#WhateverWednesday – Your Silent Pillar of Strength
This is going to be an odd post, I think. Maybe even controversial. Definitely a little personal.
As you’ve likely noticed, I’ve been a little more sporadic than I have been since the new posting schedule. I have a lot going on, and so for the moment I’m going to overshare a little, because I think the underlying issue is important. It might sound a little horn-tooty, or tiny-violiny.
I’m an odd mixture of opposing forces, and chiefly among them is my ability to despise and love people in equal measure. I think the majority of humans are under-performing, rash, overemotional, melodramatic, insert-adjective-here. Most people seem to think that their life must suck the most, and all woe unto them is because the universe is against their capability of finding happiness.
At the same time, it’s the vast spectrum of human thought and emotion, and the endless capacity for compassion and evil, that makes humans so incredibly interesting…and at the deepest depths of my heart, I truly love everybody. It is within this love that I find my strengths. I am interested in understanding the motive behind the action, or the thought process behind the behavior. I want to understand what’s going on in a person’s mind or life that leads a person to act the way they do. (It’s incredibly useful for building characters, by the way, that are flawed in all the right ways.)
And so I pay attention. It’s one of my highest skills. I’m an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) analytical scientist who chooses her hobbies among the creative arts. Tl;dr – I’m a total weirdo.
I’m going through some shit right now. A whole lot of it. I know I posted a while back that I’m absorbing a lot of the responsibility for my mother. I’m also the main breadwinner and bill-payer for my family. My sister moved in. I have a roommate, a full time job, aspirations and hobbies, etc.
Now I don’t want to go too heavy into detail, because I dislike when people flap their drama out on the breeze for everyone to see. But I also have anxiety, and at times, if I’m not careful, it pretty much consumes my life. I self-manage it (no meds). So when I suddenly flatline on my ability to maintain composure, it all unravels pretty quickly in spectacular fashion, and recovers too slowly for my taste.
So let me share with you my day yesterday.
- I went to work. My job is at a blood bank, where I have some responsibility for saving lives. Today wasn’t so bad, all things considered. In fact, I had a fairly decent day at work and received some significant praise for a project I recently completed. Most excellent. Had the right amount of coffee. Felt a little silly and good.
- I received a phone call from my mother. I have clearance from the boss to answer calls related to my mother because of the recent hospital thing. My mother was upset because of several conversations she has had with other members of the family. I talked to her for a little bit, then promised to call her after work.
- I need you to understand that, at this point, every conversation with my Mom is mentally taxing. She’s at a severely rough point, mentally, so it always feels like talking her off the edge. I have to be particularly kind and particularly strong, and conversation is also not my strong suit. I don’t emote well.
- I went back to work.
- I received another phone call from one of the family members my mother had referenced in her phone call. We spoke for some time about the issues Mom is dealing with. It went longer than expected, so we decided to schedule a time to meet to discuss this at greater length.
- At this point, my brain was DONE.
- After work, I went downtown to play Pokemon Go for roughly two hours. Pokemon Go has become my solace, my floating island. Everything else goes from my mind when I play. I also get sunshine and exercise, both good things. It takes my mind off the issues I deal with on a daily basis. It’s good for me for stress relief.
- When my husband picked me up from downtown, he relayed a conversation he’d had with my sister re: Pokemon Go.
- You see, although I started playing first, there’s a drama unfolding in my house around the app. My sister started playing for the heck of it, and her boyfriend started playing soon after. They played together for a while, but her boyfriend is a hardcore gamer like the rest of us, so he quickly outpaced her and now she feels left out.
- At this point, I had had this conversation a total of four times in two days – once with her, once with him, once with my roommate about the currents of tension at home, and once with my husband about this new conversation.
- I freaked out and broke down in tears. I feel like the shepherd of happiness for literally everybody except for me. I am always the mediator in any conflict in my home, and everybody in my home has their defect, either anxiety or depression. One expresses it with tears, one with outbursts and storm-offs, and one with seething frustration you can feel in the air.
- Husband got understandably defensive. He had no idea what he’d just walked into. This, in turn, only made me feel worse.
- I called Mom back as I promised. She was in better spirits this time.
- I refocused on Pokemon Go and calmed down. I had a good Pokemon Go day and I had a lot to share.
