I had a realization last night. It all started with a trip to the airport.
My mom was in Mexico for a week with two of her longtime friends and needed a ride home from the airport.
To give you some context, I live in North Naples, about 20 minutes south of the airport. My mom lives in South Naples, about 40 minutes south of me, therefore about an hour from the landing strip. So, if all went EXACTLY according to plan, picking her up from the airport, getting her home, and then getting myself home would take approximately 2 hours. Did it? Of course not.
Her plane was originally scheduled to land at 11:30pm East Coast Time.
Because it is 2019, and we have technology, I was able to track her flight online and watch as her arrival time got pushed back to 11:57 and then until 12:20am. I knew that she had checked a bag, and that the airport would probably be short staffed at such an hour, so I decided to leave my house around 11:50pm, “just to be safe”. (Shell-Bell doesn’t like to be kept waiting, you know.) As I gathered my things and looked back at my fiancé who was sound asleep in our bed, my resentment towards him looking so comfortable, and my mom who just spent a workless week on the beach, and airplanes that aren’t fast enough, and Mexico which isn’t close enough, began to simmer.
That little simmer turned into a full-fledged dumpster fire when I stopped at the gas station near our house and came to the devastating realization that the 7-Eleven had stopped brewing coffee and I would have to go without. No lukewarm gas station coffee at midnight? Do these people expect me to just forcibly hold my eyes open while I drive? Ok, sure. (This is also the moment where my winning idea for a 24-hour Starbucks was born, but I digress.)
I was getting TESTY. As I finally got on the highway to head North to begin my coffee-less journey, I had every intention to let my mom KNOW how late it was (like she doesn’t have a watch or a cellphone, she obviously needed me to TELL HER). I also planned to discuss that if she knew she was going to be this late she should have taken an Uber (because again, 2019, and technology), and I planned to tell her that she shouldn’t have checked a bag (because how annoying), and I planned to LET HER KNOW how great of an inconvenience this was for me, and obviously how great of a daughter I was for even doing this, duh. *Rolls eyes*
There was a full-fledged monologue going on in my head about what I was going to say when I pulled up at the curb to fetch my mother in all of her tan and rested glory. I think I even practiced my passive aggressive tone out loud at one point.
However, thankfully in a small moment of clarity and perspective it dawned on me: “Why?”
Why did I feel the need to make her feel bad about something that I, Myself, agreed to do? Why did I feel it was necessary to become Father Time, while morphing into the Judge and the Jury about her luggage checking decisions, and flight schedule? Also, how many times have I unconsciously done this to her or others in the past?
I was mortified.
As far as I know, my mother doesn’t know how to fly a plane, and even if she did, she would probably still be late. This is just who she is as a human, and I accepted that fact a long time ago.
Why was it that had I fallen out of that acceptance so easily? [Because I didn’t have mediocre gas station coffee? Because I was going to lose a couple hours of sleep? Because my fiancé and dogs didn’t come with me?] Or was it because I was being SELFISH.
As much as my ego hates to admit it, it was most certainly the latter.
It was with that realization that the second one came, one just as mortifying: That there have been numerous moments in my life where I have found it necessary to passive-aggressively let people know just how annoying they are, for no other reason than I wanted to.
Last night was a perfect example of the disease of “I”.
“I am tired.” “I am busy.” “I shouldn’t have to do this.” “I am inconvenienced.”
The disease of I is a tricky one if left untreated.
While in this state, I was unable to bring into the forefront of my mind just how many times the same person that I was irritated with, had picked ME up from the airport, or dropped ME off. Not to mention the thousands of times she had picked me up from school, soccer practice, late school dances, and late concerts. Should I mention all of the times my friends and I kept her awake in her own home because we couldn’t manage to keep our voices at an appropriate decibel while drinking cheap beer we snuck in through the window in her basement?
DID I REALLY HAVE TO AUDACITY TO MAKE HER FEEL ONE OUNCE OF GUILT FOR THIS?
No, I didn’t. I sat in the cell phone lot and smiled. I waited until she told me that she had pulled her large, purple, floral suitcase off of the track, and asked her if she needed help getting it in the truck. I asked her how her trip was, and genuinely wanted to hear her answer. I had an hour of uninterrupted time with mother on the drive to her house, and that, these days, is a gift. I dropped her off, turned around, got myself home around 2:45am. I crawled into bed next to my hardworking fiancé, still sound asleep, who had to be up in 4 hours. Thank Goodness he didn’t come with me.
My point is this, we must stop guilt tripping people that we care about.
Lately, I have been trying to do my best to give people a little more credit. In the tough moments that we all encounter, everyone involved knows that they are tough. We don’t need to incessantly remind people that their actions have inconvenienced us. THEY KNOW.
Also, I think more often than not we are hardest on ourselves. Asking for help can be one of the scariest things in the world, and I think that shaming people when they have the courage to do so, does nothing but set us all back.
If we agree to do a favor for someone else:
We do not have the right to make them feel lousy about the favor.
As a species, we already have an insane capacity to feel guilt. I personally feel guilty about the text message that I didn’t respond to three days ago, the fact that I haven’t once made it all the way through the 6 step, pre-bed skin regimen that the lady who does my facials suggested, that I regularly throw my recyclables into the trash, and most importantly; I feel guilt that I am even thinking about any of this self-indulgent nonsense when Notre Dame is burning, and there are dogs that still need adopting.
We are hardest on ourselves.
I will say it louder for the people in the back:
WE ARE HARDEST ON OURSELVES.
So the next time you want to take someone on a guilt trip because you are minorly or even majorly inconvenienced, remember that guilt is largely ineffective. A guilt trip is nothing but a lame way of hedging our moral-bets.
From this day forward I am going to do my best to leave guilt in its proper place, tucked away, only brought out for true wrong doing.
P.S. Thank you for all of the rides, Mom.