I wasn't planning on coming back (as ChiChi), but the latest turn in this discussion is so honest, so important: to be or not to be the giver... I do not know the answer but I'll tell you a very personal story.
First off, please know that I'm frugal by nature, and ever so much more frugal since have made a plan that will (hopefully) give me the life i want to live. For decades now, I cut my own hair, do not buy make-up or creams (put olive oil
or coconut oil
on my skin). A toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, shampoo and I'm good to go. I'm debtless and in the ever-nearing future (fingers crossed tightly) will be the proud owner of my time. I wanna live on a boat
you see and cruise
... A few years ago as the big 5-0 came around the bend, I made the decision, not to jump off a bridge, but to make my dream come true.
I actually wrote my dream down on two pieces of paper back in the eighties, and somehow these survived the 1989 hurricane
. They were in my sister's things, and I fell upon them while helping her move last year. On one, the journey extended across oceans with stops in oh so many places. it was just short of being a circumnavigation
. I described the boat
too. On the other, I wrote that I had dreamed it: i was raising my two kids
on the boat, and my son who was dealing with the sail at the forepeak, was a math wiz (this is a fun point because, my son really is a math wiz in real life). I wrote that I with a wonderful man. When I read my words last year, I nearly fell out of my chair. I had found my bucket list years after having remembered what my dream was. I took photos and sent them to my ex-husband, and this really helped somehow...
So what's my excuse for having lost
I'm a slow bloomer. But beyond being a slow bloomer, I've got a major weakness, a handicap in my decision-making process (it runs in my family
, in my dad, my sis...). It showed up early on but no one noticed the pattern.
When I was nearly five, I took a butter knife to a jukebox, stole every quarter in there and invited my childhood sweetheart, David, to the candy story to buy him everything his heart desired.
I remember the utter joy I felt to offer the whole store to him, as if I was offering the stars themselves. David was reluctant at first, and I remember saying, "try this one, this one too. This should be good." It felt so good.
The candy store owner (in our small town) dialed up my mother, and before I knew it, I suffered the humiliation of my life: i had to ask David to give my offerings back.
I never stole again, that's for sure. the thing is, it wasn't until fairly recently (when my folks passed away a few years ago) that i realized that the lesson that needed to be learned was completely overlooked.
You know where this is going. My life story: I fell into that trap, that trap of providing for everyone else but myself: when the hub said he wanted to open his own business; i turned into the woman behind the man behind the wheel
. when the kids
came into this world, constantly giving became the norm. and then it became what was expected of me. i pushed the hold button on my dreams. and it was as if I didn't WANT to notice, because the giving gave me joy. actually, maternal hormones amplify the joy; it is difficult to do otherwise. It was when the maternal hormones faded that i noticed where my life was and how i was being treated...
Why give so much, to one's detriment (and i do not want to dwell on this, but it was)? Giving gave me a sense of achieving something more important than my own career/wants: my kids are ex-chess champs, who play music
and draw. they are well-mannered, educated, bilingual, cultivated... but they were raised in the city. You guess it: my ex doesn't like water
. He doesn't like boats. He doesn't even like to swim. He wanted a brilliant career and needed my help, which I gave, of course. I was married for twenty years.
But grief, to get untangled without hurting everyone (this is a tough one!), to get back onto my feet, to think about my ideals (for a change) has taken so much of my energy. and the Focus, the focus required so to meet as many of everyone else's needs and expectations as possible has run me ragged. It boils down to this: in pursuing my definition of happiness, my dream, without tearing my kids lives apart, without crippling my ex's efforts, I am leaving behind a potentially very comfortable life that I helped build. that's my choice.
Anyhow, my father, who had this same handicap, never experienced the wake-up call: he gave and gave and gave... and got taken to the cleaners. he gave and/or was suckered (two sides of the same coin) out of every dime he made. He didn't realize that, in giving, he was the one who became dependent.
My sis is the same and, like me, put all her energy into the ex-hub's career. She left good work
as a paralegal to help him build his dental practice, and this after putting him through medical school
(twenty-seven years ago). Post-divorce, in her fifties, she can no longer keep pace within the paralegal field. She got screwed over in her divorce and is a receptionist now... chained to routine.
And she is all about her son. She makes me wonder if a mother even has the right to break out of the full-fledged commitment to family
life. I've thought long and hard about this and found that, as much as it may not feel like it at times, the answer is yes. It cut me so deeply when my father went to the grave feeling used, dissatisfied, mistreated. He never pursued his dream, never heeded his bucket list. Deep down I know that my kids will benefit more from seeing me achieve my definition of happiness, and this is the best gift I can give them.
So back to the question: to be the giver or not the giver... For me, giving is a good thing, a very good thing. It is an emotional necessity and a fundamental part of what we call humanity. Conscious of how it can lead to those traps of losing perspective, losing one's footing, i find that the trick is to define it as a pleasure that I'm actually giving myself. i try to contain it by deciding that it is something i can allow myself to do only if it is in concordance with my core
values and doesn't deter me from my own dreams, my bucket list.. that said, gauging the impulse is not that easy...
When I meet young people (especially the ones who are obviously givers), I encourage them to draw up their bucket list, tape it to the wall where they can see it every morning and cross off those things that they've achieved, add on more things as they go, and MOST IMPORTANTLY use it to guide them as they make life decisions, when they take a turn in life, and especially when they fall in love. We, as humans, waist so much time fixing bad decisions. I am convinced that using the bucket list as described here can help avoid this. The proof that it works: Last night I went on a date... with someone who doesn't want to live on a boat, who doesn't want to cast off. Thank goodness I found those two pieces of paper!
My feeling is that I am a lucky girl. I learned something along the way that is helping me take control of my life (I also read a couple of books
about making passive income
- working on it), but many, many women
have similar stories and are, like my dear sis, working as a receptionist. She is lonely; she wants to travel; she wants to break out of the killing routine, but she is bound to the mortgage payment, a debt that is providing a safe and comfortable place for her son... (please note that my kids have a great dad but her son doesn't - and, in essence, this is why i'm lucky.) I really feel for my sis. She is stuck. To think that she could meet a guy and sail with him and perhaps find complicity and happiness... only to find herself confronted with the very things that make you guys so frustrated...
Oh my, it is not easy for anyone.