We all are hard-wired, in some way or another. Right?
For all of my life – for however long I have memory – I have been triggered by the notion, real or not, that someone is doing something for me that they really don’t want to do. You know, a favor.
I don’t have anything against real favors mind you. You know the kind. Like “Hey, can you pick up an extra pound of coffee at the store?” Or, “Can you cat-sit this weekend?” Those types of favors are alright by me.
What’s Not Alright?
“once I am triggered into believing that someone really doesn’t want to be there with or for me, I cannot enjoy the activity in question”
If I believe that someone is engaged in an activity solely to please or placate me and not because they actually want to do it, I go directly to attitude. I do not pass go, do not collect $200. Immediately, phrases like these pop into my head: “Oh, I’m good. You’re done. Don’t do me any favors. Don’t let the door hit you on the a$$ on the way out.”
For whatever reason, once I am triggered into believing that someone really doesn’t want to be there with or for me, I cannot enjoy the activity in question. From a conversation to a dinner out to a theatre performance and more. Heck, if I sense my person doesn’t want to be there — even in the bedroom — I shut down. Honestly, I’d rather do any of the above alone than feel as if I am imposing on anyone.
This has been the go-to, no-thinking-required response for all my life. Until now. Here’s the thing, and why I keep lauding the praises of our Second Act. The opportunities for growth and aha moments abound. For me, this season affords me the time and space to explore and alter some of my baseline beliefs. Of course, just the ones that I have come to realize don’t serve me.
Dumping What Doesn’t Serve Me:
“When someone does us a favor, it reveals their inclination towards establishing and nurturing a connection”
Feeling badly about myself when someone important in my life is gifting me their time does not serve me. Does it?
In the intricate dance of human interactions, there’s an unexpected twist when it comes to viewing favors from others. For years, I had this warped perspective of skepticism. When one perceives acts of kindness as if they were cunning ploys, wrapped in the deceptive garb of a negative, maybe we need to pause and re-think.
Firstly, let’s unravel the enigma of human psychology. We are wired to connect, to form bonds that transcend the boundaries of our selves. When someone does us a favor, it reveals their inclination towards establishing and nurturing a connection with us. To construe this genuine gesture as a negative is akin to dismissing the subtle poetry of human connection in favor of cynical prose. It’s not as if I don’t believe in favors. I do people favors, happily. I just can’t seem to accept them in return.
The Gift Of Time:
This last weekend, my partner and I went out to dinner and to see a touring version of the Broadway show Chicago. The evening was a Valentine’s Day gift for me. He chose the experience route, as those are my favorite types of presents.
A little context. I stopped attending the theatre with my man pre-pandemic. No matter the show, almost without fail, my partner falls asleep — usually by the end of the second number. Given my whole “Don’t do me any favors” personality characteristic, I would negatively internalize his nap to the point that it would ruin my theatre experience. See the dilemma? So, I opted to pursue and quench my thirst for live theatre solo.
But, how was I supposed to thank my partner for his generous and thoughtful gift and then turn around and demand both tickets?
And that night, as we settled into the comfy seats in the dark cool theater, I could feel the internal dialogue begin. “What do I do when he falls asleep?” “Do I wake him?” “What if he snores?”
That runaway conversation did what it always does… left me feeling less than, bad.
A Moment Of Clarity:
“I realized that his enduring the scantily-clad vixens of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse was no different than all of the times I sit, glassy-eyed, listening to another skin disease discovery.”
And then it hit me. Not sure why of all nights this was the moment of clarity but hey, better late than never. My partner and I have very different interests. For example, he’s really into sailboats and skin disease. Not necessarily at the same time. But, neither of those topics gets my juices flowing. Yet, I listen to a lot of discourse on both. Sometimes I endure photos. The sailboat ones are definitely more pleasant to look at. No surprise.
Then my runaway internal conversation, all the while lip-syncing the Chicago score, took a twist. As I glanced over to my man, adrift in a sea of jazz hands and razzle-dazzle, desperately clinging to his program as if it were a lifebuoy, it hit me. I realized that his enduring the scantily-clad vixens of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse was no different than all of the times I sit, glassy-eyed, listening to another skin disease discovery.
As my dermatologist partner dives into the intricacies of rashes and discolorations at the dinner table, I feel a tingling sensation creeping up my spine, as if the very mention of psoriasis triggers a breakout. But my love for him knows no bounds, not even the depths of dermatological descriptions. With a smile plastered on my face, I nod along, attempting to look interested while secretly contemplating which celebrity has the best skincare routine for warding off these horrors I’d hoped never to even know about.
A New Way To Feel Loved:
Yes, my partner’s mind may have sailed away to a world of teak wood or psoriasis in the bowels of that dark cold theatre, but his heart remained anchored to me. So, I raise a toast to us both. We are the masters of endurance and champions of love! Here’s to a new way to feel loved.
My newfound perspective excites me. I look forward to our future journeys through sailboat lectures, skin disease presentations, and matinee Broadway adventures filled with laughter, understanding, and the occasional eye-roll. For it is in these shared experiences, however eccentric, that our bond grows stronger, and our love shines brighter than the marquee lights of any Broadway show.