Yesterday a woman was seated watching her son get a haircut and she began to talk about her farm and her animals. She ended up collecting animals that other people did not want. One story she told related to going to a sale to get some cattle and once there, cow after cow came up, older cows, cows with one teat that did not work, etc. No-one wanted them. She found her arm going up and she would say, “I’ll take her.” In the end they had a truck full of cows that no-one else wanted. They had come to the sale wanting young healthy cows like everyone else, but they went home with the load of misfits. No-one else felt sorry enough for those cows to even take one of them.
My grandmother used to eat her dinner and inevitably one of us kids would slip something onto her plate we did not want to eat. She would end up having to eat the food none of us wanted because she could not let it go to waste. She made a deal with us, as long as we did it quietly without saying anything, it was acceptable to her. At other times she would sit down to eat her toast in the morning, and we, like little birds would hover around her wanting a bite. She often ended up giving us spoonfuls of something she had chosen to eat. We didn’t ask her if she was hungry, or if she liked the food we did not want to eat.
My friend cannot help but take on everything that happens as if it is her fault. While no-one else steps up, including the person who is actually to blame, she will actually say, “I’m sorry.” She worries she is to blame in things that have absolutely nothing to do with her. She worries she could have done more. She always knows she could have done better. Even when taking responsibility has dire consequences for her, those responsible don’t step forward to tell the truth or to offer to share that responsibility. Everyone is just relieved it is not them.
A co-worker I knew would take on the jobs she knew no-one else would want. We would have meetings where the list of jobs would be on the board of tasks needing to be done. While most of us said things like, “I would like to take on …” or “I think I could handle ….” she would say things like “look, I will take on the clean-up, I know no-one else really wants to do it, so if I take that off the list, the rest of you can take the ones you feel you would rather do.” And everyone lets her . . . at every meeting.
Another friend should really be called “someone.” Whenever we hear, “‘someone’ should clean up that mess in the back yard,” or “‘someone’ should take a meal into them until they get on their feet,” or “we need ‘someone’ to canvas for our charity,” she does it. The rest of us never consider that ‘someone’ could be us. ‘Someone’ is anyone, but us. It certainly is not the person who states the need for ‘someone’ to do something.
All of us have numerous people in our lives who do the very things I have listed above. And we are all guilty of allowing these people, even expecting them, to sacrifice. It is as if we are saying that they don’t have the same needs and desires that we do, and even if they did, they would not matter as much. THEY do not matter as much.
And no-one believes that as much as they do.
Some of us have moms who have been like that our whole lives. Some of us have sucked people dry by “allowing” them to sacrifice themselves for us. We would argue we never asked them to. We did not expect them to. They did it because they wanted to. But none of those are true. We enter into a contract with people wherein we allow them to place themselves beneath us and we choose to take advantage of their offerings.
We do that because we are focused on ourselves and our own needs while they are focused on everyone BUT themselves.
We talk about women being raised with body shaming, or mothers teaching their daughters shame in regards to sex but we seldom talk about the shame of self. We do not put a whole lot of effort into teaching self esteem or convincing our children that they matter. We even make out like there is something noble about sacrificing your ‘self. ‘ Yes, we should all be capable of doing kind things for others, but not when it becomes a habit wherein we are not ever providing for our own needs. People like these I have mentioned do not ask for what they want. They may not even know what they want because they barter their worth for the perceived greater importance of others. Each time they make that trade, they lose a little bit more of themselves.
And none of us ever really acknowledge their sacrifice. We don’t thank them. We don’t know what the cost of that is.
I guess I wonder if we are capable of finding our own happiness and peace without needing to trample on others to achieve it. Can we share in the work, and the reward? Does life have to be about win/lose where our pathway to success is littered with the dead bodies of our competition? Sadly, these giving people would most likely argue it is OK because they will get their reward in the next life, but I am not comfortable with that. Do I really want to excuse my inaction by claiming I withheld my compassion and regard for someone because someone else will give that to them later?
As I grow older I become increasingly aware of the spiritual footprint I will leave behind. That footprint will be found in the hearts of the people I have interacted with. It matters more to me than any carbon footprint or piece of fame I may have because my name is mentioned in some fact book for some thing I did while here. How did I leave people after they encountered me? Did I leave them worse off than before the encounter? Did I leave them with a feeling of peace or love? Did I cause pain and harm? It matters.
At least to me.
I can eat my own food and allow other people theirs. I can take on some of the responsibility for those animals and people no-one else wants. I don’t always have to have the best, or to be first. I don’t always get what I want. I can do some of the tough jobs. I can answer to “someone” as easy as anyone else and I can do the job instead of telling others and expecting them to jump up. I am responsible for my own mistakes and no-one else’s. They can learn their own lessons because I do them no favours by covering for them and I do my own self greater harm.
I can do all of this sometimes. I can share the load when it comes to taking care of others. The things I want and need are important too and sometimes, maybe even often times, they should come first.
I am ashamed of the people I have allowed to sacrifice repeatedly for my ego driven needs and at the very least, I want to use this post to say, “I am sorry. Thank you for all you have done.
I see you.
I benefited from you and . . .
I appreciate you.”