Well, I survived my trip home to Miami and Orlando over Christmas. Despite being delayed several days by snow and life in general. I thoroughly enjoyed my time down there, but it it is good to be back in NYC. Sometimes, despite our need to feel connected to our families, we have a stronger, more pressing need to be true to ourselves. There was a great deal of discussion about one member of my family, and why she is not the most communicative in regards to what is going on with her life, and her predisposition to tell people 'what they want to hear' when asked about herself. I want to talk about that today. This disease of 'people pleasing' that seems to run rampant in my family. It occurred to me that, while the same kind of separatist behavior is accepted, or even expected of some members of my family (namely my brother,) it is virtually forbidden for this other family member. Does the fact that it is a female play a role in the preconceived notions my family has about communication, or about familial obligations.
We are talking about a fully grown adult here. She may have some traits that are less than admirable to some, and she has made some choices that members of my family may not understand with regards to financial and personal matters, but not one of us is in a position to make a judgement call on what is right or wrong for her. There was talk about how it is felt that she moved as far away from the family as possible. I, however, did the same thing at a similar age, and suffered no ill reaction from the family as a result. Quite the contrary; I now make a point of enjoying my family every time I speak to them on the phone, or get to see them. Is that accepted from me because I am male? Or because I was viewed as a more difficult child? My take on it is this: there are some things we have to do ON OUR OWN.
Despite all the best intentions in the world, some journeys are best taken without a compass. As a young adult, my family did not always understand my choices, and I often felt (and admittedly, sometimes still feel) judged by them for doing things my own way, at my own pace. Maybe that is why I can empathize so well with this person. Many of the people who know us both well seem to think we have a sort of 'twin bond.' I just think we understand one another on levels others rarely try to reach.
Really, when you think about it-how often does someone REALLY want the answer to the obligatory "How are you?" We are programmed from a very young age to answer with "OK" or "fine" or "great." I personally have a tendency to respond with "I am well, thank you." Yet, even in that seemingly benign statement, there is some dishonesty. I am not well today, I have a terrible cold, I have to go apartment hunting, I am grumpy, you get the point...
At what point does the programming become all we have to protect ourselves from the onslaught of well meaning (if unsolicited) advice? Is it sometimes better to just pretend we are 'OK' than to tell the truth? When does a lie stop being the acceptable answer to "How are you?"
How do you tell the difference?