Social Distancing Diaries

On The Weighing of Wants and Needs

I’m not a fan of semantics in a lot of forms. I think it comes from my tendency to not be great at grammar and my insecurity about people criticizing grammar WHEN THE INTENDED MEANING IS OBVIOUS AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS. I get similarly antsy when people engage in debates about word usage that essentially boils down to semantics. I mean, if perspectives change meaning or context or usage then instead of debating what word to use, let’s just try to find the meaning or intent in some other way.

This comes up a lot in my brain (YES. I DEBATE SEMANTICS IN MY BRAIN. WHY DO YOU ASK?) when I’m trying to decide who gets my time and how. I’ve been saying since December that anyone in my life who depends on me in any way is lucky to get 70% of what they want/need from me.

The semantics debate comes starts when I’m trying to find the difference between wants and needs so I can divide my attention accordingly.

This all started during the last week of December because that’s when we started the move to get Mom here to Huntsville. I had to be in Knoxville a lot to pack her up and prep her condo for sale. She wanted/needed me to spend 100% of my time going through every thing she owned piece by piece to really make sure the right stuff got moved to Huntsville versus getting donated or trashed. But if I had done that, I would have had to live there for a solid 6+ weeks and we had a winter/Spring soccer season starting up for both kids.

And of course my socially anxious kids did not want to have to depend on rides from “strangers” (other parents on the team), the wanted/needed me to be the chauffeur for all events but that wasn’t possible when I was in Knoxville cleaning out Mom’s condo.

In the end, I definitely donated more than Mom wanted and the kids had to catch rides periodically but everyone’s wants/needs were getting met by at least a 70% margin.

I would find myself getting hung up on the question of, “Is this a want or a need?” But I kept realizing that so much of that is relative and depends on emotional responses I couldn’t predict. On the surface, not wanting to get a ride with a family you don’t know is more of a “want” because obviously they’re safe and fine…but…if you weigh the emotional burden of those type of anxieties in people with anxiety disorders, it really becomes more of a need. Unfortunately, that’s not something any of us can really predict or understand clearly.

So I basically just gave up trying to separate anything into black/white wants/needs. Even now, Donnie would love to have me spend 100% of his work day managing the silence in the house so he can have all of his meetings uninterrupted. But I also need to take my Mom to dialysis and teach my kids. My kids would like me to be there and 100% available when they struggle with school but I need to drive Mom. And Mom would like someone to stay with her dog during the entire duration of dialysis (he gets loud when he gets lonely) but…well…see all of the above.

I no longer try to separate into wants/needs. Instead I weigh the effect certain decisions have on me (I’d go crazy sitting at Mom’s for 4 hours just to keep her dog chill) and the ripple effects of any decisions. If Mom’s dog wails for 4 hours then obviously her landlord would have problems. But he doesn’t wail the entire time we’re gone so I pepper in Mom errands with Mom chores so that I’m there about half of the time, but I’m making use of that time there. The ripple effects of him maybe wailing 30 minutes (MAYBE) 3 days a week is manageable.

In my perfect world Wesley and I crank out school in about 2 hours right after his breakfast/TV time. And since that makes my life easier, that’s what we set as our goal every school day. Unfortunately…that’s not always an option if Donnie has a CODE RED (the term I’ve asked him to use if quiet is imperative) meeting. The ripple effects of dividing Wesley’s school up is actually pretty negligible. He actually does better if we break it up some. So if it’s a CODE RED meeting time I just pause schooling and prioritize silence.

In the end everyone is still only getting 70% of their needs met from me, but I think I’ve figured out a good system in weighing how to distribute that for most “benefit” and least “cost” in the cost/benefit analysis algorithm.

I’ll be honest. The main reason why I’m writing this is to document this moment in my life. I have yet to figure out how to get people to notice the burdens I carry without it coming off sounding like I need help or that I need something to change. I don’t need help. I’ve got a good system and I’m handling it fine, honestly. What I need is just for this work to not go unnoticed and if I document it here to remind me in the future…it’s permanently etched into my personal history which is 99% of the reason I blog.

5 thoughts on “On The Weighing of Wants and Needs”

  1. That sounds like an amazing system you’ve developed. I hope that your family sees you, and makes you feel loved and supported.

  2. It sounds like a family gratitude practice might help. We used to call this ‘sweet things’. As part of our bedtime routine, everyone would say something nice about everyone else. It could be something you appreciated that they did for you, or something you did together and enjoyed. Just anything to take a moment to focus on appreciating each member of the family.

  3. You are doing so much good for your family. Great job!! Here are some great links about building in self-words of affirmation love:

    So interesting that journaling is self-love for words of affirmation folks. It’s like you already knew how to love yourself innately!

  4. It sounds like you are doing great at setting boundaries and doing what you can and nothing more. I posted some practical tips for helping your mom that you may want to go back and read at some point. Hugs to you.

  5. From the perspective of someone who does care about grammar and semantics, I think 99% of people are better than me at filling in the blanks or determining the “obvious” meaning of a statement with grammatical errors or ambiguous semantics. I occasionally get stuck on semantics to the point of missing the overall meaning, so I’m sure that I look like a jerk sometimes when I ask people to clarify statements with minor errors. This is because I’m genuinely confused, not because I’m trying to be a grammar snob. 🙂

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