I confess I’m not good at keeping track of hard copy paperwork of any kind! I once lost a concert ticket and the box office had mercy on me and reissued them. That’s why all my tickets to anything are digital/virtual/pdf/ whatever!
So, that being said, despite my good intentions (and I truly thought I would sell some this time), I lost a pack of chicken bbq tickets. This is the way these fundraisers work in my family:
1. My son comes home with a pack of 15 tickets at $8 each, and tosses them at me, and tells me to sell them.
2. I read the paperwork that says he’s expected to sell these. On the due date we must return the unsold tickets or remit payment for the sold tickets. Any ticket not returned is considered to be sold, so it’s either money or ticket.
3. I look at the tickets, and think, “Well, we’ll buy 4, and that will be family dinner. Plus I think my friends will want some. I can definitely sell 10.”
Then we all promptly forget about said tickets.
4. I misplace the tickets, but don’t realize it until the day before the due date.
5. I panic and search for tickets. This time, I had put them in my purse so I would remember to sell them (yeah, right), and they fell out. I finally found the book of 15 tickets in the car under the driver’s seat.
6. I return all the tickets. I don’t buy any because I’m a little resentful that I didn’t have a choice in this matter to either pay or buy. So I create a lose-lose situation: we get no chicken, only stress, and the organization gets no money from us.
So how does this relate to my field of conflict transformation and mediation?
Accept that what is, is. BBQ Chicken fundraisers are big around these parts. They raise a lot of money and people like them. It just is. There are others who are great at selling tickets and they are a huge successful fundraiser in these parts. The fundraisers are not going to stop, this is an accepted practice, and I’m not good at it. It is what it is. How I respond is up to me.
It is helpful for a person to know themselves in order to respond appropriately. In my case, I resent being “told” what to do and I know I’m not good with paperwork. Since I know this about myself, I can hold myself accountable. Rather than repeat the pattern of ignoring the situation, letting my feelings dictate my behavior, and / or losing the tickets, I have at least three options when confronted with this next time: 1. I can graciously return the tickets and say “no thank you.” 2. I can immediately write a check for my family’s tickets and return the rest. 3. I can try to do better and sell the tickets. Since I know myself, I most likely will choose options 1 or 2.
It is important to get buy-in and not force people into agreements. Many people, like me, do not respond well when they feel forced into something or are expected to go along with something just because someone tells them to do so, even if we want to support the organization/person telling us what to do. Either we feel resentful, or guilty because we aren’t going along, or apathetic. I see this when, in my mediation sessions, both parties desire a relationship or resolution, but one party wants to call the shots and force the other to do something. Even if the desired action is a good idea, the other party will resist. Buy in and empowerment is important.
Resolution: When I receive a pack of chicken bbq tickets, I will simply return it asap and save myself the panic.
One of my favorite poems is “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson. This poem tells about falling into the same hole in the sidewalk over and over again until the author takes responsibility for avoiding the hole and decides to go a different route. It reminds me of when I go down the same path of having the same argument / getting into the same situations over and over– and get nowhere.
Over the past couple of years, our oldest son has been in some crisis or another. My husband and I tried the same things over and over to “help” him and all we did was end up in a hole ourselves. The stress of the situation took a huge toll on my husband’s and my health. There were days that I could simply function– only take care of my own and my family’s immediate needs. Some days, if I simply knew what I was going to cook for dinner it was a good day. My husband suffered physical stress symptoms that led to a health scare and he was much less productive at work.
We decided that we had to do things differently. We learned that we cannot help our child if we are down in a hole ourselves. We also realized the will never learn to avoid the “hole in his sidewalk” if we keep rescuing him when he falls. We finally practiced tough love and let our child, who has a disability and a personality disorder, suffer the consequences of his actions. It has been the hardest thing we have had to do as parents. We didn’t abandon him, but we took a step back, and got him other supports so he could live a more independent life. It was up to him to use those supports. Our son dealt with expulsion from school, homelessness, theft of all his savings, and met some dangerous people. When he was penniless and felt threatened, he finally saw that he was indeed in a deep hole and was willing to try those supports. He is now learning to do things differently and has his own apartment.
We discovered that there are many parents like us who lost their retirement savings and became so stressed out that their health failed due to rescuing their children, disabled and abled, over and over without regard to their own well-being. Learning their stories has helped us tremendously in choosing a different path. Our other children are now less stressed and we are healthier.
So, friends and readers, I challenge you to think about the “holes” that you fall into over and over again. Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship. Maybe it’s an argument with a co-worker, spouse, parent, or child. Maybe it’s your own ruminating. Or maybe, like me, you have a tendency to procrastinate over and over and then get stressed and snarky! Whatever it is, let’s work to go down another street that leads to the life that we are meant to live.