When you find yourself in times of trouble…

by Lori Lavender Luz on September 18, 2007

in Family

When you need help, you run across two different types of people.

  1. People like me have to figure out a path from here to helping you before they can say, “Sure! I’ll be right there!”
  2. People like my sister, Tami, say “Sure!” first and then figure out the how.
Yesterday, Tami called me when Gino was about to be released from the hospital. I had her car with Dominic’s carseat and Gino’s wheelchair in it, since I had been watching Dominic much of the weekend. Her car is the only one that fits Dominic and both of my kids.

Roger, Tessa, Reed and I had just sat down for dinner at an Italian restaurant. I am embarrassed to say that I asked if we could eat first before exchanging cars with her. I just couldn’t see how I would get a hungry family out of that restaurant without eating.

She didn’t need the car seat or wheelchair immediately, so it wasn’t really a problem. The problem, to me, is that I didn’t immediately say “Sure! Be right there!” I am just not built that way.

Tami, on the other hand, is famous for saying, “whaddaya need? I’m leaving right now.” Then she’ll wake her son from his nap (those are sacred!), cancel his gymnastics class, stop at the grocery store and bring exactly the right items you didn’t even know you needed, and show up on your doorstep with a smile.

I’ve always told myself I’m the Selfish One of the family. I am the eldest, and I am the only one of the three of us to experience being the sole center of my parents’ universe. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to put a new spin on selfishness, thanks to an intuitive reading from my other sister, Sheri: I’m not selfish, I just have healthy boundaries.

So, when someone needs you, are you more like Tami or like me? Explain.

And what’s the difference between being selfish and having healthy boundaries?

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Tessa goes to court on today’s Drama 2B Mama.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kami April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I’m not sure how I am. I have certainly done the “Be right there” and figured it on the way. I think I have also thought, “You want me to drop everything for THAT?” I think I am more the former than the latter, but then I don’t have kids either so I can drop everything without causing an inconvenience to others most of the time.As for healthy boundaries – my husband could probably speak to that at length. He has been working on creating healthy boundaries for himself (from me – he is ok with others) for a couple of years now. Believe it or not, I can use a person up if they let me. As much as I don’t like it when he tells me he needs some “Bradley Time” (What? Don’t I get all your time? )I know he is better off when he does. And when he is better off, I am better off.

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Furrow April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I’m definitely more like you, though I also sometimes feel guilty for it. However, the other type of person can become a bit problematic when you know that they are going to disrupt their own lives to all sorts of degrees to help you out. It makes you think twice about asking them for help. I have a co-worker like that, and when something unusual arises, we’re hesitant to tell her because of her tendency to immediately turn her own life upside down to fix the problem. In the long run, that can cause more problems than the original situation.

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Kami April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I’m not sure how I am. I have certainly done the “Be right there” and figured it on the way. I think I have also thought, “You want me to drop everything for THAT?” I think I am more the former than the latter, but then I don’t have kids either so I can drop everything without causing an inconvenience to others most of the time.As for healthy boundaries – my husband could probably speak to that at length. He has been working on creating healthy boundaries for himself (from me – he is ok with others) for a couple of years now. Believe it or not, I can use a person up if they let me. As much as I don’t like it when he tells me he needs some “Bradley Time” (What? Don’t I get all your time? )I know he is better off when he does. And when he is better off, I am better off.

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Furrow April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I’m definitely more like you, though I also sometimes feel guilty for it. However, the other type of person can become a bit problematic when you know that they are going to disrupt their own lives to all sorts of degrees to help you out. It makes you think twice about asking them for help. I have a co-worker like that, and when something unusual arises, we’re hesitant to tell her because of her tendency to immediately turn her own life upside down to fix the problem. In the long run, that can cause more problems than the original situation.

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excavator April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

OK, that worked and so I’ll go on.I’ve faced the same dilemma, and have felt the same angst at not saying “be right there” and dropping everything. It would have taken an AWFUL lot to get me to interrupt a child’s nap.Is it selfish to see the cost to yourself when giving assistance? Is it selfish if the cost is too high–such as getting your family out of the restaurant–boy you’d have paid for that one (listening to the kids’ protests, maybe they get insolent and you have to discipline them or Rob does and then you have the burden of knowing that from their point of view it is very unfair–the whole family atmosphere is different and difficult–that’s what it could cost).I’m sure that had Tami called you from the house immediately after Gino had fallen that you’d have dropped everything and been right there.I suppose it’s a matter of temperatment, or at least that’s how I’ve tried to explain it to myself. When I contrast my hesitance with someone else’s cheerful immediacy. My theory is that some temperments do allow a person to respond right away, and do it cheerfully–not a trace of resentment. Other temperaments can’t help but count the cost.Perhaps that’s the difference between ‘healthy boundaries’ and readiness to help: if a person can jump to assistance without resentment, or without suffering from what it costs. (I would hesitate to say that someone who is in the ‘responds immediately’ camp has UNhealthy boundaries).I do think that we live in a world where ‘boundaries’ are often lumped into the ‘selfish’ category. Particularly if someone has just experienced one of your boundaries (even when asserted respectfully) when they wanted something from you. I’ve wondered if a boundary is experienced as an implied criticism of someone else–at not being an exception. It’s a very charged issue and I’m glad you brought it up.Love you, LoriDebora

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Lavender Luz April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Debora — so glad to see you here!I agree with what you said about temperaments. And I think Tami would, too.In fact, when she read the post, she just said that I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe someday when Gino is WALKING, she’ll actually post her comments herself! There’s a dare, Tami!Yes, Furrow. I get what you mean. No one wants to turn someone into a doormat.Kami, that’s a good insight about marriage. In my house, they know, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!” Actually, it goes for each of us.

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Lavender Luz April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Debora — so glad to see you here!I agree with what you said about temperaments. And I think Tami would, too.In fact, when she read the post, she just said that I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe someday when Gino is WALKING, she’ll actually post her comments herself! There’s a dare, Tami!Yes, Furrow. I get what you mean. No one wants to turn someone into a doormat.Kami, that’s a good insight about marriage. In my house, they know, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!” Actually, it goes for each of us.

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KarenO April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I think I’m halfway between you and Tami. But I sure would like to be more like you! I sometimes say yes, jump in without thinking and then regret it later, and sometimes I do it your way.In my opinion selfish is when you have no regard or sympathy for anyone else’s needs, say no because it would be an inconvenience to you, or just because you don’t feel like it. Having healthy boundaries acknowledges the fact that sometimes you have to think about yourself first, your and your families needs before putting someone else’s first, and NOT feeling guilty about your decision.Sounds like I need to strengthen my healthy boundaries some more :)

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KarenO April 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I think I’m halfway between you and Tami. But I sure would like to be more like you! I sometimes say yes, jump in without thinking and then regret it later, and sometimes I do it your way.In my opinion selfish is when you have no regard or sympathy for anyone else’s needs, say no because it would be an inconvenience to you, or just because you don’t feel like it. Having healthy boundaries acknowledges the fact that sometimes you have to think about yourself first, your and your families needs before putting someone else’s first, and NOT feeling guilty about your decision.Sounds like I need to strengthen my healthy boundaries some more :)

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