Fixing Things Alone

This morning I was driving the kids to school and I noticed that I was feeling very anxious. There were several tasks on my list for work that depended on other people and I was time-bound and had to make sure they were done. And the fact that they weren’t done yet was making me stress.

These issues had just risen in the last 12 hours so it’s not like the other people were slacking. What stressed me out was that the deadline was approaching and I still had to make sure these fixes landed and they weren’t mine so I had to make sure other people did it on my timeframe.

As soon as I noticed that my mind was repeating the same pattern of stress over and over again, I told myself to take a big breath. The fact is, this situation will happen again and again in my job. It’s part of what I do: gather fixes from people. And it’s not just in my job, I have this in my life. I have kids and as they grow there will be situations where I will have to depend on them getting their share done. Same for my husband, of course. When you share your life, your job with others, you sort of all depend on each other. Everyone has to do their part for things to move forward.

Depending on others is part of living in a community. So since I don’t plan on moving to an isolated island anytime soon, I realized that I had to find a way to deal with this anxiety on a more permanent basis.

Being motivated and getting others motivated to get stuff done: bonus.
Driving myself crazy until people do their part: not so much.

So I came back home and called up the engineer. I told him exactly when I needed it and how high a priority it was. I told him that my stress level was pretty high and I would work extra hard not to nag him so if he could please update me on progress, it would make it easier on both of us. I was honest and even expressed how I was being a bit crazy and apologized in advance.

So here’s my thought for the day: life is not just about figuring out your issues and fixing them. That’s important, of course. I noticed my stress, I took a moment to acknowledge it, I breathed, I visualized letting it go and I also followed up so the person who could get it done knew the deadline. So I did all I could on my part to make me less “crazy.”

But I also just was honest. I told this person, “This is driving me a bit crazy, I’m working on it but I need your help.” I was honest and vulnerable and asked for help (or at least for some understanding.)

I think the first step is always understanding yourself. Paying attention to how you feel, what’s coming up, so you’re always acting from a place of awareness and not reacting. But once you know, it doesn’t mean you can always fix it. Awareness is gold. But it’s not the fix. It’s just knowledge. And sometimes it takes a long, long time to fully change. (Or you might never be able to fully change.)

But the great gift of awareness is that you can ask for help. You can be honest and vulnerable. And, more often than not, others are kind enough to help. Or understand. Or give you the space you need. You get my point. If you’re willing to be vulnerable, people can surprise you in the most delightful ways.

That’s what I realized today. I do want to work on this issue because stressing nonstop about everything is just a bad use of my time and energy. But I also know this is how I’ve been for a long time and it won’t go away overnight. In the meantime, I don’t have to work on it alone. I don’t have to hide it or have it beat me down.

I can ask for help.

As for the engineer: he was great about it. He prioritized it, gave me updates, and got it all done in plenty of time.

Of course.

Voices in our Head

At the end of last school year, back in June, I was reading Savvy to the kids. We never finished it so yesterday I picked it up again so we could continue. This morning, I read this passage from the book:

I thought about those two gals and their constant griping and bellyaching, and my head swam with questions. If I could tell what Lester was thinking or feeling by listening to those voices in my head, why did they always talk about him like he wasn’t even there? They were always cutting him down to the quick. It seemed like those two ladies had had such an effect on him that now it was only their voices he heard loud, loud, loud. Was it their nasty chit-chat that told Lester who he was? No wonder the man had a stutter and a twitch.

Maybe it’s like that for everyone, I thought. Maybe we all have other people’s voices running higgledy-piggledy through our heads all the time. I thought how often my poppa and momma were there inside my head with me, telling me right from wrong. Or how the voices of Ashley Bing and Emma Flint sometimes got stuck under my skin, taunting me and making me feel low, even when they weren’t around. I began to realize how hard it was to separate out all the voices to hear the single, strong one that came just from me.

If you haven’t read the book, the two gals she mentions are Lester’s tattoos (she can hear people’s thoughts if they have any writing/tattoos on their skin).

After we read the chapter, I talked to David about this passage for a while. I told him how we all have that in our heads. How he should stop an pay attention to the voices in his own head and see whose they are. Like when he says he’s not good at something, is that really him or is he hearing a not-so-nice classmate who might have made a snide comment that stuck with him? I told him to make sure it’s his voice and to not let others’ voices take charge of his thoughts. (Not even his mom and dad’s.)

