my soft spot

just a mom who plays hockey and knits

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Doormat, or @sshole?

My therapist has suggested that I go through a lot of life being a doormat. Yeah, not a great thing to hear, but as I told her, the cat's out of the bag. I can't go back. I look over my life and see tons of ways in which I act as a floor covering.

It is painful. It is awful. Awareness can be excruciating.

When I'm not dwelling on the pain, though, I see that much of the problem comes from having been taught by my mother to be this way:

If your houseguests get up before you do, you must immediately hop out of bed and start breakfast, as if this was the time you had intended to get up.

If someone holds a door open for you, you are not only obligated to go through it right at that time, but to thank the person.

If you are a houseguest and hear your hosts get up, you must get up at that time, even if you are very tired and otherwise a good houseguest.

A lot of it stems from assumptions. Mom & I had an interesting conversation while at the cabin: there was a huge pile of unfolded laundry near her bed in the downstairs bedroom. I said that maybe I'd fold it for my aunt as a kindness. She said, "You never do something that wasn't asked for." And yet, she herself did plenty of things that weren't asked for. Take the towels: the downstairs bathroom is currently the only one with a working shower. It has six towel bars up on the wall, all of which held a green towel and matching washcloth when we arrived. When we were making our plans for laundering everything before we left, I said my sister and I would hang them back up where we'd found them. Mom said absolutely not; they should be folded and put... I have no idea where. There wasn't room in that bathroom (small pile of hand towels and washcloths on the back of the toilet), and there were no green towels in the upstairs bathroom on its towel holder. It sure seemed more convenient to me to hang the towels back up; that way, the future guests would simply have an unwrinkled towel right there near the shower. (Mom left earlier than I and my sister and I agreed to hang the towels up.)

Several things came up over the weekend where Mom thought I should do an above-and-beyond X and I thought perhaps it was OK with my aunt to simply do the sufficient Y. Every time, Aunt was OK with Y. She's a very easy-going person and I do think Mom's X choices made her uncomfortable. How should someone feel if a houseguest thoroughly scrubs a kitchen sink without being asked? I'd feel a little insulted and uncomfortable.

Anyway, my attempts not to be a doormat are just as uncomfortable as the notion that I should constantly think about being a throw rug. I am caught up in, "OK, but does this choice throw me to the other end, where I'm now being an asshole?" I have to think what I want to do and try not to think of what others want from me instead. I hate to feel unreliable, unkind, insensitive. She says I want to be perfect for my friends. Uh, yeah.

Guess I've got to give that up. OK, you've been warned; get ready for me, warts and all!

Is there spinach in my teeth?


At 2:05 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger Gandksmom said...

Good for you! I spend a lot of time being a doormat too and it's something that I am activly working on not being one!

At 8:19 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger Dharma said...

You mentioned this to me before and I am not sure I agree that you have spent a great deal of time being a doormat. I think it is important to think about one's motivations. I think it's great that you are examining your relationships with mom and sister. I do think your mom has set up very challenging expectations that are not cohesive (ex: houseguest things, get up but don't fold laundry). I look forward to conversing with you more about this in person, if that's okay with you.

At 10:46 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger snarfdog said...

Before you totally forgo it all, feel free to come to my house and scrub the sink, wash the dishes and towels, and even hang them up. Oh, and the laundry? Mountains of it to fold. ;)

At 8:09 AM, July 21, 2006, Blogger Wyatt's Mom said...

If for any reason you have ever felt that way with me/us, I truly apologize. I have really been racking my brains since I first read this yesterday morning, and the only thing that may have felt like you were over stepping the boundaries of niceties, was with that certain person up north.


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