I am a first child. I state that emphatically up front so that you will understand a little bit more about me. Because we all know that first children tend to be overachievers, the ones who do what they "should" do, or are a little more "type A" than the rest of the general population. I do know of some cases where the second child...if of the same gender...and they are close together in age...will actually take that first child role...but for the most part we first children are fairly predictable.
We like limits. Rules. Reading the instruction manual. Making people proud of us.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and as I am writing this, I am thinking of several first children who don't necessarily fit this mold. But humor me.
I am pretty much a rule-follower. That does not mean that I won't set my own rules if I find that the normal rules are too confining or in my humble opinion...stupid. I have always seen the world a little differently and have very often been a little bit angry with it for not cooperating with my master plan. It took a number of bible studies, sermons, adults in my life, and bad experiences for me to realize that I am not in charge of anything.
I am sincerely okay with this most of the time.
But I really wish that from time to time...that all of the pieces of the puzzle would fit together nicely and produce this masterpiece that was so beautifully put together that I could only see the design and not the edges of the individual pieces that comprise it.
But that would mean that I controlled the outcome...and we have already established that I control nothing.
Except my attitude.
Which, lately, has been out of control...just so you know. Not in a Towanda-ish "someone needs to straighten out this mess" kind of way...but more of a "I'm sick of you people being boneheaded" kind of way. The former is something that I think my Christian faith supports. The latter? Not so much.
When I get - and marinate - in the "I'm sick of you people being boneheaded" thing - it is just bad. Very bad, in fact.
I have two major things that set me off...being excluded...and not being respected. So, if you really want to see me act like a horse's behind...I've just given you a "how to" manual.
Growing up at the tail end of the "Baby Boomers" (ends in 1964 and I was born in 1963)...I learned early that if I did what I was supposed to do that my time would come. Nobody factored in the fact that the two generations after mine thought that the rules didn't apply to them. I know I didn't.
When I was starting out in banking 27 years ago...everyone aspired to one day be an officer of the bank. All of the underlings (which I was for many years) respected the officers because we wanted to be one ourselves. Now? There are no underlings. None. There are banquets, drawings, and support for the non-officers...and they speak to the officers as if they are equals.
As human beings...they are equals. But as employees? I don't think so. People who are higher up than I am deserve the respect of position if nothing else. Same is true for me.
At least it should be.
Other things that try my patience include doctors who schedule patients so tightly that they are habitually late in meeting their appointment times, children who refuse to grow up and fail to ask how they can help around the house when it is abundantly clear that they should, people demanding money to support this or that because they deem it is my duty as their friend, people who cancel things with me over and over and make me feel that I am not important, and the users and abusers of this world.
But I suspect that I am not alone in this.
We go through life trying to be the most that we can be, and trying to put other people before ourselves. But sometimes, we want to pick ourselves up from being the doormat we strongly suspect that we have become and just ask for a little bit of respect.
Lately, I have been struggling with having a little bit too much on my plate. Literally. I have to make some pretty big changes that are going to require some energy on my part to pull off. I honestly don't have the energy to consider everybody else's feelings and try to navigate the political landscape. I just don't.
So, all of you people who think it is okay to tailgate, cut in front of other people, walk slowly (diagonally) across a cross-walk, write checks at the checkout in the grocery store, put everything back in your purse before moving your car out of in front of the drive-thru at the bank or at the gas pump at Costco...I'm talking to you. There are some of us out here just trying to make it...and your thoughts about anybody but yourself would be really appreciated.
Likewise with the people who find it necessary to send out a memo to every person in the building because you had to change a roll of toilet paper or replace the paper towels in the break room because someone took the last one. How about you just shut up and do it yourself...or just leave it if you can't bear to avoid sending that memo? Or people who jump on you like a spider monkey because you left the box of paper that you ordered (and didn't know had arrived because you didn't sign for it) in the way. How about you just move it and spare me the lecture?
Because right now...I am at my limit.
Limits are good, you know. You can be flouncing through life from A to B and then "boom!" you hit an electric fence. You learn from it...and do your flouncing elsewhere. Or you see the limit and you question it enough to respect it while you test its merit. I've found that a lot of "limits" that are in life aren't really limits at all. They are just the borders of someone else's comfort zone.
When people push your limits of good cheer, tolerance and friendship...sometimes you have to push back. It is too exhausting not to. And it really isn't fair to other people to go on making everyone around them miserable and not be aware that this is what they are doing. Most don't know...and some don't care. It is what it is.
I know that I am not perfect...although most first children somehow aspire to be. I don't take correction well...but I do take it from people that I respect. However, I do know that being around people who cut you no slack whatsoever is exhausting. Almost as exhausting as trying to do everything to please people who are going to find something wrong no matter how hard you try.
Maybe your limits have to do with what you will do for your kids, your friends, spouse, or your family of origin. Perhaps you have lines you won't cross at work, volunteer positions, housework, or in your friendships. I have no idea. I do know that if you don't have limits...there will come a time when you rethink that position.
Limits. Set them. Live with them. Test them. Accept them.
That's what I'm trying to remind myself of today...because I have reached my tolerance level and I'm tired.
Fortunately, tomorrow is another day.
Just don't cut me off in traffic, okay? Trust me on this one.
Just remember to be kind to people...because people are sometimes at their limit...and you don't even know it. Do a small kindness for someone...and expect nothing in return. Be thoughtful, sympathetic, or even empathetic...so if you get to a point where you just can't take any more...people will understand and love you anyway.
That happened to me today, by the way. I received an unexpected visit and a "treat" that was divine. How awesome would life be if this were the rule and not the exception?
Answer: Totally. Awesome.
When I get back to some semblance of normalcy...I'm going to do a lot of paying forward. Because when you are at your limit...you tend to appreciate those small kindnesses. Immensely.