Monday, December 26, 2011

A Holiday Lesson: Lose the Expectations

There's something about growing up in a small town that skews your perception of relationships forever. Awhile back, I mentioned here and here that before I moved to Hollywood with Mr. Wonderful, I lived in virtually the same town where I grew up. And that has caused me to stay friends with people I knew in preschool and kindergarten and, really, even back when I was a wee zygote in my mom's belly. For the most part, once you're a friend of mine, you're always a friend.

This small-town way of looking at things can make it hard to handle being dissed. (Remember that gem from junior high?)

When I see the number of Facebook friends on my page fluctuate or I notice I've been pulled from someone's blogroll or I don't receive a Christmas card from a once regular sender, I totally get my feelings hurt.

I immediately assume that I've done something to offend them or they don't like my writing or they hate me and want to feed me nails and chalk dust. Because why wouldn't they want to be friends when I'm so nice all the time? Right...

Mr. Wonderful can't count how many times he's had to tell me to "let it go." In fact, we were just having this conversation recently when I stumbled upon a horoscope of all things that reminded me of my erred, halfsighted way of seeing things. It said:

Sure, you've built up a lot of good karma over the past few months, but you can't stand there tapping your toe, waiting for the big payback to come. If you are doing that right now, you're missing the point of being selfless. Don't do things for others because you think that will earn you something in return. Life is not tit for tat. Do things for other people because it brings you happiness, a sense of importance or a heartfelt warmth. Reach out when there is nothing in it for you.

What I realized is this doesn't just apply to tangible things like holiday cards. It applies to friendships.

Just because I cheer someone on during a tough time or make time in my schedule for them or comment on their blog doesn't mean they are required to repay me. Furthermore, it's selfish of me to expect them to.

When you put thought or energy into a relationship, it's really easy to presume the same amount will be returned to you. An even exchange. But that's not what love and friendship are about.

I had forgotten.

Maybe it's time to shed this flaky piece of skin from my small town days and accept that here in the big city, people are entitled to change their minds. They're allowed to go in different directions and even decide to remove you from their roadmaps. And that doesn't mean that you are a bad person or in some way unworthy. It just means that their relationship requirements have shifted.

Trying to hang on to this notion may become one of my New Year's resolutions. Selfless giving of friendship seems like a good one to add on the 2012 list.


  1. I get my feelings hurt too. I realized I often out too much energy into relationships that aren't balanced and I've learned to pull back on that. It just hurts me to give & give and never feel it reciprocated. But doing nice things for someone shouldn't be about how it will come back to you. I def agree. Being kind or generous is good.

  2. No one likes a scorekeeper. You should always do things because you want to and it brings you some measure of joy or satisfaction to do it - especially when it comes to friends. It has less to do with small town upbringing than just the way life is. You lose a few and you pick up a few along the way. Sands shift, tides turn. None of it is personal. It just is what it is. However you should continue to keep commenting on blogs you read. Rumor has it there are people who appreciate that.

  3. I hear you. I try to remind myself often that most of the time, we're a) all doing the best we can, and b) we truly cannot know the whole of what's going in in someone's life/mind/heart. I just have faith that doing what I can at the time is enough and not be attached to the benefit--- you know, the whole lighting another candle doesn't dim your light thing.

  4. Ahhh, that Mr W, he's a smart one, eh? I think he's absolutely right. And I think I'd add something to the mix. Just because someone else does something negative to you doesn't mean you've lost control of the situation. You are still empowered to (a) ignore it, (b) address it, (c) store your feelings away for future use, etc. You can't control how others feel or what they do, but you can decide how to process their actions. (BTW, I adore your holiday card and have it up for show on our door!)

  5. I never notice my facebook friend list fluctuations. in fact, I often feel relieved if someone I don't talk to often deletes me. some relationships are better closed and put away with my yearbooks.

    Still, I have a bit of a thin skin and keep score myself. But I'm not as generous with my time and energy as you are-I'm pretty self-absorbed. I mean, have you noticed this comment is really all about me?

    I (there's that me focus!) think that you have an admirable goal for 2012 and hope it brings you more happiness in your relationships!

  6. Yet another reason to eschew facebook. Just sayin.

    Also...thank you for the bottle of wine! That was really thoughtful. I can't wait to try it.

  7. I hope you didn't write this because my card didn't make it to you!! Still pissed at the mailman for that!! :)


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