Early September, Dad and I sat down to have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. As I looked over the menu, Dad kept asking me what I was going to get. Because I knew we may share, I ordered shrimp tacos instead of what I really wanted–the margherita pizzette. My dad and I have very different palates, and anytime I go out to eat with him, I want him to enjoy the meal, but it always ends up being mediocre. He got the jambalaya and again it was mediocre. The flavors were there, but the rice was overcooked and it was too runny because of it. He also ordered it without the sausage which made it lacking in a specific flavor that is so vital to good jambalaya.
All the times Dad and I have eaten out together, I have been plagued with expectations. I’m usually the one who chooses the place to eat, mostly because he doesn’t go out to eat much; therefore, I want him to have an extraordinary meal. I want him to say, “I am going to try to make this at home!” I build the experience up in my mind for complete unrealistic results. Similarly, Dad asks me what I’m going to have because he, too, wants me to have the best dish off the menu. The thing is that we both depend on each other to qualify our experience as good or bad.
After that mediocre experience, I couldn’t stop thinking about why I do this to myself. Inevitably, it left me feeling lesser than. This experience, though it can be about many issues like expectations, co-dependency, etc., is also about making decisions. As long as I remember, making decisions have been a struggle. Anytime I have to make an important decision, I probe everyone around me trying to get her/his perspective on my life. Then, I make the decision that others may see as noble. For example, when I was in Nashville, I applied for a transfer to another school and got this amazing offer to work at one of the top 100 high schools in the country. When it came time to make the decision, I asked everyone what I should do or what they would do in a similar situation. Then I made the decision to stay at my original school and say no the offer because I listened to a friend’s perspective. It made sense and it made me feel noble. During that exhausting experience, however, not once did I quiet my mind to see the answer that was always within me: take the new job! I was scared to listen because I didn’t want my principal to think that I was a bad person. I don’t regret what happened, but because of that and many other similar experiences, I am finally realizing how crucial it is for me to clear my mind and listen to my inner vision.
While I sometimes still repeat my dad’s behavior in my own relationships–I ask Neil what he’s going to get almost every time we go out to dinner, recently I’ve been trying to be myself. It is quite challenging to change a behavior/habit that I’ve carried with me all my life. What I’m learning is that I don’t have to make decisions quickly, that there is no right or wrong decision, and when I clear my mind and listen, I don’t need others’ opinions or approval because I am standing in my truth today.