Monday, June 13, 2011

Dues or Fees

Art By Cathy Rowe
I am much like the boy in the book The Giving Tree .  In the story the tree gives unconditionally to an unnamed boy, but as he grows the boy is not happy.  He is forever wanting something else to get him to that happy place.  The tree gives to the boy until it is only a stump and yet in the end it is the tree who is happy.  Of course the story's message is that true happiness comes from giving to others, not in receiving things.

Recently, my therapist told me that I am incapable of giving freely.  Ouch.  And I pay her for this. 

Now I was taught that giving is its own reward, however I seem to attach expectations to  my good deeds.  Life is supposed to be fair and balanced and everything has got to be quid pro quo.  If not, things can get ugly.   If I do a good deed I expect something in return, whether I say so or not.  I might "act as if" I am giving with no strings attached but if I scratch (or rub) your back, you had damn well better scratch (or rub) mine.  Shout out to Sunshine and Happiness!

As a child I learned how to "act as if",  pretend as it were, and take an action whether I wanted to or not.  I was  told that if  I "acted as if" enough eventually I would want to do those things that right now I really didn't want to do .  I've had a lot of practice and I'm still waiting.

So I can make it seem on the outside like I am am giving freely but emotionally there is  always at least a  teeny tiny resentment attached.  Bottom line is that if I sense neediness I balk.

So here's what it's like in my head when my mom and dad ask me to drive them to the nursing home to visit. 

OK,  I should drive them.  It's an hour long bus ride and they're not spring chickens.  Ugh, but I don't  want to drive them.  Why didn't they ever get their driver's licenses?  It's not my fault they don't have a car.  I'm not responsible for their bad choices.  Oh shut up and just suck it up and take them.  It's your dad's father, do it for him.  But I don't feel good.  I'm tired and my head hurts. Why me? Why is it always me.   I have a life too you know.  No one thinks about me.  My brother never does anything.  No one cares.  Shit I'm an ungrateful daughter.  I suck.  I am the worst person ever.  I hate everyone.  What are you looking at?  Fuck you.  Whimper.  Whine.  Complain. .

So to review:
  • I am unable to give freely.
  • Quid Pro Quo - If I'm nice to you, you owe me.
  • Act As If - I will smile and help out while cursing the day you were born.
  • Remember I won't ask you for help, because you might ask back.
  • Need me at your own risk. 
This is what Sunshine and Happiness lives with.

Now we both happen to belong to an organization with free membership.  There are no dues or fees to belong.  One day I was getting all uptight because S&H had been spectacularly nice to me and I was feeling pressured because that meant I was gonna have to be spectacularly nice to her.  Right then she turned to me and said "no dues or fees".  And  I understood that this was her way of saying to me "I am giving this to you freely and you don't owe me anything in return."  At first, I didn't believe anyone could be that unselfish and I struggled with feeling like I had to "pay her back."  Over time though I came to know that wow, she really does mean it. 

And to my amazement, once I really believed that I didn't HAVE to give anything back to her, that there really were no "dues or fees" attached, than BOOM, I started WANTING to give back to her.  I began really wanting to be kind, give gifts, be of service.  I WANTED to, I really WANTED to  because I didn't HAVE to do it out of feeling like I "owed" her or out of a sense of duty or obligation. I began wanting to give things freely to her because it made me happy.


And by the way, no dues or fees.