I’ve been home from work on vacation for the past two weeks. For the first time in many years, we neither went anywhere for vacation nor had major obligations at home to discharge. My folks came for Christmas, but stayed for only a few days, leaving lots of uninterrupted, unstructured family time for us at home. That was just what I wanted, and it came with some surprising lessons.
Being home for a long stretch of ordinary time gave me a chance to see my husband, who makes our home, at work. It gave me a chance to participate in that work in a meaningful way, which I don’t ordinarily get. I spent time planning and making meals, cleaning, and helping him prepare for a home improvement project. None of these are things I ever get to do, although for a while many years ago they were my main job in our marriage, and (except the home improvement), they are things I am good at doing and mostly enjoy.
Doing that work together put me in touch with the fact that I apparently have a curious sense of entitlement. Now, I’ve never been the type of person to try to talk a professor out of a poor grade, or a cop out of a ticket, or to assume that I was owed rewards of any kind, from anyone. I’m not talking about that kind of entitlement. But I realized that I tend to assume — on some level anyway — that I’m a good, intelligent, person who ought to be able to achieve things easily. I make the same tacit assumption about the people I love.
I don’t take into account just how difficult most of life is, and how time-consuming even simple tasks can be done well. Then, when things are difficult, tedious, boring, I have a low frustration tolerance. When I’m bad at a task either from lack of training and experience, or lack of physical strength — removing a wall, let’s say, as we worked on this week — I tend to give up before I even have a chance to learn or grow strong. I sometimes rush through tedious tasks and end up doing them badly, when going slowly was all that was needed to make them go well.
I sometimes find myself surfing, shopping, reading, daydreaming — instant gratification activities, that require neither effort nor skill — when I meant to be making or creating. Then I find that I’ve run out of what little time I have for the things that really matter to me, because they were more difficult than I felt they were entitled to be for me.
Worse yet, I’m just as impatient with my family. I underestimate how long it “should” take my husband to do his work, and get angry when it takes “too long.” I’m even impatient with my son, when he has difficulty with things I remember finding just as difficult when I was his age!
Some people like to choose a word in January to guide the year ahead. I’m not sure whether that is an idea for me or not, but if it were, I think PATIENCE had better be my watchword for 2013. Patience with myself and the vagaries of life, patience with my family and son, patience with the timeline for every good thing.
What about you? Do you have a problem with entitlement? Do you have a watchword for 2013?