When I was a kid I had severe allergies. This was at a time before allergies were common knowledge (yes…I am that old). Some were to food, but the most deadly ones at the time were to grain dust. Now, growing up in rural Saskatchewan, one would think that you would build up a resistance to such things. But, alas, that is not how it works. Allergies are not determined by convenience. They also take years to actually be in your system long enough to grow out of them…and some are such that you never do.
So every harvest season I suffered tremendously. My father, in all of his glorious wisdom, insisted that my illness was all just in my head and that there was nothing actually wrong with me, so he would berate me and insist that I get out into the fields to work. Then I had my first full-blown respiratory arrest. I had to be resuscitated. That was my second near death experience. But that aspect of it we will visit another time.
After much ado with doctors I was finally taken to an allergy specialist and it was discovered that I had a plethora of allergies. Wonderful. At least it was not all in my head. But then there was the “So NOW what do we do?” part of it all. Some of my diet had to change immediately. And I was no longer allowed to be out in the fields during harvest. It was highly recommended that I stay indoors and wear a face mask whenever I went outside at that time of year.
This left me in a position of even more critique from my father and my older brother, both of whom equated harvest work with being “masculine”. I know…sick and twisted, but when you are a child that nonsense sinks in and sticks. I discovered at this time that it was also my father’s farmer fever and chauvinistic ways to which I was allergic. His expectations of me at that time of my life were completely unrealistic. He would not see that they were, but would rather amuse himself with criticising me for not being “man enough” to handle it. I know what you are thinking…and believe me ALL of those names for him have been said more than once.
My mother would find ways for me to contribute. I would do most of the care for the cattle, horses and chickens except when harvest dust was all about. I would do the planting, caring and harvesting of the family garden. I would clean and cook and do laundry. I would mow the lawn. There were multitudes of ways in which I would contribute to the family farm, none of which my father would want to acknowledge. He just saw most of that stuff as “women’s work”. It was not until I moved away and he was able to see that some things were falling apart in my absence that he was then able to acknowledge that my contributions were actually vital.
What this taught me was that we really need to see the full spectrum of what each person brings into any given situation. Some of it will be good and some of it won’t. But we need to allow ourselves to see how each person contributes on a multitude of levels. To do this we have to let go of what our expectations of their contributions will be. So, your parents are not able to babysit for you while you are at work. Theirs likely did not either, so step up to parenthood. In the meantime, being grateful for the fact that you can spend Sunday afternoon at their place with the family and have an excellent meal will go a long way. That is an entire family meal that you don’t have to plan or prepare! You partner doesn’t clean toilets. Okay. But what does you partner do that you then don’t have to do? Perhaps they are excellent at cooking on the barbeque, or washing the windows on your home twice a year, or shovelling snow off of the driveway whenever it snows. Look for those things. Enjoy those things. Stop expecting it to be what you would prefer. You will be a lot happier as a result.
My partner is extremely good at building things. A greenhouse for the back yard was this year’s project. It looks great. So it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that I might do most of the cleaning of the house. We share most things, but some things are not in balance. He often will cook supper because he gets home from work before I do. But I always make the bed in the morning and change the sheets etc. So if it is not in balance, at least it is in harmony. And because he most often cooks, I will do special cooking here and there. I make wonderful chili, spinach lasagne, pot roasts and apple/rhubarb crisp. So now and then I just go for it and make something like that so he does not have to do it all. And to harmonise with that, he helps me to flip the mattress on the bed twice a year. We are good. We each contribute in one way or the other and we appreciate each others’ contributions without expectation. If I am doing laundry I am not going to do just MY laundry, I do OUR laundry, even though he does not expect me to do that. If my dog has a poo outside he often will be the one to clean it up, which I do not expect him to do. We do these things for ourselves and for each other because that is what having a functioning household looks like. Well…and because we love each other and do stuff for each other just because we love each other.
Contributions are not based upon expectations. If expectations are involved, then the “contribution” is actually in the category of an “obligation”. That is a different thing altogether. And obligations are not responsibilities. Those are also different things. An obligation is based upon an expectation…your own or someone else’s. A responsibility is the ability to respond to what is required in the moment, whether that be paying rent or mortgage, or helping someone cross the street or carry heavy parcels or luggage.
We have to look at our own contributions in life. Most of us in Western culture are programmed to not acknowledge our own contributions for fear of being thought of as “full of pride”. That is called “false humility”. We do need to take pride in our accomplishments and we do need to strive for personal excellence. We need to acknowledge what our contributions are in our lives, in our families and in our communities. We cannot do it all, but we do need to give a nod to what it is that we are able to do. Not being able to acknowledge these things for ourselves sets us up to be the timid wallflower that nobody notices. When no one notices, no one asks you to dance. That is tragic. If you can acknowledge your contributions daily, not necessarily having to verbalise them all the time, and without expecting the acknowledgement or praise of others, you can develop a deep sense of accomplishment in your life that no one can take away. That is success.