I used to know someone that was very polite. Which I have always thought of myself as. Most of the time. However, being around this person raised my standards even more. Have you ever been around someone that was a little entrancing? It’s like you naturally find yourself emulating them in someway. They either bring out the best in you, or bring out something else less desirable. Since I have personally been on both sides of the fence, I can attest to the fact that it doesn’t even matter how “strong” of a personality that one is, it can happen to anyone. Luckily we’re only talking about manners here.
At first glance the politeness that this person exuded was refreshing in stark contrast to how ill mannered our society had become. For a little girl who read vintage etiquette and homemaking books, to me it was like breath of fresh air. Especially at a time where I had just bore witness to deplorable behavior that had collapsed my freshly ended relationships. Romantic and otherwise. This person could more than likely recite Emily Post in their sleep, and upon waking complete all of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management without coming off too stuffy in person. It was so refreshing to be around a person who appreciated refinement. We would often dine out as 4 or 5 star restaurants were the perfect supportive backdrop for their, and now my impeccable manners. Such decorum becomes just as addicting as grown up intellectual conversations over a designer martini. Albeit, I did hide a Marlboro Light guilty indulgence from them for 4 years fearing the judgment of showing my less than impeccable side. Otherwise, it was like a dream come true. It was light, sophisticated, what I had been yearning for. I felt like Samantha Jones when she meets the Texas version of herself…I felt understood and appreciated. Then things changed.
I can pinpoint the exact day of the demise of our friendship, but that’s book material as I played a major hand in the change. For these intensive purposes, let’s just say that my other life circumstances, lessons, and failures that occurred aside from this friendship, had me open my eyes a little further. You know what they say about awakening to truth…you can’t go back to the way things were. Like an outgrown shoe or cheerleading uniform, it won’t fit. I started to see some things about life and about the way things really are. I started to realize why we as humans do the things we do when we do them. I began to understand that there are often trapped feelings that lay dormant under our behavior. I also became good at guessing where the trapped feelings came from in other people. I came to understand that though it’s rarely easy to do, it can all be healed and changed, and we are in fact in charge of that process. It’s a humbling, and very frustrating thing to learn. For me, all of my changes at the time uncovered deep anger that I had to trace back to somewhere. A trail that I had been very resistant to following, though I knew that I must. Inevitably, when you come to learn this information and you see someone expressing in the exact same way that you are, the first thing that you want to do is share the new found information. You want to be all; “hey, I get this shit man. Hop in my boat and we can row this river together and keep one another in check.” Sometimes they do and you travel the healing path together, sometimes they stab you in the back for showing them their own wounds. I’ve been on both sides of that fence too. Fun.
With this person, what I ended up seeing is that they mostly wanted everyone to have just as impeccable of manners as they, especially when it came to gratitude. I came to feel that every nice gesture was to be met with such over the top appreciation that the energy that I was using to do that dance ended up turning into resentment on my end. I was unable to fully distinguish wether they were doing something for me because they actually wanted to as a friend, or if it was really about keeping score. I have noticed that we all do this to some extent. Which made me think about my own behavior surrounding gratitude and appreciation. I came to realize that I had a thing about “thank you”. My thing was that I wasn’t that great at appreciation or gratitude, I didn’t express either very well. Though I have gotten better, I may have a little more ways to go. I still have had to battle a touch of self-entitlement at times. Knowing this about myself has made it pretty easy for me to spot lack of gratitude and appreciation in other people.
Despite my aforementioned bad habits surrounding the subject, I mostly was the opposite of my fishing for appreciation former friend. It was not uncommon to hear me say; “do you want a cookie for something you should be doing anyway?” Do I really have to thank someone for picking up their own trash? Do I have to thank someone for doing their job? Do you have to thank your child for listening to what you say? Do you honestly have to thank an employee for showing up on time? Is it necessary to thank your husband for doing the goddamn dishes? Short answer? Yes. You do. Because everyone wants and needs validation that they are wanted, appreciated, and noticed. Hard work is hard work and it becomes easier when it is appreciated. At least noticed. Where it becomes dangerous to the psyche is when we are chasing behind people desperately completing tasks just for the hope of hearing “thank you.” Attempting to gain self worth by running around chasing the tail of validation that comes from outside sources is risky. It’s elusive, inconsistent, and it is in no way sustainable if you happen to catch it. True validation comes from the inner glow of self worth. Another fence I’ve personally been on either side of.
Giving out of need to give is energetically short sided. Not only does it become exhausting worrying about reciprocation, keeping track of reciprocation, and the standard of reciprocation when it is reciprocated, it creates a void. It creates the space of someone “owing”, and that is also a risky and elusive cycle that perpetuates mostly frustration, but definitely resentment. Sometimes people don’t appreciate because they don’t know how to. Those people need compassion, but they also must take responsibility for their shortcomings and do some work to grow in that area.
Giving from the heart for the sheer joy of knowing that the ripple of kindness will only perpetuate kindness, and for the gorgeous curiosity of never really knowing just how far reaching your one act of kindness can be, is the place of true giving. Oddly enough, or maybe not so odd, I have found that self worth and giving go hand and hand. It’s a little something that I’m working on right now. But so far, I can say for absolute certainty, that the more you give the more worthy you come to feel. And the more worthy that you come to feel, the more that you want give. You are coming from a place of wholeness, or rather, Soulness. The cycle then gets bigger. The boomerang gets prettier, and things start coming around to you in such a way that you want nothing more than to keep the cycle going. Eventually you come to reside in a beautiful place of understanding that we are actually in control of our experience here on this planet. After you come to realize that, you no longer have a need to go fishing for appreciation.