“‘No’ is a complete sentence.” (Anne Lamott)
A Good Thing, and a Differently Good Thing
I was in my office doing some contemplative writing the other day when my husband slipped in to give me a nice hug and a gentle kiss. He lingered there and invited me to connect deeply. It was so nice. I really appreciated it and I let him know.
We have a system. If I’m in my office and my door is closed, he knows to only interrupt me if the house is on fire or if someone is imminently dying. My door was open, so he knew it was okay. I went back to my writing, smiling.
About 20 minutes later he came back. This time he wanted to ask me about something that needed to be fixed in the house. He was getting tired of waiting for me and was going to take care of it himself but wanted to be sure he was ordering the right thing. This time, I was supremely annoyed.
My concentration bubble popped as I tried desperately to quickly recall why I thought the thing he was about to order was registering as the wrong product in my mind. I was half aware that my door was still open, so his choice to walk in and start talking was totally fair. I was really annoyed at myself for not closing it.
I was getting more and more annoyed as I felt like I had to answer him in order to avoid him making an expensive mistake. Worse, the only way I could figure it out was to drop what I was doing, run downstairs and look at the &*^# thing myself. I wanted to hurry up and get it done before I completely lost track of what I was thinking prior to this second visit.
I was so annoyed! At me, at him, at technology, at time, at the dog toy I tripped over, at anything and everything! I resented being disturbed like this. I resented that I felt I had to prioritize what he wanted over what I was doing.
To add insult to injury, I was totally wrong! I had misremembered the last time we dealt with this issue. He was ordering the right thing after all. My husband was understandably stumped as to why he just got a Jekyll and Hyde from me. He asserted several times that he could handle it and that I had no business snapping at him when he never asked me to drop what I was doing.
…oops. My husband had zero culpability in my momentary madness. I could have shut the door. I could have let go of the situation, trusting that either he would make a mistake or not, and that he would correct the mistake if he made one. If he made a mistake and was upset about it, I had no more obligation to be around his unhappiness than he had to be around mine. It wasn’t life or death. It wasn’t even a major purchase. I didn’t have to get up and go downstairs to check.
The whole crazy scene could have been avoided with two simple letters: “N” and “O.” I could have expressed it more thoughtfully by saying, “Sorry, I can’t really think about that right now. And I really should have closed my door. Let me know if you still want my input later. Thanks, love.”
Until I recognized that I had failed to say no, I was flooded with resentment. As resentments are wont to do, it didn’t just waltz in by itself. Instead it brought an entire debutante ball of shoulds, have to’s and musts with it, all swirling around in my head, crunching their heels into my cranium. In truth, I was resentful of the Patriarchy, resentful of ADHD (mine and his,) resentful of my over-cluttered schedule, resentful that I wasn’t able to hold my conviction against “should, have to and must,” resentful over every single time in my life when I had over-given to the point of… resentment. What a hideous dance!
The entire mess could have been deftly avoided with simple ownership of my boundaries. Yes. No. Not now. Can we negotiate? Taking a beat and honestly choosing one of The 4 Answers would have worked so much better! But alas, the Skin Gig is no easier for therapists than it is for non-therapists. I might as well take the excrement and make a blog out of it. Long live Sh!t Theory.
In these moments, there is a conflict going on between two parts of our minds. “Shame Kid” is pretty well convinced that we will be consumed by an unknown fire if we don’t give an “automatic yes” to all requests. It believes it is valiantly keeping us from extinction by inferno as it demands both that we “do all the things,” and, (in an act of soul preservation,) make it known that we are really pissed off about it. Meanwhile, “Centered Adult” is sitting back shaking her head thinking, “What a waste of energy. You’re not free right now. There is no reason for you to manage this thing, and certainly not right now right now right now.”
Shame Kid has some serious traction. Shame Kid has been around since we were about 3 years old, when we were first developing an ego and learned that opaque threats worked expertly, keeping us out of trouble in the moment. Centered Adult sees the bigger picture. “Automatic Yes” serves no one. In fact, it’s inauthentic. As such, it violates our life principles, works against our quest against unhelpful floods of cortisol, damages our relationships, devalues us, disrespectfully overfunctions for others as if they are incompetent, and pushes us to sincerely dislike ourselves.
An authentic “Yes,” “No,” “Not Now” or “Can we Negotiate?” avoids all of that, and, works so much better.
The next time you feel resentful, look for the no, the not now, or for the negotiation you chose to ignore. See if an inauthentic “yes” popped out of your mouth. Reassure Shame Kid there is no threat. Let them go play in the sandbox of your mind. Let your Centered Adult self run the show, and be at peace with your integrity.
Are resentments disrupting your peace? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s see if we can’t find a way for you to disconnect from over-giving.