The Definition of Insanity......(THIS time it will be different....)

I think the hardest part about being in a family are the family members we don't understand, don't necessarily like, and would never choose to socialize with, yet have no choice but to have a relationship with them because they are family.  These people are not toxic, evil or mean; they are just very different than we are. It could be because they grew up in a different generation, had different influences on their lives or lived in an area that was culturally different than the area we lived in, but whatever it is, we just don't click with them. Sometimes, however, we grew up in the same house with them, and that presents an even bigger challenge because the differences are not that easy to explain away.  Being in a family can be hard work because in many cases, we have no choice but to try and get along.  


REMINDER: Never bring up politics or religion at family gatherings, unless you're bored and looking to start an argument.


I was a bookkeeper for a church when I was younger, and I remember the pastor of the church telling me that it was much harder for people to minister to their own family than it was a stranger. I found that really interesting because you would think the opposite would be true as a first thought. With a family member, we have preconceived ideas, notions for that person. With a stranger, there is none of that, so there are no preconceived expectations. 


What got me thinking about this is a relationship between a mom and a daughter that I have known for 30 some-odd years (not me and my daughter), I've watched this mom and daughter struggle constantly with their relationship.  They are both stubborn, are certain their relationship is contentious because of the other person, and are too stubborn to make the effort to improve things.


The other day I witnessed an incident between this mom and daughter where a bunch of us were gathered on an outdoor, open, patio deck, eating finger food from paper plates. The mom, who I must mention is in her 80s, had an almost empty plate of food on lap. It was a little windy out, and the strong breeze tipped her plate over and spilled food onto the cement patio. Note that this patio is concrete, is open to the outside, and dogs, cats and people were freely roaming all over it.  The mom bent over to pick up the food and her daughter came over to help and I heard her say "Mom, I'll get that," and preceded to pick up the food off the concrete patio deck. There wasn't that much food. There were a few chips, a piece of broccoli and maybe a few other small nibbles. I watched as the daughter started to walk over to the trash with the plate. She had taken two steps when I saw her turn around. The daughter walked back to the mom and started talking to her in a very low voice. I couldn't hear most of the conversation, but it was clear what was going on. The mom wanted the plate and the food back. Knowing them both, I knew that is what they were discussing (arguing) about. 


Later that day, the daughter told me about that conversation I could not hear. Her mom called her back from the trash and insisted that she was going to eat what her daughter had picked up off the concrete deck. The daughter argued with her about it, exclaiming how dirty the patio deck was, and that bugs and animals had walked on it. The mom told her there were no bugs where the food fell and that she (the daughter) was being ridiculous and that she (the mom) wasn't like her. 


There was plenty of finger food that the mom could have just refilled her plate.  No one would have thought she was wasting food by throwing those few bits away. I would not have eaten any food that had fallen onto that patio deck, myself and I'm not that picky. On the other hand, the daughter could have realized that mom, who is very healthy and active for her age, was probably not going to keel over from a piece of broccoli and a few chips whose chemicals would probably do her more harm than a stray germ from the patio deck.  One could certainly make arguments certainly for BOTH sides of this issue.


This is really about two family members not making the effort to understand and accept that the other person is different than they are, and is determined to make that person think, act and believe the same as they do. What's sad is that this is a mom and a daughter. Given that the mom is in her 80s, I would say the clock is ticking with respect to fixing this relationship. But each of them is determined to see the problem in only one way, that it's the other person's fault that they are at odds, and they are determined that the solution is to keep doing what they've been doing for 30 years. Which is the definition of insanity. 


I think in this situation, it's more about what REWARD are they getting out of these encounters. Clearly both of them are being rewarded in some way, else they would not repeat the behavior.  If they truly felt awful after each encounter, they would act differently next time for a better outcome. Maybe they get a feeling of righteousness?  Maybe they get mileage as the 'wounded party' in the encounter? Who knows?  I'm sure this has a lot to do with childhood baggage but that doesn't mean it's not fixable.  Both of them need to realize one important fact:


If you are part of the problem, then you are part of the solution.


