Last night after spending some time with friends, Andy and I came home to 4 messages on our answering machine. I first suspected the majority of them would be this annoying beep call that we get quite often. That’s usually the reason for a bunch of messages in a short period of time. It turns out the messages were actually all from the same person. Our answering machine will stop recording a message after a certain amount of time elapses. It’s usually my father in law who gets cut off in the middle of a long message about the weather, the other kids, his hot tub, or his most recent restaurant experience. He usually realizes that he was leaving too long a message and won’t call back to continue once he’s been cut off. Last night it was not my father in law who called, but a friend of the family instead.
Without revealing too much about the situation, I’ll just say that the last three messages were a continuation of the negative verbal vomitting episode of the first. This person kept calling back and going on and on and on about all kinds of negative crap. I’m sure the intent was not to make me feel bad, but rather to vent some thoughts and feelings. As I sat listening to message after message after message after message I became increasingly hurt, irritated and angry. By the time it was over I was a mess. So frustrated about all that I had done…seemingly for naught. So irritated that nothing I have ever said seems to be heard or remembered. So hurt that I feel like I continue to give and give and try harder and harder to be what I should be and do all that I can do. Now that I’m thinking more rationally, I know that it’s impossible that the whole thing is my fault. I know that I should just learn how to be better next time and dismiss the rest, but I’m not that kind of person. I have such a hard time putting down the bat I use to beat myself up about things. It is said that we are our own worst critic, but I have somehow taken that to a whole new level of morbidity. I am totally relentless with myself.
For almost as long as I remember I have tried very hard to be the person that I would want to interact with. For example, the devoted daughter who is willing to go to great lengths to help the family. The caring sister who will beat all odds to be there for her siblings. The ideal wife who is kind and industrious always being loving and supportive and never critical. The perfect employee who is totally dependable and reliable, willing to go the distance to make sure the job gets done right every time. The reliable friend who is not just willing to sacrificially help with anything, but the friend that truly derives pleasure from being able to be there for you and help out in any way. I’m always striving to respond positively to others. I’m the one who loves to gush over your new house or decor, the dinner you made- even if it was just thrown together, the photos you took even if some were blurry. I’m not fake, I just go the extra mile to find the good in whatever it is I’m encountering. I know that’s what I would want. Someone to be happy to help me out. Someone to lavishly compliment my decor or photo or dinner. Compliments are so few and far between these days that I am always so excited to make someone else feel special about themselves. Yet last night, as I wept about all that I was overwhelmed with, I felt like the only one out there who tries to be that way. I questioned whether it was good or destructive to aim for that standard. Andy reminded me of the passage “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” I felt better after hearing that and I was also comforted by the Paradoxical Commandments http://www.applegates.org/dogood.html that I’ve heard so many times since I’ve been involved with the TEAM. I took comfort in those words and I think today I’ve decided that I will continue to give the world the best I’ve got anyway.