I’m going to tell you a secret — just between you and me. If my wife and younger daughter find out, then all the fun will go away. Here it is (I’m swearing you to secrecy if you read this): they take advantage of me.
I know, I know. That doesn’t sound like such a great secret, does it? But here’s the kicker — the real secret, the secret itself — I’ve known about it for years, but they don’t know I know! Isn’t that a hoot?
There are multiple facets that have contributed to this situation. I’ll try to lay them out as understandably as I can.
For one thing, I’m just this side of being totally O. C. D. I have certain ways I like to do things, and when others don’t do them that way, it becomes a slight (operative word: slight) irritation to me. For example, when it’s time to empty the dishwasher, I like to put the clean dishes on the bottoms of the piles, the theory being that if I put them on top of the ones that were already in the cabinets, then some dishes (the ones on top) get used more frequently than the others (the ones on the bottom). It’s like keeping a kind of rotation going in order to equal things out. When Evelyn (wife) puts them away, she plops the clean ones on top of the ones still in the cabinets. Which (slightly, again) irritates me. In order that things get done the way I like, I go ahead and do them myself with — I should note — no objection from anyone else.
Another example: Evelyn likes her morning coffee. When she was the one who emptied the grounds from the little sieve basket, she would tap the basket on the side of the kitchen waste can. That wouldn’t be a problem, except that she would never clean the grounds off the trash can lid, and so I would end up wiping the lid clean. After a while I decided that, since I was the one being bothered by that, I should be the one to do something about it. So for the last year or so, I’ve been emptying the grounds — into the sink, where they belong — before we go to bed. Again, with no objection from anyone.
Karlyn (daughter) has her ways of taking advantage also. Just last night, after she had gone to bed, she called me to her room to ask if I would bring her something, something she could just as easily have gotten out of bed to get for herself. Before I could leave, she found it in bed with her, so 1) I had to stop what I was doing to respond to her question, and 2) I had let her take advantage of me by even showing up in her doorway.
You’re probably thinking, “Why don’t you just not do those things? Why don’t you let them know what you’re willing to do and what it is you expect them to do for themselves?” Those would be great questions for someone who’s dealing with a normal brain/mind set. But, you see, mine is a rare brain/mind set. I get it from my mother.
Many decades ago I accompanied Mom to a doctor’s appointment. She had been feeling drained — overwhelmed. I told the doctor that I thought she had been taking too much on herself. She worried about the widow who lived across the street. She worried about her father whose health had been deteriorating. She worried about her husband, my father, who was not in all that good health himself. I asked the doctor if he couldn’t tell her to focus more on herself than all these other people. The doctor pulled me aside, and what he told me was something I hadn’t heard before, but have come to understand over the years. He said, “Your mother needs to be needed.” In other words, if we were to remove all those other people from her circle of concern, she would probably shrivel up and fade away.
I believe that’s why I choose to let my wife, daughter, and who knows how many others take advantage of me. It makes me feel needed. Not only that, but when I do something, I know it’s done right. If I have to ask someone to mow my lawn while I’m away on vacation, I know I’ll come back and find it not done “right.” Even something as simple as making our bed can become a source of (slight) irritation if the pattern of the quilt isn’t exactly symmetrical or if there are wrinkles in it. There’s a right way and a wrong way to make a bed and, darn it, when I make it, I do it right!
Now, there is a down side to all this, especially for Karlyn, and I feel quite guilty about this. But I know that by catering to her whims, I’m also denying her the opportunities she needs to learn how to do things on her own, things that, by now (at the age of 18), she should have learned years ago and been doing for just as long. It’s not that I haven’t tried (halfheartedly, perhaps, but tried nonetheless). It’s mostly because she sends up very thick walls of resistance, insisting that she’ll know how to do all those things when she needs to know them, so she doesn’t have to learn or practice them now.
The point is that I’m fully aware of how my family and others take advantage of me, but in doing for others, I receive a sense of purpose, fulfillment, place. I know that without me around, my family would have it much harder. So, I put up with their taking advantage. They put up with my O. C. D.