- I quieted (it’s a long ride home) and suddenly remembered all the other issues. Money is tight. The house is a mess. My shoulders are tense as fuck. I’m overdue for a haircut. So is Brad. So I became a miserable heap of shit again. My husband rubbed my shoulders and took responsibility for all actions tonight henceforth (cooking, coffee, snuggles, etc).
- I came home and died on the couch. I told my husband I needed a moment and he started dinner and coffee to help me out.
- The roommate stepped in a flood of water. My husband had turned the faucet on for the cat (because she’s weird) and had left it running. It flooded the floor. A heated fight ensued as to whose fault it was. Husband had left the water running. Cat’s a weirdo. But also the roommate shaves his hairs into the drain, and it’s an issue we’d had in the past. All of the aforementioned reactions occurred, minus the tears, plus my third freakout of the day. Credit where credit is due: Roommate has been reading Crucial Conversations and did an admirable job of calming the fuck down.
- Putzed around on the internet. Read some news. Organized some Pokemon Go events. Wrote some blog posts. Had some coffee. Watched Naruto.
- The phone rang. Mom again. Apparently another member of the family must now uproot his life again because things didn’t work out.
- Returned to blogging and such. Midnight happened. I went to bed.
So what’s the point of the post? I just said I hate it when people throw their drama out for others to deal with, so what gives?
I’m not here to beg for your sympathy. I’m actually here to plead for the others in your life. Unless you are the life manager – and my heart is with you, if you are – someone in your life is managing a zillion micro-things that you aren’t even thinking about. They might never even be on your radar.
They do this naturally because they desire, above all things, for life to flow smoothly and for people to stay happy, and they know they understand how to do this better than most. A clean, organized living space. No forgotten things. Plans that are executed smoothly. It’s easier just to do these things than to put in the significant amount of effort required to ‘train’ someone to do this themselves. It has taken the Life Manager a lifetime to perfect these skills. No way is anyone else going to catch on in such a short span of time.
I have rarely, if ever, required assistance. Of course, I have a good family that would have my back if I needed it, but for the most part, I’ve been on my own. I’m independent and moderately successful. I broke into the middle class pretty much singlehandedly. I don’t need the help.
But there are people in my life – and in yours – that aren’t so savvy. You’re not better than they are, and they aren’t better than you. We’re codependent. I find some happiness in being the organizer. They’re happy to not be stressed about the details. And to people like me, it has become easier to tie up all of the loose ends and stay abreast of current events than to depend on others to do them for themselves. If we don’t, we know it means a bigger mess to clean up later, and that we’re 90% certain we’re going to end up cleaning it up later anyway because no one else even fucking cares.
So this is for that person in your life. There is someone in your life who is doing a billion things at any given moment – earning money, spending money, cleaning the house, caring for children, planning trips, fixing issues with the house, grocery shopping, running errands, making the stars align, rearranging their schedule so that no one else should be inconvenienced on their account (heavens no!), grooming the pets, keeping up on regular car maintenance and bills, mowing the lawn, ferreting a savings away to prepare for any unforeseen issue, thinking about tomorrow, looking for solutions to today’s problems, finding ways to make hurt people from today feel better, looking strong for the kids, hiding their own tears so that no one asks them about their day.
Somewhere in there, they find time to sleep, eat, and maybe enjoy fifteen minutes of legitimate peace and quiet.
Chances are, they’re so used to it they don’t even understand the magnitude of their miniature achievements and the profound meaning it has in the lives of others.
Notice that person that takes care of all the things. All too often, no one notices the exact moment when that person needs someone to take care of them. We take this person for granted. Find that person…and when you do, appreciate the hell out of them. They aren’t expecting you to, so you’ll totally make their day.
And in case you’re paying attention, the very best thing you can do for them is give them a real day off. Don’t run to them. Don’t ask them any questions. Don’t ask for help. Don’t force them to make decisions about things you can handle yourself. Don’t bother them. Don’t call them. Just give them a day to exist without interference.
If you like having your life managed, let the one thing you pay attention to above all others be the way that person is thinking and feeling. They’ll start to show signs of distress and they’ll probably keep it to themselves. Notice, and act.
Stress is the silent killer, it is said.
So take care of that person who works behind the scenes to be there for you. Take care of the person who helps you thrive. It doesn’t take much…just a hug, and a thank you, and a minimal amount of effort at exactly the right time.