I had that unpleasant conversation with the BFF last night. It had been awhile since we talked and I kind of thought we’d start by catching up on life, but she’s like a dog with a bone and when I tried to talk to her, she started right up with “so I’ve got to get this scheduled…” and I said “I’m sorry, but at the end of the day, I’m not comfortable committing to a trip that long, this far out.” She argued with me: “but you’re never really going to know what her health situation is…” and I agreed with her. It’s possible that Mom’s health will decline more slowly than I think. It’s possible that I’m cutting myself off from fun things I can do now. But I’d rather not commit to things that have me out of town or out of the country for that long while I’m her primary support. Italy was different, for me, partially because I could see that this time was coming, and partially because it was a trip that I had felt really strongly about for 11 years. I offered to visit her, instead. I made clear that this isn’t about not wanting to see her or spend time with her, but I’m not willing to plan to be away for more than a week at a time, at this point. I’ve also said that I’m floating the idea that other people who love my mother could spend more time with her, and that might free me up to make a plan like this, but so far, that’s just a bright idea on my part— nobody’s offering to step in and time a visit so that I can bug out for a bit.
I had to say it over and over, and it took her a long time to hear it. She kept asking questions that amounted to “are you just going to turn around and do a different trip without me?” And I had to say no— I am still traveling and that I am comfortable taking shorter trips, or trips that Mom accompanies me for, but I don’t want to take the chance that when the trip came, Mom will be less independent than she is now, and that this would be a real hardship for her. Frankly, I also don’t want to commit to something like this and risk that I’d have to cancel.
And I do hear that hint of insecurity on her part— that this is just a cover because I don’t want to be with her. That’s never been true. With that said, bullying me into committing to something that doesn’t work for me is not a great route toward improving our friendship.
I love the BFF, but this is one of the big challenges we’ve always had— her refusing to hear me when I say something she doesn’t want to hear. And especially recently, she’s one of several people who are pretty sure they understand my life better than I do, and if I’d just let them make my decisions for me…
Here’s the thing: I don’t understand why I have to go all the way down the rabbit hole. I don’t understand why people just won’t hear me when I say no the first time. I do, I say it quietly, and I do say it nicely. I still don’t see why I have to say it 4,300 times. And if it was just her, I’d say “know your audience, Auntie M!” But it’s Grey Area Guy, too, thinking he could talk me into being just a little more this and a little less that and suddenly not very much myself at all. And a host of other people.
To me, it’s a matter of respect, to listen to someone when they tell you how their life is. To me, it’s a matter of respect not to argue with an adult when they make a considered decision. When the BFF had an elective surgery that she felt strongly about, I did ask her questions about it. I’m not pro-elective surgery. But we talked about her decision-making process, she explained why she felt it was necessary and the steps they were taking to be sure she was safe physically and cared for physically, emotionally and otherwise, and I said that, although it would not be the right route for me, it was clear to me that she was making the best choice she knew how to make for herself and her circumstances, and I supported it. This assumption that people know so much about how my life is because of who I am on social media, or because we have a history, that they don’t have to listen to me? It’s obnoxious and unrealistic. If there’s more to who you are than your Facebook posts, then let’s assume that there’s more to me, also.
One of the things that I think is very true about me is that I’m a strong person. It’s a completely subjective assessment, but I think in terms of emotional resilience, I’ve got a pretty great track record. I also think of myself as a person of pretty strong convictions. And, for what it’s worth, I think of myself as smart and a person with a track record of good (not to say perfect) decisions. And dealing with people who are constantly arguing with me about who I am and what’s right for me— it makes me think that they don’t see me that way at all, which I find frustrating. And when these people are as close to me as that, it makes me feel like either I don’t know myself as well as I think or they aren’t as close as I think. Nothing good is coming of this. There’s a reason I’m suddenly starting all my sentences with “Listen!”