My parents, my sister, and I—we all love to please. When we’re simply with each other, it feels like love.
But when we’re all together with other people, as we were this past week for Thanksgiving, it feels like stress. We trip over each other’s intentions and second-guess each other’s strategies. We take turns losing our patience. We make everything complicated, then simple, then complicated again.
Obviously, everyone else is harder to please than we are, so planning to maximize and optimize mass-pleasing is like playing three-dimensional chess, our family team against some older-generation supercomputer.
Or something like that.*
At some point (sometimes, I admit, very soon), my inner rebel kicks in. Then I feel like a voice of reason. A defensive voice who is defending our right to not please. A protector of breached boundaries (if only my own). Why, I ask, are we trying so hard? What do we have to prove? Why can’t we trust that we’ve already done enough? Why can we not simply do what we want to do?
Then, at some point, I realize that what we genuinely do want to do is… to please others.
What never fails to surprise me is that we almost always get there in the end. We achieve peak mass pleased-ness. Everyone is pleased.
What also surprises me now is that I am proud of my family for that. It’s a messy, rough, sometimes tearful process, but in the end, it also feels like love.
Then, like magic, the “pleasing” falls away. And I can begin to see it wasn’t really about that in the first place.
What else is not what it seems?
What else can I not see yet?
What else can I trust in seeing when the time is right?
* I really have no idea. I have only ever played two-player, two-dimensional chess with humans.