“You can’t always get what you want….
but you just might find, you get what you need”~ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
My mother invented text speak. Way before there were mobile phones she used innovation and efficiency to create her own set of shorthand terms, ways to get more words into a small space. As a family separated by miles of ocean, we relied on airmail letters to communicate. Before laptops and smart phones and social media helped to make instantaneous contact a possibility, those trifolded self-sealing self-stamped blue forms had made letters cheap and relatively fast. But they were limiting and restrictive. If you came from a wordy family like mine, you frequently found that the end of the letter came too soon. My solution was to write very small, until one sibling offered to pay for me to send two airmail letters at a time to save her eyesight!
The solution my mother came up with was typically neat and creative. It probably arose from her knowledge of shorthand. She would close her letter with a series of mysterious capital letters: TNT (Till next time); LOL (in her case it was Lots of love); KTF – (reminding us that despite life’s challenges we should Keep the faith) and finally the most complicated mnemonic: YDHTBP: You don’t have to be polite.
Early in my life away from home she had added another long one: YDHTWEW. That took me a while to decipher. I may have had to ask for help. The YDHT I knew from the more familiar one ending in BP, but what was WEW? It related to a tradition started by my father of writing to his mother every week. When he left for Jamaica he had made that commitment. I am not sure if he managed to maintain it up unto her death (which was 15 years later), but he certainly was faithful. My brother, when he left home, did the same. As he himself admitted, since life did not always provide enough excitement for a complete airmail letter each week, he became an expert ‘waffler’ (spelling?), able to stretch a story to fill a space. So Mum was letting me know I did NOT have to write every week. I am not sure I had even intended to. But perhaps one waffler was all that she could take.
The standard YDHTBP is common place in our family. It is supposed to allow you to refuse an offer without fear of offending the offerer. It could apply to a second hand item, (gently used); an extra share of desert; or it could be a tendered suggestion or unsolicited piece of advice. Yet the irony is that we tend to be an overly polite family, waiting for others to go first; to state their plans rather than making assumptions about their time. The reticence or excessive consideration can be frustrating until someone finally takes the initiative and floats out an idea. When there are six siblings, it can be hard to arrive at a consensus.
That may just be a minor inconvenience when it relates to plans for my visit to the UK. Where will I stay, with whom, for how long, and do what? This trip, my plans went as far as my mother’s funeral. After that I had not idea. And the same was true for the rest of the family. There was so much that went into the planning and organizing of the event, that it has been difficult catching up with the mundane things of life (like Christmas!). But when there are kids, and even more importantly, grandkids, the routine has to kick in.
The importance of being polite, of taking into consideration the feelings of others was taught us at an early age. For the family of a minister, it was expected. For me it meant that I became overly sensitive to the feelings of others, a people-pleaser. This is definitely not a good thing. As we grow up, the habits of a polite child may evolve into an enabler, a person who spends more time making sure that others are happy, at the expense of self. And it takes a lot of self-reflection and analysis to realize that happiness must begin with you, or it can lead to bitterness and resentment.
Many of us have no idea how to ask for what we want, whether it is a special gift for Christmas or what we want out of a relationship. We (especially women) think we are putting out the right signals, and then get frustrated when others don’t respond. We may not have been taught how to very simply state what we want. We drop hints, or touch on subjects generally, feeling certain we are being very clear. Whether it is in a family, a job, or a partnership, if you are not clear about your expectations, you should not then be unhappy when they are not met.
On this Christmas Friday morning, whatever and however you celebrate, I hope you are sure about your own needs and wants, and express them clearly. What is the worst that can happen? Even a negative response may be better than the frustration of wishing and hoping and being disappointed. Remember, YTHTBP! And perhaps on a larger scale we should ask, or even demand of our world leaders what it is we want for Christmas and beyond, and then hold them accountable.
Have a wonderful weekend Family, hope you get a chance to spend quality time with people that you love, and tell them so! TNT! KTF!