I know someone who used to get really irritated when her husband took care of things for her. She was a strong, independent woman and it really bothered her when he’d step in and take charge. It was the main thing that would spark arguments between them.
I, too, am strong and independent, so I can kind of get where she was coming from. After all, one of my first full sentences was, “I can do it myself!”
But here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) In every long-term relationship I’ve ever had up to this point, I’ve been the one taking care of things.
I planned the trips, organized the doctors’ visits, and kept our financial house in order. I was the writer of lists, the finder of lost keys, the maker of reservations, the problem solver. I was the one to say, “Don’t forget you have that thing today.” I kept track of the birthdays. I bought the gifts. I turned off the burners on the stove. I made sure the lights stayed on.
Because of that, to others I looked like the nagging fishwife. I was the bad guy. What no one on the outside seemed to realize was that somebody had to drive this thing, or our ship of state would have foundered on the rocks.
It was exhausting. It was stressful. Unbalanced relationships always are. I felt more like a mother than a lover.
Now, for the first time in my life, I have someone who wants to take care of me. Man, this feels weird. I’m not going to lie.
In all of my 53 years, I’ve never known what that was like. Ever. I’m struggling with the notion that I deserve it. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. But I like it. A lot.
I like that he is willing to go to doctors’ appointments with me. I like that he likes to drive, and usually knows where we’re going better than I do. He remembers to put the concert tickets in his wallet. I like that he makes plans and lists. I like that he reminds me of things as much as I remind him.
Is this what it feels like to have someone give an actual sh*t about you? Well, alrighty then. I’ll take it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to turn into an albatross around my husband’s neck. I certainly know what that feels like, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
No. I want to do my part. I want this to be an equal partnership in the aggregate. (Realizing that on some days one of us is bound to be in better shape than the other, and that’s okay.)
But that will be a challenge for me. Because that means not doing every single solitary thing myself. It means learning to sit back sometimes and say, “Go right ahead, honey.” It means not having to worry about keeping track of everything. What a concept.
I’ve never been able to do that before. It feels like, for the first time, I have a chance to catch my breath. I think I could grow accustomed to this. I’m certainly willing to try.
I just need to learn not to feel so guilty when I’m not on point. I also need to make sure that I keep up with my end of things. I need to not lean too hard, and make sure that he will never doubt that he can rely on me, too.
Most of all, I never, ever want to take this for granted. Because, like a fragile flower, this marriage needs nurturing by me, too, in order to bloom.
If you’re feeling anxious or insecure or overwhelmed or defeated or even afraid, that’s entirely understandable. Life can be hard, and everyone, every single person on this planet, has experienced those feelings at one time or another. I guarantee that there are thousands of people out there who are in the exact same boat right this very minute. You are not alone.
But you know what? You got this. You know how I know? Because here you are. You’ve made it this far, despite all the odds.
You have survived every single thing that has been thrown at you your entire life. Just surviving your own birth is a major hurdle. Not only did you do that, but you have made it through illness and heartbreak and failure and cruelty and bad decisions. You’ve eaten things that weren’t particularly good for you, and no doubt you’ve drunk things that were even worse. You’ve hurt yourself and been hurt. You were picked on in school, and you’ve been treated unfairly at work. And yet, here you are. Still standing.
You are freakin’ awesome. You know how to take care of yourself. Your brains and your ingenuity have gotten you this far. You haven’t given up. You have absolutely every reason to have faith in yourself, because you can stand in front of a mirror, and… look! There you are! You got yourself here. You.
That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think? Dang, but you’re good! So keep up the good work! You can do it!
It occurred to me recently that before you can be a writer, you must first have something to say. You have to have opinions and thoughts and ideas. You have to be good at explaining and/or describing things. You can’t be hesitant to speak your mind.
I’ve always had something to say. No doubt about it. Even when I would take those tests at school that are supposed to help you decide what career path to take, mine would always come out “writer” and nothing else. I mean, seriously, while my friends would have 5 or 6 suggested career paths, all I’d have was writer. (I strongly suspect bridgetenders are not even on the list of careers for those tests. Most people don’t even know we exist.)
My whole life I’ve been told that I have very strong opinions. But that was meant as an insult. As in, “Shut up, female, and leave the thinking to the rest of us.” People rarely accuse men of having strong opinions. And I would get that criticism from men and women alike, because a lot of women don’t realize how complicit we can be in our own oppression.
Well, I thank God for my strong opinions. Without them, this blog wouldn’t exist. And I’d be a heck of a lot less interesting.
Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who expects everyone to share my opinions. People like that are insufferable (in my opinion). I don’t think I’m very good at pointing that out, though. It’s definitely something I need to work on. It never occurs to me that some people view opinions as coercion.
I don’t see opinions that way. I also don’t think of them as being right or wrong. Opinions are simply points of view. No two people will see things from the same angle. The world might be easier to live in if we did, but it would sure be monotonous.
If you want to be a writer, I urge you to get out there and experience life, and, yes, form opinions about those experiences. Listen and learn as much as you can. Be open to unique people, places and things. And most of all, don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if the whole world tries to shut you up.
