I had a couple of encounters with family members, this week, and it got me thinking about where I fall on a spectrum. Because if it’s a spectrum, I found people on either end of that spectrum, and was correspondingly frustrated with them both. But I’m probably on that spectrum, too.
So here’s story number 1: Mom has made dinner for me on Monday. I ask her if she wants to eat it at my place, or if I should bring the dog and we’ll eat at her place. (There was more to do with me doing her taxes and her not having wifi, but these are the basics.) So she elects to bring dinner to my place, as long as I’ll help her carry it over there. No problem. So at our regular time, I park and go up to her apartment. She slow-cooked a loin of pork given to her by a friend, who told her to do it in BBQ sauce. I’m a huge BBQ sauce person, but she, notsomuch. She put it in a roasting pan and covered it with foil, and had a jar of BBQ sauce on the side. She tried to put it in a box, then starts listing sides. I kid you not, here are the sides she listed “I could bring rolls, and potato salad, and beans, or potato chips, and I don’t know about bringing wine or beer or sparkling water, and should I bring ice?”
Honestly, I get really quickly overwhelmed by a verbal list like this. And whether she consciously means to do that or not, I think she’s subconsciously trying to rattle me when she does it. Impress me with her options, or whatever. It just makes me cranky, so I start hacking away at the list like the editor I am.
“Well, it’s just the two of us for dinner, and we both know that I have wine and beer and sparkling water, and no, you don’t need to bring ice. So we’re taking those off the list. I have potato salad, and if you bring potato salad, I don’t think you need to bring potato chips. So pick one, there. Bring rolls if you want, and if you’re saying a can of beans, I have those. I have black beans, kidneys, pintos, maybe chili beans— I don’t have beans in sauce, really, so if you feel strongly about it, you can bring one of those (though you know I’m not really going to eat it), otherwise, I think we’re good.” I left out saying “We’re going down the street to my house, not into the desert for 40 days.” She brought the meat, the potato salad, and the rolls.
Story 2: last night, I was talking to my brother about a decision someone else in the family needs to make. I don’t want to get too far into details, because it’s not my decision and I don’t want to drag my family into the blogosphere any more than I already do, but the family member will need to make a yes or no decision, relatively soon.
My brother said “well, I don’t see what’s so hard about it. If the price is right, the answer is yes.”
I think this is a huge oversimplification, and I told him so. “For yes to be the right decision, it would need to meet these criteria. You know that it doesn’t, right? Short-term good, long-term bad. Ultimately, it’s up to family member, but they’re not much inclined in that direction and I totally see why.”
When I’m stressed, like I am now, I spend lots of time in the car rehashing frustrating conversations aloud (along with my solution to my fitness dilemma, it doesn’t make me look more pulled-together). I found myself rehashing these two conversations, one right after another, before I recognized that mom makes the list too long, unnecessarily complicating decision-making, and that brother (in some areas) ignores a bunch of factors to make decisions seem deceptively simple and obvious. Almost certainly in reaction to my mom. He has emphasized the virtues of decisiveness to me my entire life, and I admit that, as a result, I am a lot more decisive and less dramatic about it than my mom (which was the road I was on.)
But it made me wonder— where do I fall? Between them, somewhere, right?
I don’t know that I consistently fall in one place on this spectrum. I think I’m better than at ignoring irrelevant information, and in identifying the point of diminishing returns (the point at which investing more time/energy/research/money isn’t getting you an equivalent amount of value), and I’m better than my brother at defining the key variables before I jump to a decision. I also think that I’m better about not working backward to justify the most convenient answer. But heaven knows I don’t make perfect decisions, and I frequently overcomplicate a decision, in an effort to be nice or to extend myself, or to adhere to a standard that is often punishing to me and meaningless to other affected parties.
Where do you fall, on the over-under?