I explained that by the time we get to be my age, our heads are so filled with these that it gets harder and harder to differentiate whose voice originally put these thoughts in our head. We’ve carried them for so long that they feel like our own voice. But they are not. Some other person put them there. And if you pay attention from the beginning, maybe you can be better at weeding them out. Making sure your own voice is the strongest.

Because, I honestly think that we get all muddled up while we’re young and we spend the rest of our lives trying to sort through the noise in our heads. Yet another area where awareness would be a big gift.

I also told him that the other side of the coin is important, too. That other people will hear his voice in their head. And that he should make sure they hear him saying kind and encouraging things. And that it can really empower people to have a kind voice in their head. I told him how his little brother will get affected by his words so much and that’s why I make a point to ensure he’s as kind as can be. I told him that his words do matter. People do hear him and will remember. He should think of how it feels to have a discouraging, disparaging voice in his own head and see if he would ever want to be that for someone else.

The same goes for me, of course. I am trying to comb through the voices in my head. Find what’s mine. Kick the others out. And I want to be the kind, encouraging voice in others’ heads. The empowering voice. For every single person around me. I want to be that.

The story continues to say:

Climbing back up into the big pink Heartland Bible Supply bus, the morning warm and bright, I tried to listen past Carlene and Rhonda; I tried to hear if there was any of Lester’s own voice left in Lester. The more I watched and listened, the more it became clear as clear that whenever Lill smiled Lester’s way, or whenever she spoke to him as we traveled down the highway, Carlene and Rhonda seemed to lose their sway. Lill shone on Lester like the sun. And on his arms, his sleeves rolled up, the women’s scowling, animated faces dissolved back into the thin black lines of lifeless tattoos.

Maybe Lill was an angel, I thought to myself; maybe she was Lester’s angel, sent down from heaven to clear the voices from his head.

Today’s my husband’s birthday. Above all, this is the gift Jake’s given me. He has helped me clear the voices in my head. Sure he has his flaws and put some voices of his own. But he’s been there to remind me through and through that my own voice is the strongest and most worthy. I am deeply grateful for him.

Happy Birthday, my love. I love you with all my heart.

Categorizing People

Last weekend, as we walked with a friend of Jake’s whom I’d never met, a particular writer came up and I said that I’d not seen the movies because I hadn’t read the books yet and I really wanted to read first. He was really surprised and then shared some facts that made it clear that he was really into this particular writer.

When we encouraged the conversation, he admitted that he was nervous about mentioning details cause he thought we’d judge him for being so into this author. Like we’d label him nerdy, etc. (Which of course made me laugh since Jake and I are nothing if not nerds.) But then it made me think a lot.

Here was this guy Jake has known and liked for a long time and when he met me, he was still nervous about how I might judge him due to his author choices. How sad is that? I am annoyed that we’re so judgmental and we’re so worried about everyone’s judgements of us. When I first met Jake, he was like that, too. He had ideas of what authors were ok to read and which were not. I read everyone. I am not ashamed to admit I like Stephanie Meyer alongside Milan Kundera and Charles Dickens. If someone judges me cause of what I read, I am perfectly okay not being friends with a person like that.

While book-reading is an area where I feel confident, I am not equally secure in all my other choices. I, too, worry how people will judge me. Will I say the wrong thing? Do the wrong thing? Wear the wrong thing. I worry a lot.

And that sucks.

I know I can’t change the world but I want to change my own part in this game. I want to make sure that I actively choose not to judge others. I don’t want to categorize them in my mind as I often do. I think it’s easy to put people into buckets and then leave them there. But people are so much more complex than that. A nerd might feel passionate about salsa dancing. Does that still make him a nerd? What does a nerd even mean? I just want to be able to take information from others without having them fear that I might judge them. I want to be open and receiving and listening and not trying to compartmentalize and categorize and analyze.

Just listen. (and maybe, if I am lucky, learn.)

I want to find a way to exude this openness and accepting. The first step, of course, is to believe in it wholeheartedly. To truly be open. And then to really listen. Not preparing a reply. Not thinking while someone is talking but really just listening to them. Seeing all their dimension. And as judgements come up (which I am sure they will at least in the beginning), paying attention and letting them go. Fostering that awareness of judging.

And maybe if I get really good at this, I can stop judging myself, too.

