Plants and problems.

Why do people insist on giving me plants? They give me live plants and I don’t know how to take care of them and they die. Then I feel bad.

But I shouldn’t. I didn’t ask for that responsibility. I didn’t want it.

It reminds me of when my parents died. People gave me azaleas as “living memorials” to them. I planted them in the back yard. Nobody had a clue that both parents would die so close together. So I got two azalea plants within two months, from different people.

I moved a few years later. Then I had a dilemma. Do I take the plants? I couldn’t, because I was moving into an apartment. So they might still be there in the yard, serving as a mute memorial to someone the new owners don’t even know.

My brother gave me a lily plant after our mom died. Well, he didn’t give it to me. He gave it to the house. I’d never planted a lily before so I asked a friend who was in the landscape business. It turns out that you don’t just plant lilies. You have to dig them up every fall and store the bulbs in a cool dark dry place over the winter and then replant them in the spring. I just spent a year watching my mother die. I wasn’t prepared to spend any more time watching a “living memorial” to her die.

I took it as yet another thoughtless thing from my brother. I took the plant out the front door, walked down to the ivy at the edge of the yard and pitched the plant. I said “good luck, lily”. I had nothing against the plant. The plant was beautiful. But I didn’t want to be responsible for its demise. Its survival was up to it and God at that point. It honestly had a better chance of surviving that way.

I was given a Christmas cactus as a gift for volunteering in a school. It died in short order. Those are supposed to be very hardy. I was recently given a miniature rose bush. I suspect it will shortly follow the cactus to the plant graveyard.

I get it. A living plant has more meaning than cut flowers. It will last longer and provide more joy over the years. But I just don’t know how to handle them. Either I water them too much or too little. Then I don’t know how to feed them. I pay attention to them for about a week and then I forget them.

I’m starting to think of everything the same way I think of plants. If someone gives me anything and I didn’t want it or ask for it, I am not obliged to take it. This applies to feelings, ideas, and ideologies. People try to give me their baggage all the time. Perhaps you know what I am talking about.

It is part of why I no longer watch TV.

I don’t want to be dragged down by someone else’s fear and pain. I can’t handle it. I don’t want it. I’m not tall enough for it. It is like I’m swimming in the ocean and someone comes along and they are drowning. They thrash about, and they grab me and start to pull me down. I can barely keep myself afloat on a normal day. When someone tries to unburden themselves on me and I’m not ready for it I start to go under along with them.

It reminds me of one time at work. There is a lady who constantly is complaining. She huffs and stomps around. She gossips. She never has anything good to say. I realized that she was dragging me down into her hole, and listening to her wasn’t helping her and was actually harming me. When I realized this, I prepared to stand up to her and braced myself for her reaction. So when she came up to me one day and asked if I minded hearing the latest gossip/complaint, I said that yes, I do mind. That no, I don’t want to hear it. That I was tired of it. She was stunned. She was angry. She said that she needed to vent. I said that I didn’t need to be the person she vented to.

She needs a therapist. She needs a friend. She needs a life outside of work so she can get a sense of perspective. I can’t provide these things. This is her journey.
The best thing I could do was say no, I can’t take this. I’m not the person for it.

I think there is a lot of healing in knowing what you can take and what you can’t take.

We want to be everything for everyone. We want to help them and heal them. But we aren’t trained and we aren’t able to all the time. I think the healthiest thing is to only take what you can handle, and that is only what you are ready for.

“While you’re up…”

When I was growing up, I thought “While you’re up” was my father’s name for me.

He sat. A lot. He sat so much that he got a new recliner every few years or so. I got the box.

I loved getting those boxes. I could make a house out of them, and did. I would drag the box down under the porch where the dog sheltered. I cut out windows and I drew in art on the walls. I spent as much time in that box as I was allowed. When I wasn’t in school or in bed, I was there. Until the box rotted from the exposure to the elements, that was my home away from home.

The more I think about my childhood, the more I understand why I escaped so much.

But I digress.

My Dad would sit in that recliner, staring at the TV, seemingly waiting for me to get up so he could ask me to get something for him. More coffee. Wash his glasses. A snack. Whatever. He never did any of these things for himself. He didn’t even know how to put a band-aid on himself.

How he managed to survive to adulthood escapes me.

Meanwhile he gained more and more weight, and smoked more and more cigarettes.

He said “while you’re up” until the day I stood my ground. I’d sprained my ankle, and was hopping around. Everywhere I went, I hopped. I was a teenager by this point, so I’d had a few years of getting used to this phrase.

I wanted a glass of lemonade, and I had sat for quite a while figuring out how I could get it from the kitchen to the living room with a minimum of mess. Once I decided on getting half a cup, and in a plastic cup, not a glass, I was set. Then I thought about it a little more.

