January 2nd, 2014
My Dad and I are having a dialogue back and forth via email about the Holidays… to probably try to understand the situation better and learn how to not have it happen again, or at least to determine how he can help minimize some of the difficulties with my Mom / sister.
One of the things that I’ve realized is that this entire Holiday was one in which a lot of things came to a head, when dealing with well intentioned relatives that try to help the “poor helpless girl” who lives alone.
First and foremost, I want to be clear, I don’t think that anyone in my family was intentionally trying to do anything but be exceedingly kind and exceedingly helpful… and I’m writing this not to dwell on things, but in the hopes that I can either make other women realize something they may not be able to put into words or have other family members understand why it’s hurtful to just “do”.
A year and a half ago, when my cousins were living here, without discussing anything with me, they decide to just do things on their own. When it came to things that directly concerned them and not me, I left well enough alone and honestly couldn’t care less about their decisions. When it came to decisions that DID directly affect me, that were decided without me, I took issue with that. One of those things was the gate. Now, I had asked them to fix a broken chair. I had asked them to fix Lexi’s stairs. I had asked them to do any number of things that would have left me happy and peaceful. Instead, they decided to “fix” the gate so that it slammed shut when they came home, because it was too taxing to close it behind them.
Now, unless I prop it open, the gate sometimes closes on its own. Which is decidedly inconvenient if you’re carting election supplies or… you know, groceries.
Last year, at Christmas, my father and my brother-in-law took it one step further and bent the gate latch to help in the closing of the gate further. They did it without asking me about it. They did it without me saying anything about it. They made a decision and, again, best of intentions, they just did it. To make my life easier, supposedly. Only, they didn’t consult me. They just did it. So, now, when it’s rainy and cold or just rainy, my gate won’t completely close. It will slam shut behind me, but it won’t latch. I can’t bend it back. It’s embarrassing to ask to have something bent back and what’s more, it’s a difficult social situation, because then it gets into a “but, doesn’t it work better this way” and I have to explain why it doesn’t.
This Christmas, in addition to the air hockey table that I might have liked when I was a teenager, but doesn’t fit me or my life as of now, things went a step further and my Mom, who does treat me like a child at times, got into the act… From deciding where things went on the Sunday before Christmas, before she left for two days, to trying to do it all over again on Christmas Eve, to not accepting my room, that I spent a lot of time cleaning and prepping just for them… to, putting tarp on my firewood on my patio. These were all decisions that were just made. There was no communication, no requests, no questions. They were just being done. In my home.
I’m not saying here, that I can do everything on my own. I know I can’t. I know my limitations. What I am saying is, if there’s a change that can be made, suggest it first and, because it’s my life that’s going to be affected, I’d like to have some say in it. Also, asking me what needs to be done would be a lot nicer than just doing something that I don’t think does or that’s low on my list or that I can do on my own.
By making decisions for me, by making changes to my life, by determining how things must be done in my life, you’re disempowering me. And if you’re doing it for people you love, you’re disempowering them, too. You may have the best intentions and wonderful motives, but what harm would it truly be to make a suggestion, advise a person, and sit back and let them decide what’s best for them and their life?
When you take decisions away from the person whose life they directly affect the most, you’re saying, “You’re incapable of living your life or making a smart decision or doing what I think is best.” Most of the times that’s done, it’s done with very little consideration for the person whose life is impacted the most.
I’m asking, begging you, to understand that just because I am a woman, I am capable of doing things on my own and if you want to do something for me, ask me what I think needs to be done, what I want, what my wishes are… before determining them on your own, without even a conversation with me. And, if I’m doing something that could either be improved upon or helped or I’m doing something improperly, please make the suggestion, but if I don’t accept your advice, don’t ignore me and do it anyway or stop the dialogue. Doing so, basically infers that I’m not my own person or that I’m not worthy of the discussion in the future. Doing so implies that I’m not capable.