
Except there’s one more thing. Damn, that realization was a really good segue, but I need to explain one more thing that again, some would argue.  I am often, sometimes a pretty easy going, low maintenance person.  I can hear certain people laughing and guffawing and coughing in protest now.  Like my husband.  And my father.  Actually, since the birth of my third child, and getting to know her over the last few years, I have come up with a pretty good description that probably most would agree is accurate. 
I am really laid back and easy going, except when I’m not.  
This may sound funny, but it is the best truth.  Another way, although not as accurate, is to say I have a long fuse.  So, I generally don’t care what we do, how things are done.  And if I do, and it isn’t done my way, I generally won’t argue, I’ll just carry on.  If I do have and state my opinion, if it’s a battle to get it done my way, I just won’t fight it. 
There are basically two times I will fight it.  If I feel very strongly about it from the beginning and deem it battle worthy.  Like when our kids were babies, I didn’t want them to have juice.  Steve wanted to give them juice all the time and said kids drink juice.  I explained about the sugar content and training them to like sugar.....etc.  Now, many people are amazed that our kids only drink milk and water.  They don’t like kool aid, most juices, pop (or coke or soft drinks depending on where you live).  In essence, our kids don’t drink sugar.  Battle worthy.  
The other time I fight it (what is it?) is less admirable and more foggy and something of which I am not proud.  I fight and spit and spew when I am done.  Just done.  Done with everything.  Now, I can hear it.  Here it comes.... everyone does that, you do a lot for your family, you are not taking care of yourself.  Yes, thats true.  But it makes me react over little things as if they are BATTLE WORTHY.  Like the color of my daughter’s head band not matching her outfit or the way my husband loads the dishwasher or the teachers saying to act as if school started fifteen minutes earlier than it does.  
Here is a summary of what I have written so far:
  1. I am (more of) a pleaser (than most realize)
  2. I am usually laid back. (except when I am not)
  3. I fight WORTHY BATTLES. 
  4. And I fight stupid battles when I am not taking care of myself. 
MAY I INTERRUPT THIS POST FOR A MINUTE? All bloggers are writers, and many, many have written, or are writing books.  Many writers say they write to discover what they know.  And many writers say that they don’t know what they are going to write when they sit down to write.  I used to think this was a crock of shit never believed this until I started experiencing it, EVERY TIME I SAT DOWN TO WRITE.  OK, so now that I have acknowledged that I never know where my writing is taking me, may I say that I am getting a little tired of every piece of writing coming back to the same thing: YOU CAN’T TAKE CARE OF OTHERS UNTIL YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.  I am tired of this.  I want to move on.  I get it.  I get it.  This is like memorizing the Canterbury Tales.  I worked and worked on it.  And now I can never forget it.  It became so ingrained that I named my son Chaucer for Christ’s sake.  I can only hope that this lesson that keeps presenting itself over and over like an unwelcomed guest, will become as ingrained as the Canterbury Tales. 
Life has become better since I have started taking care of myself.  And actually learning and experiencing what that looks like.  Writing has become almost as vital as air itself.  If I don’t take the time to write and reflect, I am crabby, unproductive, selfish, and unloving to those I love the most.  
My mother is visiting, and she is much more of a doer than I have ever been.  (Someone has to be, right?)  She comes and does many projects that make our lives much more manageable and healthy.  We have always done projects and it forms a core of our relationship.  Although these projects are benefitting my family and me, and not her, my heart has not been in it. I wanted her to know how thankful I am for what she does.  I wanted her to feel like she is helping us and accomplishing something.  I wanted her to understand that I want her around even when she isn’t working.  I love to hear her voice in the morning, and smell the smell of my mama being around. But I don’t want to do projects now.  
You see, I have a new air.  I am smothering without my pen.  
The struggle for me, the pleaser, this week has been giving up my new air so my mother would feel loved, useful, welcomed, appreciated, adored.  And the irony is, in all my efforts, I feel as if I have failed.  
I don’t want taking care of myself to be a stupid battle when I am on empty.  I don’t want taking care of myself to be .... in your face, fuck you, I’m doing what I want.  I want it to be like eating and bathing and breathing.  Just something you do every single day in order to live.  
So, in a cloud of guilt and heaviness, I told my mother this morning that I just didn’t want to work on these projects.  I wanted to spend time with her, but I need to take care of myself, so that I have more to give. I have learned a new way to be.  A life where I don’t have to trudge through every day.  I didn’t know there was an easier way. 
And do you know what she said? 
“O.K.  All you had to do was tell me. Enjoy your morning.” 
I didn’t know it could work like that. 


  1. You have done so much in a few short months and I appreciate you sharing the lessons. Most days, I get halfway through and decide that this just isn't the day for taking care of myself. Then I read your posts and realize it matters. So glad your mom let you off the hook:) xoox

  2. Can you hear me applauding? And applauding all of it? I am. Big time.

    Yay. You.



    PS - I gave up a big pleaser project today, with much the same result. Interesting... I didn't know, either.

  3. That list? Is fabulous. I love discovering new stuff about myself!