I braced myself. I knew, deep down, like how the shore knows the tide will come in, that my father would say those inevitable words, those fateful words. I knew all the way down to my core that he would be totally oblivious to the fact that I couldn’t walk and everything was that much harder. I knew that he wouldn’t say “Oh, let me help you – what do you need?” That makes me laugh just thinking about that. I would have known that aliens had possessed my Dad if he had said that.

I prepared for that eventuality with the same planning I’d used to figure out how I was going to get a glass of lemonade while hopping.

I got up. Payoff. He said it. “While you’re up…”

And I let him have it. I let him know about how insensitive he was. I let him know that he could very well get up and get his own whatever-it-was. I probably put in something about how it would do him some good to get up and move every now and then.

He never asked me again.

Yes, children should respect their parents. But parents also need to respect their children, and teach them through their actions about self-respect and discipline and fortitude. Sure, there is a Commandment saying that children should honor their mother and father. But there is also Jesus saying that we need to love each other. There is nothing loving about using your child as a servant. There is nothing loving about expecting someone else to do everything for you.

In fact, being an enabler isn’t being loving at all.

Kay and Jane – on saying no.

There were two ladies, Kay and Jane. Kay had been working on a project most of the day at a large table. This table was rarely used during the day. It was primarily used in the morning and in the evening. Jane had seen Kay working on this project all day, and had seen how involved it was. There were many pieces of paper and many folders to sort them into. As the evening came, it came to be the time when Jane would normally use that table. There were other tables that could be used, but they didn’t have quite as much surface area. Kay asked Jane if it was OK if she used one of those other tables for her (Jane’s) project.

Jane said OK. She took her project over to another table and did it. It took 20 minutes.

Then she complained to Brenda, afterwards. “If I wasn’t so tired, I would have told her no, move!”

But she didn’t. She held the resentment in.

Important to this story is that Kay and Jane have had extreme difficulty talking to each other for many years. Jane is Kay’s supervisor, but feels that Kay does whatever she wants. In a way this is true. Kay doesn’t ask for permission to do a new project – she tells Jane she is going to do.

Also, both were raised in abusive homes where they were not taught about proper boundaries.

So who is in the wrong? Kay for not seeing that Jane would want to use that large table that she was working at? Kay could have finished her project earlier, or moved it.

Or Jane? Jane could have said, “No, that is a problem and I’d rather use that table”. Or Jane could have noticed an hour earlier how long and involved this project was and advised Kay that she would like to use that table at 7.

It was a big project, certainly. It was very involved, and would have wasted a lot of time to move.

My take? Jane was in the wrong. Kay asked if it was OK, and Jane agreed. It is immature to acquiesce to something that you aren’t willing to acquiesce to. You have to stand up for yourself – because honestly nobody else is going to. Also, the other tables were certainly usable. They weren’t ideal, but they weren’t terrible either. It was more of an inconvenience to Kay to move than for Jane to move.

The funny/sad part is that even if Kay had not asked Jane if it was OK for her to stay where she was and for Jane to use another table, Jane would have been upset. Jane is like that. And she would have complained to Brenda, who has no control over the situation. Venting to a third party never fixes the problem, and only brings the third party into your own personal mess.

I once read a great story about two guys who were trying to figure out what they were going to do that weekend. Bob asked Frank if he wanted to go fishing. Frank didn’t really want to go fishing, but thought that Bob wanted to go, so he said OK. Turns out that Bob didn’t want to fish either, he thought Frank did. So they both went fishing, and they both were miserable. It would have been great if they both had been honest. They could have had a really good time together if they hadn’t spent so much time trying to second-guess what each other wants.

I had a friend who stopped by my work one day. I asked her if she wanted to go to a frozen yogurt place for a little bit as I was about to get off of work. She said no, and said we’d need to arrange something later. A coworker thought this was very rude. It isn’t. She had other plans then that I didn’t know about. She was about to go out to supper with her husband. Also, she didn’t like to eat frozen yogurt right before a meal – both things that I didn’t know. She was taking her needs into consideration.

I’d rather her say no than say yes and feel resentful.

To agree to something just to make somebody else happy isn’t honest. If your agreeing to it harms you or is an inconvenience to you, then you have to speak up. If two people are involved in a situation, both people’s needs have to be met. Sometimes a compromise is involved. Sometimes neither party will get her way and nothing happens at all.

It is difficult to say no. We are taught to be people-pleasers. We are taught to keep the peace. But it is very important that we don’t become doormats.
Better to say no and feel guilty than to say yes and feel resentful.

It helps to analyze why you feel guilty to say no. Were you taught this by your parents or teachers? Were you taught that to speak your mind was bad? Were you taught that to stand up for yourself is bad? Perhaps they taught you this way because their parents or teachers taught them the same thing. Perhaps they feel a need to control others they feel are lesser than them.

Be a good little girl, and finish your meal.
(But you are full)

Don’t talk back.
(But what they are asking you to do is wrong)

Don’t marry this guy, he’s not the same race as you.
(But we love each other)

Don’t be friends with her, she’s lower class.
(But the upper class girls are rude.)