I almost took this week off from writing. Family emergency and all.
But then I didn’t. And there’s a huge lesson in the why, so I’m gonna tell you all about it.
It was my week off from parenting. I was in a city a couple of hours away from my child. But I received a message that I needed to get home to my kid.
I wasn’t supposed to be back at parenting until Wednesday. I had plans Monday night that I was really looking forward to (and had paid money for tickets), and I had plans all day Tuesday (which I was also looking forward to and had paid money for a ticket.)
None of this mattered, given the circumstances.
There was no question in my mind what the right thing to do was. So I dropped everything I was doing, and drove the couple hours to get to my kid.
I delivered some challenging news to my son, and spent the following 36 hours dealing with his really intense emotional reaction to all of it. This is my jam. I am so good at letting the people around me have their feelings.
There was no part of this that I was at odds with myself about; I just showed up for my kid in the way I am committed to.
And then, the emergency reached a state of non-emergency.
Things that had felt shaky were now much clearer. Theoretically, we could go back to normal.
And, I was tired. Drained. When I started to think about the logistical feat to get back to the city for the event I was planning on attending on Tuesday, I just felt not-interested in going to the trouble.
I started to look for someone to blame that I was so tired and not doing the thing I really wanted to be doing.
My temper with my kid got shorter than it had been, even though nothing he was doing was any different. I started to feel upset at the circumstances that had had me return to my kid early, even though I’d already made peace with the choice.
I was feeling like something had been taken from me. And I felt defeated. “Why bother? The opportunity is lost.”
This could have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t.
After dinner, I took a bath. And in the first five minutes I’d had with myself and my own thoughts, I got clear. I wanted to go to the thing the next day. I didn’t feel tired, I was just overwhelmed with all that had happened, and how unpredictable it had been. Having space made it obvious that I just needed to breathe.
I started to think through what was necessary. A little bit of childcare, a few texts to communicate the plan clearly, washed hair (so I’d be presentable in the morning), and a conversation with my kid.
Since I was in the bath, I took care of my hair washing.
I got out, asked my mom if she’d watch the kid until lunchtime. (I felt bad asking, since she’d been under a fair bit of stress over the family emergency as well – I didn’t want to put her over the edge.) She was an easy yes.
I sent the texts needed. I told my kid I’d be leaving early in the morning, and he’d be hanging with grandma until lunchtime. He got excited, and pulled out some games he wants to play with her. Sweet.
It was so easy. I took back the reigns of what I wanted.
I was so close to throwing in the towel, saying “Fuck it, I guess I’m just not meant to have things work out my way.” It would have been easy on everyone around me, but it wouldn’t have been what I needed for me.
Once I decided, no one around me seemed to be put out or care one way or the other.
The stories we make up about why we can’t have what we want are just stories.
They don’t want to help me.
They can’t handle one more thing.
It’s too much stress.
When you make up stories about why people shouldn’t be able to help you, (or decide if they want to), you rob them of their ability to make choices as an adult. (Who are you to think you know what’s best for them better than they do?)
Now, for the kicker. The one thing I had to give up to get my needs met?
If I’d resigned myself to being tired, to not going, I would have clung to one thing very tightly: someone had wronged me. I would have told that story over and over again, probably increasing the the dramatic nature with which I saved the day.
The underlying message: I am valuable/honorable/better than when I set aside my own needs to care for/help others.
I am valuable/honorable/good enough even when I put my own needs first. That’s the message that is central to honoring your own needs on a level equal to that of others.
And that feels so much better and more empowering than any attention that comes from being the martyr.
But, as it stood, I could help in the way I wanted to, and still have what I wanted. I have have what I want, without blaming someone else from keeping it from me, and that’s real power.
What’s the thing you’d have to give up to have what you really want? Hit reply and tell me – I read and respond to every email.
So much love,