Monday, November 18, 2013

Being Used

"Those who take care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most."
That's probably truer than I'd like to admit. 
I'm happy to be the friend everyone knows they can count on. If you need a hand, or a shoulder to cry on... I'm there. 

In those first years out on my own -- just after college, when most of us were still looking for jobs - I told friends they could call me at two in the morning if they were stranded with a flat tire. I'd be there. I think they knew it too. No one ever took me up on it... not back then anyway.

But I remember one night back then when I needed a friend, and had no one to call. I suffered from insomnia back then and in the wee hours one morning, I allowed the worst thoughts and ugliest images to enter my mind. I couldn't shake it. I couldn't pray it away. I longed for someone to talk to, but no one had ever offered me the unconditional assistance such I had offered them.  That was when I realized, that is usually the case. Those of us who would help anyone, would never feel right asking for help ourselves.

I will say, it changes when you get older.
When we were young, most of my friends still lived near their parents so that's who they would turn to first. Soon, many others married, so they had husbands to rely upon.
Now, we're quite alone in the world and relying on one another so we'll make the desperate phone call now and then.

One friend called me crying. Her car had been towed. Worse yet, she was unemployed and didn't have the funds to retrieve her car. I told her I'd be right there. I found her on a stoop in a strange neighborhood. She had called the impound lot, and learned she needed $260 to retrieve her car. (outrageous!) As we walked back to my car, with plans to swing by an ATM, I considered her situation.
I asked, "Can you take that out of your account right now without bouncing checks?"
"No, not really."
"Okay then," I spoke before I thought it through, "We'll swing by my ATM, and you'll pay me back when you can."
She stopped in the middle of the street, looked at me, unbelieving, tears brimming. "You would do that for me?"
"Well sure. You can't afford to bounce checks right now, and I can handle a $260 cushion at the moment. It makes sense."

Then, once the deed was done, I remembered that I hadn't known her long, and it was possible I would never see her again! But what actually happened... she payed me back within three months.

That's a friend who understood benevolence. And who had enough pride not to remain in debt.


I have a different friend, who calls me at the drop of a hat to babysit her kids. She once called me at midnight to stay with her kids while she dealt with a minor emergency.  I'm happy to help. It may be a little inconvenient for me, but nothing I can't handle.

Recently, though, I was struck when I had a quick phone conversation with her - and she didn't ask me for a favor. I suddenly realized she only calls me when she wants something. In fact, after our phone call ended abruptly, she texted me her request, as if it had just occurred to her. It was a request I couldn't accommodate, I told her so and didn't think much more of it. But the next time she called, I waited for the request, and she did not disappoint. I'm starting to recognize a sense of entitlement.

Well, this week was the doozy. She needed another favor. Once again for a situation she could have planned for, but once again didn't. A situation in which she really does need help. It's a shame she's worn out the goodwill from many of her friends.
This time... she didn't even ask. She just told me what she needed me to do, for several days in a row next week.
I had to tell her that I was going home (a state away) to care for a family member, and wouldn't be available to help her. (the truth) 
Then I heard her voice crack, as she realized how alone she was. That she was truly in need, but had perhaps used one person too many.

There have been many others who have worn through my good nature.
I'm happy to be helpful. Maybe too much so.
Maybe I feel that's part of my ministry, since I'm available, I'll help.
In most cases it's not an inconvenience. I mean, it IS an inconvenience, but nothing that's not worth doing. I consider it an act of mercy.

I do wonder occasionally, if anyone would ever return the favor for me.

Yes, I like being helpful. Maybe it's my thing. Maybe I get more out helping than anyone gets from being helped.
I learned it from my dad. The countless wee hours that some neighbor needed to be pulled out of the ditch. Opening a rental property to a family whose house burned down. He truly loved his neighbor, even when he couldn't stand them!

But there comes a time when limits are reached. And this friend is not the first to wear out her welcome.

It's a mystery to me, how some people feel entitled to all the good someone else is willing to put out. I can rarely even ask for the help I need, yet I see others just grabbing.

