I had a difficult time this last weekend. And what I want most when I’m having a difficult time is company. Not necessarily to talk about my troubles, not to do my dishes nor sponsor me in a spa trip or even drink with or have a shopping spree. Simply someone to talk with, recreate with, cook with or for (I love cooking for people), go out to talk over a coffee, and relax. Time is something my FOO gives very sparingly, with vague limits suddenly and mysteriously imposed, with reneging of original plans and a culture of denial that original plans even existed. I am probably the only of the four of us who is generous with their time in an open and honest way and a clear communication of boundaries. I also note that when someone is having a hard time, I love to help them. I appreciate all the times I’ve been directly asked because it’s hard for me to know sometimes when someone wants my help or to know how to give it.
There’s a fifth member of my genesis family – my half-sister Jules, who was raised for the most part by her father. I wasn’t thinking about company or family this weekend when I emailed her and told her I was having a hard time. However her immediate response was to literally drop everything, rent a car, drive from Portland and take me to dinner (all with very grateful and slightly overwhelmed thanks). It was at first hard for me to accept her offer because – I don’t know. Some part of me didn’t want to admit I wanted that time. Part of me suspects that some people make these amazing offers and don’t mean them (this is actually rare I think). But mostly it’s just that growing up and now my family didn’t work that way. They don’t seem to need help, expect it, or offer it. One result is I have trouble knowing for myself when I need help and what kind to ask for. I also feel sad asking for help and very sad being rejected. I am working to be different than the way I was raised.
The closer I got to expecting Jules the more excited I got. I began to realize I was going to have a night off from the family. I was going to have all the time to talk and listen that I could want in a visit. We were going to enjoy food or maybe rent a movie or go to a movie or stay up half the night. It was going to be open-ended. She wasn’t going to tell me she was staying until such-and-such a time then suddenly leave early (classic FOO behavior). She was going to tell me she was leaving Tuesday afternoon and that would be when she left. She was going to believe me and support me when I told her my troubles (not “hint” at how I should or could do things better or differently). A part of me even distantly surmised she was being so generous with her time because I myself had made the same priorities about twelve years ago as her relationship with her husband was faltering (they later divorced). I was a young college student who knew nothing about marriage and I don’t know how much help my advice or presence could have been. But I remember riding the bus as often as I could to hang out with her and do whatever she (or we) wanted to do. I remember spending so much time listening to her and caring very much about her and Mark. I realized I have this incredible gift in her and a few of my friends; true, adult friendship that is give and take. It would have been easy in some ways to say “No, but thanks.” I’m glad I didn’t.
Jules got here at 6 PM and as soon as my daughter’s swim class was over I found her and we went out. I hadn’t dined in the restaurant we ended up choosing in a long time – over a decade. We also immediately met and began chatting to two men on the Tour de Fat. I ate every single bit of my dinner and had a bloody mary. I started feeling much better. Ralph took the kids to my parents’ where they had a slumber party / video game night in the upstairs guest room. Jules and I stayed up until 4 AM just talking. I ate too much candy (I literally had a candy hangover the next day) but my sleep was deep and only cut short by the morning responsibilities of my own children.
One problem with taking half a day off: you want more! And I intend to get it. Everyone should try for it, if they can.