Can people depend on you? When they question their dependence –and your feelings are hurt– is it your problem. . . or theirs?
By Lisa Copen
“Are you coming?” I am asked. I had called earlier in the week to see if the event was on for Saturday evening–merely hours away now. But days had passed since my call. I didn’t know if it was happening or not. And I hate not knowing.
I call again Saturday by 9:30 AM, leave a message.
But things need done. Grocery shopping, couponing, cleaning the fridge. Weeks of extra pain have resulted in procrastination. I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks. Stuff . . . needs. . . done. “I have to know,” I tell my husband. “Now. I have to pace myself if we are going.”
As we both are scrubbing parts of the refrigerator another hour has passed. We decide not to go, even if the event is on. We want to go but can’t sacrifice our day to discover the event is cancelled in a few hours. Maybe next time.
An hour later, the phone rings. “Yes, we are on,” she says cheerfully.
“Oh.” Ummm. . . She has even arranged a sitter for our kids.
“Are you coming? Because if not, we have to cancel the event. We need enough people to make it worthwhile.” She has to know now. Or calls need to be made, sitters cancelled, people apologized to–and people apologized for–like me. “Lisa can’t come so we are canceling” I can hear people being told. My pride throbs.
It was not a good weekend to schedule an event such as this anyway, she admits. But she is supporting her spouse, and he wants it to happen. It has already been rescheduled once before. Originally, I thought the scheduling odd. But I had decided to go–after all, they were depending on me. Now, so many have cancelled, it may not happen. It depends on me. Me! Why does it depend on me?
“I really need a 12-hour buffer” I share. . . admitting my weaknesses. “To attend a two-hour event I need time to conserve energy and time to recover,” I calmly say. I never say this. I never talk about what my body really requires in order to do small outings. Lately it is worse than usual. And it’s complicated. People . . . don’t. . . understand. I barely understand.
“I understand,” she says, “I told my husband, ‘you can’t really depend on Lisa –because of her health issues.’”
Ugh. Can’t depend on Lisa? Nineteen years of illness, 19 years of daily pain, and it took 18 of them for me to learn to say, “No, I can’t come.”
I have learned to pace. I have learned I don’t have anything to prove. I have learned to prioritize the pressures so my body doesn’t flare out of control and make me cancel events for months, rather than just a day. And now, after a couple cancellations, I have become Can’t-Depend-On-Lisa.
Can’t depend on Lisa?
“We will be there,” I say.
I will be there if the sky is falling. I will be there NO MATTER WHAT! You can depend on me, I want to scream.
I hang up. “We are going” I tell my husband.
I go to the grocery store. . . 2 hours. I push the cart, straining, praying nothing in my body goes wrong. That my shoulders stay in place. I calculate coupons. . . through the fuzz in my brain. And I hear . . .
Can’t depend on Lisa. . . Don’t depend on Lisa. . . Can’t count on Lisa. . .
I feel sick, angry, heart-broken. I am frustrated, sad.
–I am annoyed that I am annoyed!
I want to add up all the times people have disappointed me, when I have depended on others to watch my son when I had surgery and they carelessly cancelled. The babysitters who have “forgotten they had something else to do” hours before their arrival. The housekeeper who decided to just not show up to get even with me about something she didn’t like. So many people have not been dependable in my life (if I wanted to make a list.)
“Do make a list,” Satan whispers to me. “Remember when you couldn’t depend on her or him or them during that and during then. Remember when. . . Remember when. . . ”
But this is not truth. Even though people have disappointed me, I know in my heart –I know– this was not how she would ever–ever–want me to feel.
She tells me I am her hero. She listens when she doesn’t understand. She prays with me. She watches my child. She meant, “Don’t pressure Lisa into being the deciding person for there to be a quorum.” She wanted to remove the pressure of my attendance. She would never intentionally hurt me. She has been there during some of my darkest days–when it was midnight–and I was crying–literally. . . she held me. As we were at the hospital hoping to bring our adoptive babe home, as she checked on our cat, she sat in my son’s soon-to-be nursery and prayed the adoption would go smoothly. Because she had suffered those same pains.
God reminds me, “She doesn’t know what it is like to be you, to live in your skin, My child. Her skin holds its own aches. And she doesn’t know how those word can sting because of your pride. Remember pride is sinful. It only causes you pain. She meant it all in love. You do not have the right to interpret this as being hurtful, because you know that is not My truth. Let it go.”
Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Why?
Because it hurts because of my sensitives–not because of any malice. How quickly I could have grabbed onto the sting of the words and ruined something precious.
Pride is a sin that only hurts us. We can be hurt, but what is the source of that hurt? Were words spoken in malice, or in love and then misinterpreted? Do I lash out because the one who speaks the simple words is not aware of my pride? Do you?
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.