Intentionally Looking for the Good

I’ve been listening to more and more meditation talks in the morning as I sketch. I find that they start my day in an optimistic and grateful mental state. In one of the talks I listened to today, Tara mentioned “intentionally looking to see the goodness” and it made me think a lot. She went on to say how we’re wired to see the bad. We’re wired to protect ourselves. To see danger.

But it ends up getting to you.

We don’t look to see the good around us. The good in others. The good in words said. I know that I have a tendency to hug the bad. I believe it more easily. I hold it closer to my heart. I think I have two reasons why I do this.

One is because I think that if I can imagine the very worst, when the bad happens it won’t hurt as much. I’ve already imagined the worst, so how bad can it get, right? Except that it can get much worse. Cause imagining the worst doesn’t actually compare to having it happen. It doesn’t prepare you. If the worst doesn’t actually happen, you wasted all those minutes, days, months imagining something that never happens. And if it does happen, you’re totally blindsided any way. Your life is upside down and it’s terrible. Because even when you do imagine the very worst, there’s a little part of you that thinks it will never happen. So when it does happen, you’re still totally crushed and devastated. So there’s almost no upside and a huge downside to this way of thinking.

The other reason I hold the bad stuff near is because I feel that remembering these will help me make decisions more carefully next time. It will prevent me from more bad stuff in the future. It’s like if I have a constant movie reel of my biggest mistakes in my head, I won’t make any more of them.

We all know how that works right?

Yep. When I think of all my mistakes, I get nervous all the time and I make even more mistakes. I am constantly scared and worried so I get stressed and the fight and flight response kicks in and takes all the blood away from my brain. Prefrontal cortex doesn’t work and I literally cannot think. So, clearly, the decisions I make in that state aren’t going anywhere productive.

So neither of these reasons are useful. Holding the bad stuff near and dear isn’t really helping me. But even more importantly, there’s an incredible amount of data that says looking for the good in your life actually makes you happier. Creating a daily gratitude practice makes people more wholehearted. Intentionally looking for the good changes your life.

What if we extended that to the people around you. What if we always looked for the good in others? Especially in those who annoy us. Especially in the people who try our nerves a bit. The ones for whom we hold anger. The ones that seem to always wrong us, etc. It’s easy to see the best in the ones we love. But if we just intentionally looked for the good in every single person around us, I bet it would completely change our life and our relationships. I love this idea and I want to give it a try. For the next few weeks, I will intentionally look for the good in everyone around me. I will assume the best but also really look to see what good I can see in each person I interact with.

I will also look for the good in my day-to-day life. My gratitude practice has fallen sideways and I want to intentionally bring it back. Now that I am feeling a bit better, too, I want to hold on to this and not let it go.

So here’s to a few weeks of intentionally looking for the good. Maybe you can join me?

The Power of Reaffirmation

Today was a good day. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been feeling better and there’s always that jolt of energy that comes with feeling better. You slide into a better version of yourself and feel calmer, more confident, more capable. Which, of course, turns the vicious negative cycle into the continuous positive one.

There’s been some activity at work and I’ve been finding myself responding without panic but productively and quickly and effectively. I love feeling effective. I realized a few months ago that, at my core, this is one of the ways I measure my self-worth. If I am effective, I am useful. If I am useful, I am worthy. I know it’s whacked and I am working on disconnecting the threads and reminding myself that I am worthy just the way I am but in the meantime, I’ve been paying attention to these cycles and messages in my life. I figure while I work on things, which will take a while to resolve, I can at least become more aware so that I notice when I am in a cycle that I know won’t end well.

Anyhow, so I’ve been doing better. And today, someone I work with said “you’re doing an awesome job.” And, honestly, it was all I needed to hear. I was so grateful for the words. Not because I need the attention or recognition. And I was already doing well so I didn’t even need them to get out of a bad mood. I just needed them to affirm that I was on the right path and those little words gave me the energy to keep going. They were like a jolt of gratitude.

These seemingly small words always make a big difference. I’ve had a few people email me or leave comments with very kind words. Words on how they connected with what I wrote or how it makes a difference in their lives or suggestions for areas where I’ve asked for help. These few sentences often make my day. To me, they are affirmation that I matter. That there’s a purpose for my existence in the world. Maybe it seems weird to others that I should need/want this, but I’ve learned that, for me, these are like energy for my soul. They are what keep me joyful and connected. They give me a sense of belonging.

