A few years ago I was leading a weekend workshop and we were talking about clear communication. A woman in the group started talking about her mother-in-law and how she always needed to have this particular condiment when she would come for dinner. If the condiment wasn’t there, she would express her absolute disappointment and it would become the main topic of the night. The woman in the group said she had learned to be sure to have the condiment on hand, because it didn’t matter what else she might have done – it didn’t matter if she’d cooked dinner for twenty-five people, if she’d spent days cleaning the house in advance of the dinner, if she’d baked three different desserts – if she failed to have this condiment, that was it. It should be noted that this item was not easy to come by, and only one store in the area consistently carried it, a store forty-five minutes away from the woman in the group, but only fifteen minutes away from her mother-in-law, and along the route she needed to travel to come to the house.
I don’t know if this was a power-play on her mother-in-law’s part, or some kind of sad test she conducted to see if her daughter-in-law really loved her enough to travel ninety-plus minutes to get said condiment, but I do know this is unreasonable. If you know you need something in order to be happy or at ease, it’s your responsibility to bring it. It’s okay to ask for what you want, and, in fact, I would highly encourage you to do that when we’re talking about emotional needs. It doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you’re asking for, but it makes it a lot easier on the people who love you. No one can be expected to read your mind, after all. But things like a condiment you have to have? That’s on you.
Ultimately, we are responsible for our own happiness. Of course the people closest to us can increase our happiness quotient. But my happiness is not something I put in anyone else’s basket, that’s mine to work out. If I know myself and know I might like to have some support in certain situations, I can share that with the people closest to me, and maybe they come through, and maybe they don’t. But if I don’t share it, I can’t get upset when they don’t figure it out on their own. If I don’t tell my kids to make their own beds, but then I stew as I’m making their beds myself, and shake my head and wonder why they don’t do it, that’s on me, not them. If it annoys me that I’m the one picking up glasses and plates from all over the house, or the only one to throw in a load of laundry, but I never say anything to my family because I want everything done my way, that’s on me, not them.
Life is short. We can make lists of things we aren’t getting, things people “should” do without being told, things we would never do, things people have said in the past that were hurtful, things we wish someone wouldn’t do, reasons we’re amazing and other people suck, reasons other people are amazing but we suck…you get the idea. There are all kinds of lists we can make, but a list of resentments isn’t the kind of list you want to have in your head! Be responsible for your own condiment needs and ask for what you want! You won’t always get it, but at least you’ll know you advocated for yourself!
Wayne Gretzky: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Proverb: Don’t ask, don’t get. Ask, sometimes get!
Sending you lots of love,
Ally Hamilton Hewitt