A few months ago, my husband received a birthday card from a relative who never forgets a birthday, anniversary or holiday. Although our paths rarely cross, I always enjoy the chatty letters she encloses with her thoughtful cards.
However, the last line in this recent letter was a bit sobering. It said something to the effect of, “I am paring down my card list, so this is the last one you will receive from me.”
My first reaction was disbelief: how could this loyal, consistent relative decide to stop sending cards? And then, as is my nature, I started to overthink what we might have done to cause this sudden stoppage. That thought soon turned to guilt, for in truth, I don’t acknowledge this relative’s birthday as often as she does mine.
Then, I started feeling a bit defensive. Doesn’t she understand how busy I am? And then, I realized my thoughts were getting the best of me, and decided that acceptance was the best course of action.
We all draw lines in our daily decisions, separating friends, family, activities, charitable causes, morals and breaking points into to-dos and to-don’ts. And, as we quietly make those choices, we don’t think much about the people or events that get ignored or dropped.
However, the reality that you didn’t make the cut can hurt. Years ago, my husband and I drove to a family birthday party with one of his close relatives and that person’s wife. After discussing our respective gifts, the in-law said, “You know, the family is really big, and it’s expensive to buy all of those presents. So, we won’t be getting birthday or Christmas gifts for you two any more. You have to draw the line somewhere.”
She had every right to drop us from her gift-buying list, and in laying it on the line, this in-law spared us the embarrassment of giving and not receiving. However, I was a bit taken aback to hear, in effect, “You aren’t on our A-list.”
To read more about learning to accept others’ hard lines, please click here for the complete PermissionSlips blog post. My friend and colleague and I take turns updating the blog every week.