And I want to make sure I do my part in passing that feeling on to others, too. I often send IMs to engineers I work with letting them know that I think they’re amazing, thanking them for their hard work, etc. When someone makes my life easier, better, calmer I want them to know it. I want to pass on a bit of the gratitude I feel for their existence.

I think receiving and giving these affirmations strengthens our roots and connections to others. To the world and humanity as a whole. It reminds us that we’re all here and we each matter. Each of us makes this place better because we’re in it.

And all this from “you’re doing an awesome job.”

If such few words can have so much power, why wouldn’t we utter them more often?

Listening and Hearing

I learned (relearned) today that everyone has his own perspective. We go to the same meeting or attend the same event, but come away with very different thoughts. Very different take-aways. Very different emotions. It is quite fascinating to watch.

But nothing new, of course.

This is always true when two people interact. It’s even true when we’re alone. Think of a book you read that really made you think or feel strongly. You can read the same book ten years later and walk away with completely different thoughts/feelings. Clearly the book itself didn’t change. You changed. You way of looking at the world (or at least at the contents of the book) changed. Depending on where we are in life, what we’re thinking and feeling and dealing with, we listen with different filters. We don’t always hear what the other person is saying, we hear what we want to hear. We listen selectively. We react to parts of what’s said and not to the whole message. This is constantly true and constantly changing.

No wonder it’s hard to interact with someone.

Now put four, five, seven people in the same room and all of this becomes exponential. It just becomes this mass of people who are all talking without realizing that the other person isn’t really hearing them. And then the other person talks and the original person doesn’t really listen. On and on it goes.

Then the meeting/get-together/event is over. And everyone walks away with completely different feelings and understanding of what just happened. This happens very often in face-to-face time. Imagine how much worse it is over email, skype, text messaging, etc.

Today’s event made me remember that I need to be more aware of this. I need to be careful when I talk that I am clear. I need to follow up to make sure the goals I had in mind were communicated properly. That the other person and I are on the same page. That there are no bad feelings or uncertainty. I am not always diligent with follow up. And on the opposite side, I need to speak up when I am not certain I follow. I need to repeat back so the other person can make sure I understood what they meant.

This all seems a bit silly but I really think it’s not. Even with my husband, whom I’ve known for almost twenty years, I sometimes misunderstand what he says. I definitely hear differently depending on my own mood and perspective. And if I do it with a person I know so well, I must be doing it so much more often with other people.

And since communication is the cornerstone of any kind of relationship, being aware of how we don’t always hear what the other person is saying is crucial.

If not, all we have is a bunch of disgruntled people thinking the other person just didn’t get them at all. Which is exactly what happened to my friends today.

What a waste.

Stepping Back and Letting Go

One of the things Jake and I did a few years ago was to spend time figuring out what mattered to each of us. We made short lists of things that really, really mattered so that the other person could make a concerted effort to focus on them. For example, an item on my list could be “put the dirty dishes in the sink” (this is not an item on my list by the way, just an example!) and so Jake could know that and make an effort to do that thing because he knows it’s at the top of my short list. This way he won’t put the dishes on the counter and I won’t pick a fight over something that’s not on my list.

The thing is, we won’t ever get it all right. When you live with other people you’re bound to have a million little issues. (And big ones, too, of course, but fewer of those if you’re lucky.) This is inevitable. It’s a part of daily life. And it’s not limited to your partner. You can go to Starbucks to get coffee and someone can cut in line. Someone can get your order wrong. Someone can spill stuff on your shirt. Someone can respond rudely. The list goes on and on. These instances are more often and repetitive with your partner cause you spend more actual time with them.

So having this list really helps me. It reminds me of the few things that truly matter to me. And, more importantly, reminds me that I can let go of all the rest. Sometimes we’re in a bad mood and pick a fight for no reason. Sometimes we just want to be right. Sometimes we make things a matter of pride. The list stops me from doing any of these. Each time an issue comes up, I can take a step back and check if this is on my list (and I try to keep my list small and specific so it’s not open to interpretation and bending of truth to fit my mood.) If it’s not on the list, I take a breath and let it go. If I already started picking a fight over it, I apologize and reset.

I am not saying this always works. But when I remember to step back and adhere to the list, it works like magic. It also helps to have my husband’s list so I know what to focus on most when trying to be the best I can. I can’t fix everything all the time, but I can prioritize based on what matters most to him.