A woman I was once friends with (not anymore) seems to just get showered with goodies. When she wanted to run a half marathon in a major city, someone offered her their condo so she wouldn't have to stay in a hotel. When she saw some sweet baby gifts I was sewing for friends - rather than wait to see if  she would get one - she asked me to make one for her. (didn't even really ask - it was a demand disguised as a charming compliment)  (Kind of killed the joy of the surprise I was planning.) Somehow, people rally around this woman and give and do for her. And honestly, I've never seen her go above and beyond for anyone. I know she's never done anything special for me.   Makes me wonder what her special sauce is.
Is it just because she asks?
It's uncanny. She's not especially kind. She is outgoing. She has a lovely smile.

What makes some people givers and some people takers?

Most of my friends have a balance. I'm grateful for that.

Note: Someone's feelers were hurt by this post. They really had to go looking for it. For someone who doesn't like what I have to say, they feel a need to check in. 
What stands out though, if someone finds my observation so shocking - it seems the appropriate response would be, "Oh. I can't believe my actions made you feel that way. Abandoned and used? I'm so sorry." But instead, well, you can see for yourself


Mattie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amadea66 said...

The woman you are referencing is is actually quite kind and has done many, many things for me in my time(s) of need. She has remembered tiny things I've mentioned in passing and done something for me at a later date referencing a tiny thing I didn't even think she would remember. I know I could call her at 3am with an emergency. And she asks me for things too - and I happily do them, because she is a lovely woman with a compassionate heart, a beautiful family, and a willingness to bear her soul. She is the farthest thing I know from a taker. I'm sorry you weren't able to see that through your bitterness.

TRS said...

Amadea, what makes you think you know my people?
If you do, in fact, yes she is a lovely woman in many ways.
But I'm describing someone who shows little gratitude and no reciprocity.... If you recognize that person through a stranger as a friend... That's pretty sad.

Krissie said...

I have contemplated the same thing many times. I'm definitely on the giver end like you are. I don't get it either.

Tory Kraus McKinney said...

Hmmmm. It's shameful really. And by "it" I mean this diatribe on how much you do for others and how little you get in return. In fact, after reading your post, I wondered why you didn't realize that you are just as a big of a "taker" as you claim these other "friends" of yours to be. Although for you it is not goods or services but praise and accolades that you require. While I AM surprised that you did not go so far as to "name names" while referencing your offenders. I would not be so surprised to find that you keep a little black book of favors and dispensations hidden in your apartment so that you could remember in detail who had paid you and who had not. Or, at least, not paid their debt to you sufficiently. I suspect that this one woman who is "showered with goodies" as you put it, does not have such a book. Instead she gives to her friends and family quietly and with dignity, not blogging about how much she has done for them and how little has been returned to her. Perhaps it is both for her generosity of spirit and her modesty, that people respond to her in kind.

NV Husker said...

I think that you recognize how flawed we all are as a fallen people, as well as recognizing those flaws in yourself, as you mentioned in a previous post:
"Do I really offer my heart unselfishly? Sometimes, yes. Can I do so without being upset that my feelings and efforts aren't reciprocated? I really can't.
Do I offer to help others, even when it's ugly or hurtful? Sometimes, yes. Do I do so with no expectation of being recognized for it? Uh, no."
Please just try to remember that words have power, that we all do have flaws, and most importantly, that when we serve others it should be done with unconditional love; meaning that there is no expectation of return, nor should we harbor resentment should that be the case.
So please, continue to pray on this, continue to seek guidance and wisdom, and finally, please remember that your words are being published for more than "your people" to see.


amadea66 said...

I know "your people" because you have meanly discussed her on your blog before, and because there aren't too many people who run half marathons in other cities who have generous friends who lend out condos. Come on. Be a little more oblique if you're going to insult someone.

When I look through her blog, I see pages of gratitude, selflessness, joy, openness, and hope. Your blog seems to lack most of those things. I'm sorry you haven't experienced her as a grateful, giving woman. I have, as have many other people I know. If you did not experience her as such, perhaps it has something to do with you and not with her.

TRS said...

Trust me, there is no little book of grievances, or tallies of I did this or that.
Some things in life are just glaringly obvious.

To be fair, life is meant to be spent in the service of others. We are meant to have children and families and every day is spent serving with love. Parents don't count the diapers changed and nights of sleep lost.
But for those who aren't so fortunate to have families, children to dote on.... It IS glaringly obvious when it is non reciprocal adults, taking all the goodies .
You know why? Because you would think they'd know better.

