I haven’t had much time for reading lately, as I’ve had company a couple days a week for the past few weeks, had company on the weekend, my son has had meetings and was not feeling well, I’ve not been feeling well and I’ve been working on a craft project for my Christmas tree (which we’ll be putting up in a week).
I did have an opportunity to see myself, reflected in a situation I became aware of this past week, and it made me pause.
I checked in on Facebook and found that a dear friend had ‘invited’ me to a page that was set up to inform classmates that our 30th High School reunion is in the planning stages. Yes, 30 years… that was enough to make me want to cry… LOL, but what I encountered there made me quite emotional.
It appeared that the ‘reunion committee’ had already met and determined where and when our 30th reunion would be taking place next year. They had chosen Labor Day weekend 2012. They had planned a Class of ’82 night at Friday’s home football game with a ‘bonfire’ after and the dinner and party for the following evening at a hometown establishment.
I read through the comments posted by classmates. Some folks had let the creators of the page know that Labor Day weekend was the date of their annual family reunions, sporting events their children were involved in, etc., that they would not be able to attend on that weekend. Some classmates bemoaned the fact that apparently the last reunion was held on Labor Day weekend and a lot of people complained, were unable to attend. Some folks complained about the establishment it was to be held at, saying that it had been held there previously and not only was the food overpriced and not very good, but the establishment made them leave at midnight, even though attendees were still enjoying the partying. There were concerns from people about the fact that there are no hotels or affordable rooms available in our home town, that after traveling to get to the reunion (for many who live out of state) and then a night of drinking and partying, they would prefer it to be held in either of the neighboring cities, as they offer affordable hotel rooms and the party could be held at one of the hotels, so traveling after the party would not be an issue.
One of the planning committee members posted an annoyed comment about how people always have excuses for not attending, no one can agree on anything and the people who have the excuses don’t bother to help with planning. Another of the committee members made antagonistic comments to nearly everyone who’d bothered to post a comment or suggestion, demonstrating his obvious contempt and resentment toward his classmates as a result of the committee’s plans not being received as they’d hoped.
I offered my input, suggesting there may be a couple of reasons people don’t attend, as in the case of myself and a number of my school friends, we’ve never been invited. We can’t attend if we don’t know when or where it is being held. I offered that perhaps another reason for folks not attending could be that they just can’t afford the expense of traveling, the meal, etc. As for myself, personally, I explained that ‘access’ is a challenge for me because I’m unable to transport my power chair. I expressed my hope that they could work something out, acknowledging that it is surely a herculean task trying to accommodate the majority of members of a class that numbered 400+.
When I returned to the page I saw that other classmates had suggested that rather than posting all the plans, perhaps they should have made a page for anyone who wanted to participate in the planning committee, so that more people could contribute and share the responsibility, ultimately allowing for more points of view to be heard, then offered options to be voted on by classmates who are part of Facebook, so a large cross section of the class could be heard from.
I discovered that one of the committee members had suggested that I thought I and my friends were ‘snubbed’ and that it was essentially my own fault, as I shouldn’t have waited for them to ‘find’ me, I should have tried to contact a committee member and let them know how to reach me.
I had an ‘a-ha’ moment as I was reading through the antagonistic posts of the reunion committee members. They had done exactly what I have always done and they were reacting just as I have often felt.
They are not part of an ‘appointed reunion committee’, on the contrary a handful of friends who had always been close in school, got together and took it upon themselves to plan the reunions. They hadn’t advertised that they were forming a reunion planning committee so that others could participate, they more or less appointed themselves. They didn’t reach out to other classmates and ask for help or suggestions, they took it upon themselves to take on the responsibility of planning our class reunions. They disregarded suggestions and complaints from classmates in the past when other reunions were less than successful.
Though they assumed the responsibility for planning the reunions themselves, they became resentful that their classmates didn’t show more appreciation for their efforts, they’ve become bitter about being in a position of ‘doing all the work’, though they voluntarily assumed that burden.
I realized, while reading the venom on the page that this is what I have had a habit of doing, one of the things I’m working on not doing again. I see a need, whether within a group I belong to or within a friendship, and usually without being asked I jump right in to help. I assume a great deal of the responsibility and work. I take every endeavor seriously, too much so sometimes. I find myself overextending myself, becoming obsessed with whatever the project might be, wanting to make it extra special so people will remember it (and ultimately, me). In almost every case where I’ve done this, I’m terribly disappointed when others don’t appreciate the effort I’ve made or disagree with the way I’m doing things or what I’ve planned to do. I find myself feeling resentful toward those who seem not to consider all the hard work I’ve done, toward those who unwittingly throw a ‘monkey wrench’ into my plans, with little or no concern for how much work has gone into the project.
It felt as if life was reflecting my own resentments and frustrations back at me and providing me with a crystal clear example of how I create those feelings for myself. I wondered if other people viewed me in the same way I was viewing these members of the reunion planning committee. Did other people realize that I was creating my own drama, my own bad feelings, by volunteering to take on burdens and responsibilities that were not truly my own?
I realized that I have done this even when asked to help out with a project, as in the instance of my niece’s baby shower. I was asked to host and put together the baby shower, but having been asked, I wanted to plan and run it unfettered, without help or interference from anyone else. It was truly too big of a project for me to tackle or afford without help, but I wouldn’t let myself see that, until in hindsight, after it was less than successful and my feelings were terribly hurt about the way I’d been treated throughout the process and after.
Having seen this more clearly when observing others it really made me aware of what I’ve been doing.
I truly take on much more than I should, in many situations. I want to be the person I was when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I want to be who I was, who I am in my mind, before disability, before aging, before disease. I often find it hard to be satisfied with who I am because I’m not who I used to be… but as I’m doing the much needed and difficult emotional work I’ve been doing, I’m beginning to appreciate what I am able to do, that I do have limitations and that I have them for a reason. I don’t have to be able to ‘do it all’. Doing what I can and feeling good about any contribution I’m able to make needs to be ‘okay’.
Letting go of the ‘need’ to be everyone’s ‘rescuer’ actually feels good. Rescuing me from myself is nearly a full-time job. The more self-aware I’m becoming, the better I’m feeling, the more at peace I feel.