I once stayed in a 16-year relationship because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. Like most women, I’ve been trained since childhood to put everyone ahead of myself. And I’m good at it. Too good.
Some things never change. I came across this article about a school in Utah where the little girls have been instructed that when boys ask them to dance at a school function, they cannot say no. (We wouldn’t want to hurt little boys’ feelings, now would we? Even if it makes the girls uncomfortable in the process.)
I had a visceral reaction to this story. Girls need to learn to say no. They need to know it’s okay to say no. They need to trust their gut instincts. And boys need to learn that no means no.
Without these lessons, you wind up with 53-year-old women like me, who prize integrity above all else, but still tend to sacrifice it to smooth things over. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep your opinions to yourself.
It’s really kind of funny. I’m always told I have a strong personality. (Like that’s an insult—and one that’s never directed at men.) People have absolutely no idea what an inner struggle accompanies my ability to speak up.
Speaking up does not come naturally to me. Not at all. When something is bothering me, I generally have to agonize over it for days on end before I can take action. And during that whole process, my stomach is in knots. I lose sleep. I grind my teeth. I rehearse what I want to say over and over again in my head. It’s not a pleasant experience. But I’ve found over the years that not speaking up is even worse.
I’ve been working really hard on standing in my integrity lately. Speaking up more promptly. Agonizing less. Saying, “No, that’s not okay.” Figuring out why doing what feels right to me is such a torturous undertaking.
Integrity should be the place where I reside all the time. It shouldn’t be some thought balloon that I pull along behind me. It should be my natural habitat. And the fact that I was ever trained otherwise is outrageous. That there are still girls in this day and age that are being spoon-fed this crap is disgusting.
Just the other day I got told I have a strong personality. I get that a lot. The observation usually comes from a man, and it’s not intended as a compliment. I’m also often told that I “speak my mind” or am “opinionated”. (Uh, isn’t that an opinion?)
I can’t deny any of those descriptions. I’ll often speak up when others are afraid to. And if you ask me my opinion, I assume you want to know what it is, so I oblige you. I’m baffled as to why these qualities are supposed to be negative.
Yes. I have opinions. Everyone does. Never once have I insisted that anyone agree with mine. I’m not a bully. I never have been.
I also refuse to be bullied anymore. I was bullied half my life, and I’ve had it up to here. I stand up for others just as often as I stand up for myself. Again, tell me why that’s a bad thing?
Recently I’ve started considering the source of these criticisms. These people never make the same observations about men. Or if they do, they’re transformed into compliments. That’s interesting. And they are usually people who are, or would like to be, in positions of power over me. I’m quite sure that they’d prefer that I simply shut up and do as I’m told. They don’t want me to think, or have an opinion, or be strong, or even have a mind to speak. I’d be so much easier to deal with if I were soft and compliant.
Sorry to disappoint. Not gonna happen.
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It’s for your own good. Tough love. This is a last resort. Mother knows best.
It sounds good, in theory. Like someone has your best interests at heart, and is establishing firm boundaries. It’s about time, some would say. Strong leadership! Yeah!
But even the slightest scratch to the surface of this theory reveals its many flaws.
First of all, who made you the Decider? How do you know if your way is the best way? What if I disagree?
Second, how is it that you’re the one person on the planet who wouldn’t allow this power to go to your head? Forcing people to do things, or live a certain way, or preventing certain behaviors, is the tip of a very large and corrupt iceberg.
And most importantly, what if you have a hidden agenda? What if you really don’t have my best interests at heart? What if you’re manipulating me to get what you want, and to hell with everyone else?
Relentless compassion is not a good look. Not for parents, or employers, or politicians. Especially politicians who are callous, narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, semi-literate, and completely out of touch with reality. For example, the idiot in the meme below.
I don’t want these types of people controlling, legislating, judging or defunding my life. I will resist them every chance I get. Just sayin’.
Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I was raised to be a good girl. My default position is to respect authority. Be cooperative. Don’t make waves. Accommodate others. And above all, always, always be polite.
Well, you know what? Fuck that. All those values are great if everyone is playing by the golden rule. But it’s been my experience that most people do not. As a result, I’ve been bullied and taken advantage of my entire life.
I’ve had it up to here. (No, not there. Much higher than that. Here.)
I’m over it. I’m done. I will not be pushed around anymore. Not by strangers, not by loved ones, and definitely not by politicians. I am establishing the sharp boundaries that I’ve always allowed to remain fuzzy at best. This far, and no further.
I’m not planning to become a bully. I’m not going to be gratuitously rude or selfish. But I won’t be passively stepped on. I am learning to stick up for myself. I’m learning that I have a right to say no. It’s frustrating that it’s taken me so long to figure this stuff out.
We need to teach our children to be respectful, yes, but also not to take any crap. Because as the world becomes more crowded, there will be plenty of crap to go around. And then some.
It is possible to be kind and strong at the same time. It’s okay, and very necessary, to stand in your power. It may take practice to reach that acceptable balance. But it can be done.