I’ve decided that the same setup would work well for work. I had a situation today and once I was able to step back, I realized it didn’t matter that much after all. I was letting my pride and frustrations get in the way. So I took a moment, apologized and let it go. I decided a few weeks ago that my work list only contains one item for now and it’s an item that’s definitely being met. So I am going to let everything else go as it comes up. I believe that remembering my list and remembering that it’s being met is the most crucial thing for my personal peace.

A lot of life, for me, is learning to deal with these moments. I tend to focus on small things and get overly upset, anxious, worried, etc. I am a worrier so I take a lot of stuff on and let it all get to me. Having my list and using it regularly will allow me to keep things in perspective. It will allow me to regularly practice letting go. And I know that the more I practice, the more it will become second nature.

Here’s to being able to step back naturally and let go.

Looking for the Holes

First of all, I apologize for the lack of thoughts posts this week. It was an exceptionally hectic week at work and when I was completely brain-dead at the end of each day, I decided it was ok to give myself the night off. I still did some art because that’s good for my soul but my brain wasn’t working enough to write. So, I apologize. Though, it’s been quiet here on the blog, too, so maybe the rest of you are on vacation while I work so hard! 🙂

Secondly, I have been doing well on my summer of calm. I’ve had several situations that came up and I was able to keep my cool. I have been better (not great but better) at not yelling and staying calmer in general. I am working on it. Considering the craziness of this week, I am proud of myself.

I’ve also been working on my little changes. Slowly but I’ve made headway on several. I’ve also filled the download I mention here and done some journaling, some of the assignments from Christy’s class, etc. I’ve got a long way to go, but I am making progress. Slowly.

I was thinking today that when I look at myself, I often see the holes in my life. The areas where I am struggling more and wish I were better. Like driving, riding a bike, eating healthier, etc. I just see what’s missing. And I take what’s there and good for granted. My job, husband, kids, whatever it might be. Even the things that were not there but are now. Like being thinner and healthier.

Whereas when I look at others, I do the opposite. I take what’s best about them and don’t even notice anything else. I might see their success where I am struggling and not notice their struggles in an area that’s already well for me.

But that’s what life is. None of us are perfect. We all have holes. I have a friend who used to introduce me as “This is Karen, she speaks seven languages.” And it drove me mad. So I told him that if he had to say that, he had to say it this way, “This is Karen, she speaks seven languages but she can’t ride a bike.” Because then you see my holes. You see that I am far far from perfect. And it sort of evens things out. You tell yourself “ah i might not have learned languages, but I can ride a bike!” and that’s important. It gives much needed perspective to each of us.

Life is mostly a game of chance. Sometimes we get stuff because we put a lot of energy and time into it, and other times we’re just lucky (or unlucky.) And sometimes it’s a combination of both. But none of us can have it all. We each make choices along the way. Sometimes we regret them and other times they turn out way bigger that we’d hoped. Either way, we never have it “all” and if we continue to look for the holes, we will never ever feel good. Or complete. Or done. Or “good enough” as the case is for me.

This is where gratitude plays a big role I think. Where you spend time truly focusing on the great things that you do have. So much of what you probably are taking for granted. Gratitude shows you that you don’t just have holes but you also have these magical, wonderful areas in your life. Areas where you’re soaring. Thriving.

And it’s crucial to pay attention to them.

So while I will continue to work on filling some of the holes in my life, I will also make myself pay more attention to the incredible fullness I have there, too. Life changes in a moment. And I could lose it all. I don’t want to take a moment of my life for granted.

Not one moment.

Moving away from Judgement

Last week, in one of my book clubs, we were talking about compassion. One of the women in my group was saying how she’s working actively on trying to become more compassionate towards everyone. How’s she’s been working on this for a long time and still struggles with it occasionally but she is not giving up.

As always, it made me think a lot about my relationship with compassion. If you read here with any regularity, you know that compassion towards myself is something I struggle with consistently. But, in this case, I was thinking about compassion towards others. Towards my kids, my husband, friends, strangers. Was I doing a good job? How could I do better? I try to be open-minded and be kind to most people I encounter, but was that enough?