The interesting thing is that neither of them has ever told the other how their contentious encounters make each of them feel. The daughter comes out of each encounter with hurt feelings over the way her mother snaps at her and says cruel things and the mother is endlessly exasperated with what she considers her daughter's 'over-the-top' beliefs about germs, sanitation, food hygiene, processed food chemicals and not to mention the way she needs her living space to be just perfect.   Two different people trying to make the other accept that THEIR way is THE way. Yeah? How's that working for them? It hasn't. For probably their whole lives. 


Ironically, the daughter had once sent me an email telling me some things that I had done that hurt her feelings, along with an explanation about how we can't let hurt feelings build up and we must tell others how we feel when our feelings are hurt.  She said she felt it was healthy to be honest with me about her feelings.  I returned the favor and expressed my hurts as well. Our relationship, incidentally, is much better for it, too. The other day, I pointed out to her that she hasn't yet extended this honesty to her mother and asked her why that was.  She didn't really have an answer. 


She now has a plan to take her mother for an outing and try to explain how she feels. That outing is over a month away. 


Okay, I'm just going to say it. I don't understand why she just can't get it over with sooner rather than later. Later could very well be too late. Her mom is in her 80s.  


By now, you all know this isn't about a spat about eating food off the floor. It's about addressing a lifetime of family dynamics that has just been accepted as "this is just the way it is..." 


This whole situation makes me sad because it certainly doesn't have to be this way.  I have a great relationship with my daughter, and I wish every mom could experience what I have.  We can hang out as friends, and I can turn into mama bear on a dime or be her older, wiser mentor buddy. It's really awesome. And she has no trouble putting me in my place when I need to stop being overbearing and controlling ha ha.  A mom and daughter relationship can be a beautiful thing. But you have to talk about feelings. My daughter will come right out and tell me "Mom, when you say that this is how I feel...." and I'm glad she feels free to chastise me when I need it!


Relationships are big stressors in our lives if they are not working well. Sometimes the toxic family members have to be cut off for our own safety and mental health.


However, what about those contentious relationships that we have to maintain? I think we all have them somewhere in our lives. Do you have them? If so, do you keep reacting and responding the same way? Have you shared how your relationship interactions make you feel? 


One of the most freeing things I ever did was tell a boss the way he was managing me was not working, and that if he wanted me to quit, to just tell me to quit and I would seek life elsewhere. It was one of the hardest professional encounters I've ever had, and I did it with a very shaky and an "I'm about ready to cry" voice. He sat there and listened and didn't say a word. He then went into his partner's office and sat down to discuss what I had said to him. I didn't get fired, he got a little better and from that point on, whenever he would speak in an ugly tone or be rude to me, I would tell him "You can't speak to people like that...." Eventually, over time, he transformed for the better. People I worked with were appalled, (yes really) that I actually would say these things to him. No one else would dare, which told me he had cowed everyone into accepting him being a dick to them. I was able to do this because of one reason. I was at the point where I was so stressed out, I was going to have to quit if things didn't improve so I had nothing to lose.  I know many wouldn't have risked what I did, because they don't want to get fired, but I didn't get fired, nor was I asked to quit. Sometimes it's worth the risk.


I want you to eliminate stressors in your life.  Stress causes a buildup of Cortisol, which makes it harder for you to lose weight.  How many of us go hunt down snack food when we are stressed or feel crappy about ourselves? I'm right there with you. Sometimes getting rid of stress is easy and sometimes it takes work and involves some risk. What is your mental and physical health worth to you? Only you can answer that but I'm guessing for many of us, we seriously undervalue it. 


I hope that if you have a relationship in your life that is worth fixing, that you can find a way to do so, but, please, not at the expense of your sanity. 


After three weeks of discouraging dieting results, I lost three pounds last week. Hopefully my body has decided it has to let go of some more weight.  I hope those of you on this weight loss journey with me are doing well and staying on track. 






(photo courtesy of Maksim Goncharenok)



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7th Decade Redhead
7th Decade Redhead

I'm 60+ years old female retiree who is finally figuring out why she's been struggling with losing weight her whole life. I want to share the lessons I learned so others can help themselves with their own weight loss struggles earlier in their lives.

60 Pounds by 60 Years
60 Pounds by 60 Years

My final weight loss attempt after 40 years of different diet failures. No shakes, no supplements, no surgery, no crazy food, no purchased meal plans, no fasting. Creating a healthier relationship with food and facing the painful truth about my relationship surrounding food. No BS, just common sense. And it worked.

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