Monday, December 30, 2013

You Don't Even Know Me

I think I've just identified one of the most painful things about being a single adult. It's knowing that there is really no one in the world who really knows you.

By age 40, your family doesn't really know you any more. Mine doesn't any way. And if your family doesn't know you, who does?

By age 40, if you have your OWN family, then yes, someone gets you. Even if your spouse doesn't really, one of your kids probably does.

As an example, as we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, my mom, who is three years a widow - opened a gift and expressed sincere surprise that this one gift was something she had wanted, but didn't even dream she would receive. And quite frankly, it was nothing that remarkable. It was just that one of her children paid attention to what was working and not working in her home, and had listened to her desires enough to know what was wanted.

When you're single and childless, ain't nobody making that kind of effort on your behalf! 

Last year, as my birthday was coming up, a co-worker who is married and has a 10-year-old asked me if I was looking forward to my birthday. In the conversation, I pointed out that birthdays and Christmas are anticlimactic when you're single. No one knows what you'd like and goes out and gets it.

People make fun of anyone over age 10 who makes a wish list... and I get that. But those people have spouses who know at least one thing they'd like that would be nice to not have to buy yourself!
As I explained this to said co-worker, her world was rattled. "I never thought of it that way." she muttered. Of course not. You live a convenient reality! Even if your husband doesn't know what one small thing would make you feel understood, you probably have a sister-in-law who understands your love of purses or something!

Let me be clear. It's not about the gift. It's about feeling understood. It's about feeling cherished. It's about feeling like you matter enough to anyone to warrant more than a blip on their radar.

When you're a single adult who buys a plane ticket to be home for Christmas, and the type who only buys gifts when you see something that reminds you of the person you're buying for... and you end up receiving gifts that could have been purchased with anybody BUT you in mind... it becomes very clear, "These people don't even know me. They don't know me at all."

And that hurts.

When someone buys you a very big, very fragile something - that you can't even take back home with you because it A) doesn't fit in a carry on, never mind that the TSA wouldn't let you bring this huge glass thing on a plane - and B) it isn't going to make it home in one piece even if you bubble wrapped it within an inch of it's life and checked it as baggage... or even mailed it home.... not only is it proof they don't know you, they're not even thinking about your logistics!! How absurd!

And that is something that makes a person feel lonely. (Even lonelier when there are three gifts you have to leave at your mother's house, because you're not checking a bag! )

What is even harder is... gift giving is my love language. At least it was. Then a couple things happened. One, I went through a couple years of unemployment, which cut down on my spontaneous purchases.
I was always the type who would be out shopping and think, "SoAndSo would love this!" and I would get it and mail it to them, without even the excuse of a birthday. Just knowing something would brighten a friend's day was enough reason. Well, when I was broke, I had to stop doing that. I was broke long enough that what was once a force of habit, was no longer.

The other thing that happened was, I realized that I was spending way too much money at Christmas, buying gifts that my recipients never seemed to appreciate. Perhaps my ability to find the perfect gift was waning... or at a minimum, being wasted on people whose love language is NOT giving or receiving gifts.
Realizing that took some of the joy out of my particular love language. That and, as I started flying home for holidays it was too expensive to move all these gifts with me. The first year that I really cut back was really painful for me. I thought my family would think that I didn't care about them. The ugly truth was, they didn't even notice.

So I'm dealing with people who don't share my love language. To the point that I had to curb it myself. Talk about stealing joy!

What I wouldn't give to have someone in my life (read: husband) to shower with little, tangible I love yous. No, I'm sure I wouldn't get it right every time, but what joy I would get from trying! I have a friend who feels terribly guilty about any little gifts I give her or her kids. In turn, I felt terrible that she always started cooking whenever I showed up! Dear me! You don't have to feed me! Stop cooking!
Until one day I realized that preparing food and feeding friends is her love language! (and she's a GREAT cook!) So I pointed out that gift giving is MY love language, and that I wouldn't squash her love language if she didn't squash mine. And we've lived happily ever after!

That is what knowing and loving a person looks like.

The few people who know how to love me best are not my family. That's okay. It's wonderful even. But that doesn't prevent time with family from being a bit painful.

I do wonder what I don't get about them, that hurts them.
Sometimes it's easier to think that they don't have those feelings... because I'll probably never figure it out.
Maybe, I don't know them at all.