I have become a very social being. This is contrary to who I thought I was or what I thought I needed. I think what happened was I just made an effort to spend time with people who and matter to me and care about me. I think it all goes back to that day about 10 years ago when I started this blog (shout out to those who still read regularly – thanks mom!). I was looking for more. I had a light bulb moment Friday when I saw this:
First of all, I don’t know if Oprah said it. It sounds like something she or Maya Angelou would say, but I haven’t heard her say it. That part doesn’t matter. The words do.
I sat in reflection of those words for two days. Things that roll through my mind while I drive or while I knit (yep still knitting two weeks later). How do you know if the people you like don’t care? And more importantly, are you prepared to accept they don’t care? There is nothing you can do to change their minds. No amount of doing for them, giving to them or pleading with them will make them care for you. The hard truth is, you need to walk away.
Here is my handy checklist to determine if people care.
- Do they say “I am sorry I didn’t call/meet/see you, I have been JUST SO BUSY.”? If they care they make time for you. If they are busy you might hear them say, “Look, my schedule is stupid busy right now but I have a Saturday free in 5 weeks, are you in? Or can I call you right back as soon as I finish this? And then they actually call you back? Yep – they care.
- Do they call you and tell you their problems, then when they are done talking they say, well I should let you go? If they didn’t ask about you, chances are they are using you to release their problems to make themselves feel better. Once they have unloaded, they feel great and can go back to their life. Meanwhile, you are carrying this burden of truth and have no idea what to do with it. Now if they say, hey I am calling to hear how you are doing, tell me everything. Then they share their stuff, chances are they care. If you are not mentioned in the conversation except to tell you their mother/wife/friend doesn’t like you, chances are they don’t care. But sometimes you don’t see people for a year or more – just facebook or Instagram stuff. But you just know you can call them and cry or say hey I was thinking about you. Quantity doesn’t matter, quality does. Yep – they care.
- Does it always cost you money to get them to spend time with you? If you are always spending money to go visit them and it isn’t reciprocal. Chances are they are not the best choice for you. This includes family.
- Do they reach out on a special day that is important to you? Your birthday, your dog’s surgery or the last day of Mercury Retrograde? Do they know what is important to you? If they haven’t asked, they likely aren’t interested.
- Do they use guilt as a way to control your time? Relationships are a two-way street. If there is an ultimatum list of things you must do to get them to care about you. Walk away right now.
I think I was looking for more because I wasn’t engaging with people who cared back. Once I released the people who didn’t care, my life began to fill up with people who did. This past week I went for lunch with two friends from my teaching days. We’ve met yearly for 15 years since we stopped teaching together. It takes us all day to catch up and we send notes to each other all the time. When one of our mothers died, I asked, are you okay and she said no. We immediately went to each other. Then I had another lunch date with a gal who I see weekly – or almost weekly. Just an hour, but the regular catch up is reciprocal. It’s lovely. I text my sister and sometimes she texts first. I invited my aunties over for tea once every one hundred years, but when we meet up, it is amazing. My mom calls me every Sunday morning and we catch up for a half-hour. She lives in Europe so call all the time isn’t easy. We make time for each other.
I wasted a lifetime trying to get people to care about me. Here is the kicker, once I accepted the idea that there was nothing I could do to make them care about me, a new person popped into my life. I spent a lifetime being supportive, remembering details, supporting these people when they had no one. I don’t think they have even noticed I am not in the picture anymore. I just faded away. I finally believe they don’t care. I was lonely the whole time I tried to get them to care. Walking away has brought new people who actually care about me in my life. How do I know?
- They call me to ask to hang out.
- They ask me about my dog, kids, work, hobbies, my book, trips, sadness and happiness.
- I receive tiny surprises, a note, a text, photo, a coffee or candy for no reason.
- Hugs are tight and I feel them giving me energy not just taking it.
- They remember important days, my birthday, an interview, surgery or a doctor’s appointment.
- They ask about my welfare because they actually care.
I think about the years I have wasted trying to be someone special to people who just didn’t want me. It breaks my heart and now I want a do-over. Believe someone when they treat you like they don’t care because they don’t. And that is okay, you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Let them go and hold space for those people who do care. All we can do now is do better.