Nobody Owes me Anything

Currently, the universe is working quite hard to teach me a lesson:

Nobody owes me anything.

I spend a lot of my time and energy investing in other people. I work probably a lot harder than necessary. I really give everything to my relationships, and I’m willing to go long periods of time giving more than I’m receiving.  I’m proud of this trait, and I get genuine joy from being responsible, reliable, supportive and affectionate.  I love to be everybody’s “go-to girl.”

The problem is, I have a lingering, semi-conscious belief that this means I have earned certain considerations.  Respect, being liked or loved, reciprocal consideration and support are among them. It’s not that I give just so I can receive; it’s that when I’ve given a lot and am subsequently hurt, betrayed, neglected or disrespected, it feels extra icky and unfair.  It causes even more hand-wringing and stomping of feet and gnashing of teeth because I’ve invested so much and can’t even be offered basic human decency in return.  ICK.

I’ve noticed in myself that I have this feeling toward my children, too.  I’ve done so much for them, the least they can do is respect me and help me out when asked.

In a healthy relationship, love, respect and support constitute fair expectations.  However, I’m learning, it is unreasonable to feel as though the person you have been giving to is somehow indebted to you for giving you’ve been doing.  Even if it could be argued that, in the interest of fairness and justice, you are owed a level of respect and support for your investment, there is no way to cash in those chips.  I could certainly demand what I feel is rightfully mine, but that is highly unlikely to compel a person who is not treating me well to do so.  There is no Emotional Small Claims Court where I might sue for back payment on needs gone unmet.  Which leads to the crux of the Nobody Owes Me Anything problem:

People are gonna do what people are gonna do.

No matter how much I do for someone, I have no claim over their free will.  I have no ultimate influence over their behavior.  Oh, I can scream and wail at the injustice of being slandered by someone in whom I’ve invested a lot of my time and energy, but it won’t change that they get to do precisely what they choose to do, regardless of my insistence on karmic considerations.  Of course, I have the ability to make my choices based on their behavior toward me, but it’s become very important for me to remember:

No matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, no matter how hard I love, I can’t control people.  And I suppose in a weird way, even though I find that fact utterly terrifying — that so many parts of my life are so easily affected by other people’s free will — it’s also sort of freeing, because they can’t control me, either.