My Journey from Discovery to Acceptance to Change
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Hope Through Authenticity

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Tit-For-Tat: Bad Me or Human Nature?

Have you ever discovered something about yourself that you would have sworn wasn’t true?

Or has someone ever shown you something about yourself that you denied until the evidence was clear?

This happened to me two weeks ago and I, quite frankly, still haven’t decided how I feel about it.

Am I a “bad” friend or am I like everyone else?

She Was Right

Before you begin to read about my personal struggle, I wanted to remind you this is about ME and no one else. It’s going to sound like my friend did something wrong. She did not. She did what was best for her and that’s very important for a healthy life. This blog is always about searching MYSELF so that I can recognize when I’m acting/feeling/believing in a way I’d like to understand and adjust.

The Scenario

I need someone to read my first novel, Decide To Hope, and pull out “good” quotes to use on social media. I can’t do it because I’m too close to it. Either I think everything’s amazing or I think nothing’s amazing. In speaking with a friend, she -- without my prompting -- offered to edit my new book. I’m not ready for that yet but she mentioned that it was so cold, she was planning to spend her day reading on the couch. You can imagine what happened next – I asked her to read Decide To Hope and dig out quotes. She refused.

No biggie – right? Wrong. After I hung up, that part of my mind that likes to prove to me I’m unworthy, began to remind me of all the times I’ve bent over backwards to say yes to this friend. It also spun up all the other things she’s offered that didn’t get done. For example, she offered to edit my blogs. I sent her the first three. Never opened. Never read. Definitely never edited.

What my mind didn’t provide – and should have – was all the things she has done for me. She adopted my cats when we moved. She’s babysat my dog many times. She did not do anything wrong. We should all say ‘no’ when what’s being asked is not within our values or violates our boundaries.

And yet, even as I write these sentences, the scales still don’t seem balanced.

The Unbalanced Scales

I think I share my time, my resources, and my talents without wanting or expecting reciprocation.

I don’t look for balanced scales (or do I?).  

I don’t keep lists of “I did this for you” and “You did this for me” (or do I?). I know I don’t do this consciously. But subconsciously, I must.

Is it wrong to expect some level of a balanced give-take?

I’m not one of those that goes to a restaurant with a friend and has to split the check down the middle to the penny. I’m cool with paying more than my share and I’m cool with someone paying more than theirs. I was taught that ‘it’ll come out in the wash’. But do I subconsciously keep an account? I’ve been really digging into this question and here is what I’ve uncovered:

My subconscious definitely keeps records. I don’t notice any imbalance on a regular basis but at some point I start to notice. I think my subconscious keeps the score and starts to expose the imbalance when it gets too unbalanced. Once my subconscious opens the door, it spills out everything that could be construed as imbalanced. And sometimes my subconscious gets it wrong.

Is that right or wrong? Could I convince my subconscious to stop? Should I convince my subconscious to stop?

The Other Side of This Story

If I expect some level of tit-for-tat, do people expect that from me? The answer to that is a loud “hell yeah”. The next question is: Have I let someone down? Is someone enjoying their coffee reminding themselves of all the times I’ve not held up my end of the deal?

How do I uncover it and rectify it? Could I ask? I imagine if someone asked me, I’d say, “No, of course not. I’m happy to XYZ.”

My Fault, My Boundaries

I’ve always taught my kids that they are partly responsible for how people treat them. I’ve also counseled that they should not let frustrations catch fire. They should talk it out and if the situation doesn’t improve, then the relationship must change. Relationships can change without destructive comments and emotions. Bridges don’t have to be burned.

In other words, I have to establish my boundaries, but I also MUST maintain that fence. It’s up to me to maintain the balance. If I feel I’m being taken advantage of or unappreciated, then I need to find a way to fix the situation before it gets so unbalanced the whole relationship topples. It’s also up to me to say ‘no’ even if doing so causes an imbalance.

I failed at this. I defaulted to my pattern:  Avoid conflict -- hold a grudge that I pretend I don’t hold -- eventually run away from the relationship.

Toppled Relationship

The situation above is real and the relationship has toppled. I know one day I’ll regret that – be sad and lonely – be angry with MYSELF for following the same pattern and losing someone important.

But that day is not today. Today I feel justified in my anger and my withdrawal. My feelings are hurt, and my mind is still shoving in my face proof of the imbalance. Maybe writing this post – acknowledging the weakness in my character instead of focusing on what I perceive is a weakness in someone else – will help it to loosen and release. We’ll see.

Click HERE to download my Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog and explore your own thoughts around the notion of Tit-for-Tat.

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  • Meet June

    June with Purple Hair

    In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....

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  • All of my novels, at least so far, have an element of mental illness within a character.  Decide to Hope is the most autobiographical in that I struggle in many ways exactly as the female protagonist. 
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