The thing is, anyone who judges herself, clearly judges others too. But, yet, judgement requires knowledge. For me, judging someone comes down to two things:

1. Thinking you know them well enough to know exactly why they’re behaving the way they do
2. Thinking you know what the “right” way to behave is

But the fact is, you don’t know either. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that we don’t know those around us nearly as well as we think we do. We have no idea what they’re going through. Even the people we’re close to don’t always share their situation. As we grow older and have lives intertwined with husbands, significant others, children, etc. there is more and more that’s private to a certain relationship. Your friend might share her personal issues with you but she might not be able to share issues she’s facing with her kids or husband. So, at any moment in time, you know a lot less about someone else’s situation than you think you do. Which means you have no idea why they are making the choices they make or behaving the way they do.

The second one is more obvious to me. You clearly don’t know what the right thing to do is. You barely know what might be right for you. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the right thing in a marriage, to ensure both parties are getting what they need. And this is the person who’s theoretically closest to you and shares your days and nights. When it comes to friendships, it’s really hard to tell what the right thing for that person, for that situation might be. And who are you to know exactly what’s right in every situation? Or for every person in that situation?

Nobody, that’s who.

I was reminded again last week that there’s so much I don’t know about the people in my life. So many assumptions I make. So much filling in the “blanks.” And the way I fill in the blanks is often wrong. The assumptions I make are incorrect. Even with my husband, whom I’ve been with for almost twenty years, I have a hard time guessing exactly what he’s thinking and why he’s behaving a certain way. He is another human being. He has his own fears, worries, shortcomings, etc. Not to mention his own set of assumptions for situations and people in his own life. When you think about it more and more, you can clearly see how complicated this is. How little we really know. How many assumptions we make about others.

After the reminder last week, I am trying to keep this at the front of my mind. When I look at others (even my kids) I remind myself that I don’t know the full story. I don’t know what he’s reacting to. I don’t know what else she might be suffering from. I don’t know about the worries and fears he’s carrying with him.

And I will stop thinking that I know. Instead, I will be open. So I can listen. So he can share if he wants to. And if she doesn’t, I can just be there. To lean on, to forget, to hold his hand. I know it’s hard but I am hoping that if I raise my awareness and practice as often as I can, this will allow me to move from judgement to compassion.

And, maybe, just maybe, I can slowly find some compassion for myself, too.

The Chance to Give

After reading the comments on yesterday’s post, two things came up for me. One was about being an advocate for yourself which I will save for another post. But the second one was about giving others the chance to do things for you.

There were a few comments about not asking because you didn’t think you deserved it or being worried to bother others. (I don’t want to put words in your mouth so just know that this is me rephrasing and not any particular person’s comment.) This made me think of how frustrating it is to have a friend/spouse/family member who won’t ask. Because here’s the thing: I really love being able to do things for people. Given the chance, I’d much rather do something I know they will love instead of doing something I might think they will like.

When someone cares about you, they love to see you happy. I think we all have this. It’s the joy that comes from giving presents to people and seeing their face light up. If I knew for a fact that I could do something that would make my husband, my son, my friend smile each time, I would make a huge effort to try to do that often.

There’s so much joy in being able to do something for someone you love.

And when you don’t ask, I think you’re denying that person the pleasure of being able to make you happy. This is one of the best things about little kids. They are quite vocal about what they like and they squeal with joy when they get it. And seeing them happy makes us happy too. It’s a huge boost.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What if you lived with someone and they wanted something but never asked you. Wouldn’t it be frustrating to know that there’s potentially something you can do to make them happier but you will never know because they are not asking?

In my personal relationships I find this terribly frustrating. As long as it’s asking and taking what you get (and not throwing a fit if you don’t get it) I feel like asking is giving the other person the opportunity to do something that will bring joy into your life. And if this person cares about you, they will try their best to do it. Won’t they?

And if they don’t care about you….well maybe it’s time to reconsider that relationship.

But, again, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. And if you don’t ask, you can’t expect them to read your mind. It’s not fair. By not asking, not only are you unhappy but you’re also denying them the chance to do something for you. If I found out that someone close to me was doing that, I’d be so sad. I’d feel terrible that they are not giving me the benefit of the doubt. They’re assuming I wouldn’t care.

But I do.

And I bet the people in your life do, too. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And, even worse, you’ll be denying them the chance to get to do something for you. To give you. To show you their love.

And that’s a shame.

Asking for What you Want

David has this habit where instead of asking for something, he’ll just say “you won’t say yes anyway.” I will admit, this always gets me annoyed. I feel like saying no just out of spite. But, that aside, I am a big fan of asking for what you want. I’ve noticed that people tend to make a lot of assumptions about what they can and cannot have.