Maybe we singles, not having the daily, unconditional sacrifices out of love, rewarded with love and loyalty... hurt additionally when everything we have to give is used up.
Surely we've all heard and read the stereotypical mommy blogger complain when SHE feels used up. But that's okay because mommies are some kinds of heros. God forbid a single person identify when they are used up... And ponder how others are showered, when they never shower back.

Kriminy, you married folk are validated every darn day, and when a single person has the nerve to seek validation you pile on and call her a hopeless, pathetic soul.

All I'm saying, is it's natural for me to give of myself. To identify a need and find a way to meet it, I'm not asking for accolades. I'm just wondering how other people get by without doing that?!
And yes, when someone expects me to drop everything and serve them.... They are selfish. I would have done it if I were able, and if they would have the humility to ask, rather than command.

Kvetching about people who are kind enough to make conversation in public as a cross to bear... Doesn't come off as sweet and wholes one to me... And not an example for children!

And by the way, there are thousands of people who run races in major cities and are put up by friends. More often than not they are people who say thank you, and possibly return the favor.

amadea66 said...

Married folk are not validated every day. Is that really what you think marriage is? No wonder you haven't found this unicorn that you seek.

You don't know me, but I know your ex-friend. She has been there for me in the last year when I discovered that my husband had an affair and left me alone with a baby. As he refused counseling. As he lost his job because of said affair. As he refused anything to make the marriage work, just decided that the vows didn't mean anything to him anymore. And he was one of the "good Catholic men." So, yeah. Marriage is awesome and I love being validated every day.

Not to mention I get to be "validated" everyday by my 14 month old. He's finally getting to the point where I get a little something back (the giggles, the kisses, etc.) but more often than not the "daily love" I get from him is waking up in the middle of the night and refusing to go back to bed, throwing his food on the floor, tearing pages out of books, and breaking all the cute things in my house. I don't get much back... having babies is no magic sunshine and daisy explosion.

The point is, I've been to hell and back this year. Your "ex-friend" has brought me coffee, let me cry on her shoulder, written me sweet notes and sent them to me by old fashioned postal mail, sent me daily encouraging texts when I felt like I couldn't get through it all, and even thrown me a couple "girls nights" even when it has been damn near impossible for her to find time as she tries to raise three (amazing) kids. Her support is frankly one of the reasons that I am still getting through life. I hope that helps you understand why I experience so much pain when you bad mouth her.

Despite this, I still seem to have more hope than you do. That's what I don't get. I still try to find the good in people, despite experiencing the deepest betrayal I could imagine. I hope you do find what you are looking for... and I also hope that in that process you don't feel a need to publicly insult one of the most amazing women I have ever known.

TRS said...

Amusingly, I was writing my next post as you published this comment, and we seem to hit on a lot of the same things.

Why do you come here if you don't like what I have to say? That you read me first thing in the morning, before the butt-crack of dawn? Curious.
Create a brand new blogger profile at the butt-crack of dawn in order to comment with anonymity?
Methinks you're not the friend, but the wounded party herself.

Sure, marriage and raising kids is hard. I'm sure the only thing harder is being alone.

I do find the good in people. People who don't close up when a friend finds herself in the most challenging days of her life.
Maybe you're just lucky that your friend learned something after turning her back on someone whose tragedy she couldn't relate to.
Always a silver lining.

Infertile Minnesota said...

What you're saying here makes perfect sense to me. You give of your time and you're happy to. However, it is painful and confusing when others don't give in return. You aren't expecting anything back, but we all have a need to feel loved, appreciated and understood. While married people have a spouse who often serves as the main source of the aforementioned, single people often have no consistent source of human comfort. Sure, marriage has it's own challenges but that does not negate the painful reality of having no human being that will be there for you consistently. I am sorry that so many people can't recognize pain that is different from their own. Blessings to you.

TRS said...

@infertile minn ... Yes, thank you for putting my thoughts into words. Sometimes it's the concepts that make such simple sense, are the hardest to verbalize, mostly because we feel we shouldn't have to. That instead, this pain written on my heart, much be legible for everyone to read. But those who simply can't relate, can't see the obvious pain.

As I can understand your struggle with infertility.... Because like you, I wanted and expected to have children, and can't. For different reasons from you, but my heart understands.
Others, who can't relate, might say " wow, it'd be nice to not have to worry about getting pregnant!"' Which really means they can't relate!

TRS said...

Gah, iPad autocorrect makes me sound stupid! Let's play Fill In a the Nonsense words with the right word!