For two years I gave rides to a neighbor who did not have a car during the day. She confided in me about her mean boyfriend, and I witnessed their nasty arguments. When she took a bartending job, she turned to me for childcare (with no prior discussion). I baby-sat her daughter a few times (never asking for payment), but felt used and stopped. Gradually, I learned she and her boyfriend had suspended driver’s licenses and several eviction notices. When she bragged about cheating on her boyfriend, I saw her as manipulative and limited my contact. Recently, she trimmed vines from her yard and left a giant mess between our apartments. I cleaned half and texted her to do the rest. Days passed. Eventually, my husband did it. After the favors I gave her, why didn’t she do the one thing I asked?
She’s in survival mode. Her mind sprints from crisis to drama and back. There is no energy to ponder the motivation behind the hand you extended to help her. All she sees is her own need to rise above the crappy life she has created and into something more meaningful.
Change your mind by changing your heart. Start here: Give your neighbor credit for finding and keeping a job. And, yes, her affair was a poor choice, but likely made with the cowardly hope it would get rid of her boyfriend. Your neighbor’s failures in communication and self-management (nasty arguments with her man, not making direct childcare arrangements with you, driving with a suspended license, etc.) explain why she failed to finish her gardening task. That failure is not about you—don’t take it personally. Your neighbor has not learned the basic life skills necessary to be an adult. She even struggles with the foundational skill of following through with menial housekeeping responsibilities, and her messy emotional life is evidence of her ongoing struggle.
Of course, you have work to do, too. In the future, don’t overgive. It is essential to share time, talent and wisdom with others. But it is also important to be selfless, at times. When do you expect something in return, say so: “I am happy to do this for you, and I want you to pay it forward as soon as you can.” Or you can name exactly what you want in exchange for what you offer. All along the way in life, have the confidence, self-esteem and integrity to ask for the help you need from others. Doing so keeps your heart, mind and spirit in balance.
My dad has a pretty bad temper, and his first response to everything bad is to yell. My mom yells at him for yelling, then he yells back at her, and a horrible fight starts. The only good thing is sometimes they get so mad at each other they forget to be mad at us. My 21-year-old sister has some really bad news to tell my parents, and we were wondering what you thought might be a good way to say it?
Keep the message short—one to two sentences. Be clear and specific: “I took a job as a surrogate, and I’m pregnant.” Or if, say, your sister decided to travel instead of attend university, stick to one response despite whatever questions are fired: “I’m confident that I’ll figure it out, and if I can’t, I will ask the right person for the help I need.” Finally, to avoid a scream fest, pick a public place for the conversation. Your sister needs her own transportation back to wherever she is living. If that’s at your parent’s home, she should be prepared to move out if her announcement threatens your parents’ values or belief system.