I’m not sure what it is that stops people from asking for things. I’ve found that when you ask for something straight up without being conniving and passive aggressive or annoying, you’re more likely to get what you want than not get it. I’ve asked for things in so many different areas of my life. In school, at work, in my personal life. My husband jokes that I am good at getting my way, but I find that, more often than not, I ask when others don’t. And people have a hard time saying no to your face. Especially when they have no reason to do so.

When I was in college, I did this often with the random class limits. I used to walk up to my advisor and ask him to let me take more classes than the limit. I figured if I kept my grades high and fulfilled my requirements, why shouldn’t I just be able to take whatever class I wanted. If the rules seemed arbitrary to me, I always questioned them. That’s how I ended up getting my Masters at the same time as my Bachelors Degree. It’s also how I ended up working three days a week on Wall Street and still getting promoted. It’s how I got to work at home now. There was no big trick to getting what I wanted.

I just asked.

This is not to say sometimes the answer is not “no” but you will never know the answer if you don’t ask. Trust me. Even when you think you know the answer, you often will be surprised. I find that if you do your part and are a reliable student, employee, spouse, friend, you often find the other party is happy to help accomodate you when they can.

The other side of asking for what you want is accepting what you get. Once you ask, you need to be ok with getting yes or no as answer. But here’s what I think about that: if you don’t ask, you’re guaranteed a “no” so if you ask and get a “no” you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t asked. But if you get a “yes,” you’re much better off. So, by asking, you can only end up same or better off. So why not ask?

That’s what I told David yesterday when he, once again, made some passive aggressive comment instead of just asking for what he wanted. I said that if he didn’t ask, he would never know what the answer is. And if he did this trick where he said “oh you will never say yes anyway,” he would end up being right because I would never say yes to that. So his best option was to ask straight out and take what he got as an answer with dignity. Sometimes I might say yes and other times he’s right that the answer might be no.

But he will only know if he asks.

Spending Time At the Surface

I spent the weekend at the Craft and Hobby Association’s Trade Show at Anaheim, CA. I’ve been going to this show for about six years now. In the beginning, I went with my friend Michelle as one of her design team members and then, for the last few years, I’ve been going with Maya Road so I can help them out during the show. Since I have a job and the show is during the week, I only tend to go for about 36 hours.

The interesting thing about the show, for me, is that I always look forward to going and then after the first day, I always look forward to coming home. At the end of a full show day, I often feel drained, overwhelmed and worn out. So 36 hours is just about the right amount of time for me. I need to go home and recharge.

Which is odd because if you meet me in person, you’ll quickly notice that I talk a lot.

A lot.

Quickly, nonstop, a lot, and animatedly. I am Mediterranean after all.

So most people make the assumption that I am extroverted. I’ve come to understand that while, in certain situations, I am not shy (though in others I am that, too), I am most certainly introverted. And the show is the opposite of that. You end up running into a ton of people you know, mostly from online communities. You each have only a few seconds so you have brief, ephemeral conversations. You might feel genuine, deep emotion for this person but there’s no time or chance to express it. And this happens all day long. There’s a ton of talking in groups and not a lot of content.

Exactly the opposite of what I like.

I’ve come to learn that I exclusively prefer tete-a-tete conversations. Even three people are too many for me. I find that the depth of genuineness is unparalleled when it’s just the two of you. When there’s no one to act for, no one to worry about, no one to look good for. You might not be able to achieve the deep connection even then but the only chance you have at it is when it’s just the two of you. This is strictly my opinion, of course.

So, for me, this show is a bit like torture because there are a lot of people whom I’d love to finally be able to sit down with and have a face to face conversation with but neither of us have the time for it. So it always ends up withering down to snippets of conversations that leave me even more unfulfilled than if I’d had nothing.

I often find that I come home with a sense of emptiness. A sense of missed opportunity. I often wish there were more one-on-one conversations and more time to deeply connect.

That’s the thing for me. I crave the deep connection. Everything else just eats at my soul and leaves me worn out. And the convention is rarely the setting for authentic connection.

This is not to say there isn’t anything good about the show, of course. I do get to hug the people I love and see their pretty faces. I get to express my gratitude in person. I get to see and touch wonderful new product. All of these things are great.

I just wish I could magically create the opportunity to make this rare occasion work more profoundly for me.