Bob’s family is in town and we had a get together so the visiting Michiganders can hang out with new baby Ashlynn. She had her one month birthday yesterday and spent most of the evening being held, changed, cuddled, fed, and photographed. She didn’t cry much: once, when moving her between loving arms woke her; another time when the camera flash startled her; and, again, when she was wet. We understook and could meet her needs without any trouble. That 1 month old is the ultimate communicator.
I’d been thinking about life’s challenges all day so it was obvious that one of my life challenges doesn’t exist in a one month old. Making sure I understand my needs and clearly communicating them are my Life Challenges Numero Uno and Dos. They are the Life Challenge Roots of many of my evils. That makes me sound like some kind of Snidely Whiplash. (Bwah-ah-ha-ha) I’m not. Most of the time. But I do have character defects with emotional garbage dripping from them that originated in these inabilities of mine.
I’m not sure when I stopped knowing the difference between a need and a want. I was the kind of little kid who thought the cake split of life left me with the smaller piece. My experience as a sober adult has taught me that isn’t true, but I can still get silly jealous. There are times when it’s more basic than that.
I’m not always sure what it is that I need or want. I was sniping at Bob over the phone while he was trying to work and I was cleaning house. Neither one of us are good housekeepers and the impending arrival of guests drove us to clean a couple of months of dust so it looks like we don’t live like slobs. Which we do in real-time. Bob waited for a pause in my griping and said, “Did you eat dinner tonight?” Um. No. “Can you call me back after you get yourself something to eat?” I’d run errands during lunch, eating a pack of peanut butter crackers on the fly. I rushed all day at work, anticipating and extinguishing work’s grass fires. I was hungry.
I still had plenty to do. We are still slobs. Bob will continue to work nights for another week. Food, relatively nutritious food, is what I needed and I couldn’t recognize that without help.
And communicating what it is that I need or want? I race around like the Little Red Hen because I’ll “just do it myself” instead of asking and risking a “no” answer. I resent that fact that nobody helped. Did I ask? Clearly? Most of the time it is the voices inside my head who are asking and I just decide that answer will be no without voicing the need.
I am grateful for the troubles that these particular challenges have caused because they’ve force me to learn a better way. GE told me once that I am passive aggressive. I immediately denied the possibility and then sat in silent anger at her comment. Passive aggressive? Me! Me?! Me? Maybe I could be.
An early 4th step in sobriety pointed out the fact that some of my resentments came from unexpressed, unfulfilled needs that nobody but me knew existed. And some of my fears stem from this crazy interior knowledge that my unexpressed needs would never be fulfilled unless I asked and I wouldn’t ask because I had already decided the answer would be no. I won’t deny the possibility that there are people who can predict the future, but I can predict a future that won’t happen because it won’t ever make it out of my brain and into my vocal cords. NutTY!
I’ve noticed that not every request gets a positive response, but that’s ok, too. In sobriety, I uncovered my yes-woman ways and saw how exhausted and frustrated they make me. It’s okay for me to say “no”; the people I love will still love me. They might be disappointed, but they’ll still love me. I think. It’s okay for me to hear “no” without reading an “I don’t love you enough” into it.
This is profound knowledge for me. I have other life challenges, of course: coping with grief, learning how to be in sober relationship with my family and friends, evolving into a woman of faith and grace and mercy. I can’t make a start on any of those things unless I know my needs and can go out on a limb to voice them.