It is very easy to not say what you need. In fact, it is so easy that it becomes second nature, a decision you don’t consciously make, rather a silence that you fall into comfortably to keep things simple. Days go by with to-do lists, then weeks and months, all the things that didn’t get said vibrate in the past with wasted potential.
A check-up you didn’t book.
A massage you didn’t think you deserved.
An invitation you didn’t accept because of time, cost, fear.
The things that I am alluding to are the things you need. I don’t mean life or death, I mean life. It’s going to be different for all of us, but we all need things and I am here to tell you that you also deserve them. The little things that other people seem so comfortable saying, “I’m going to learn how to play guitar” or “I started going to a counselor, I just needed a place to talk.” Sometimes people will say things that reveal how their needs are a part of everyone’s life, “He took the kids to a museum and told me to do whatever I wanted with the day. The kids said ‘have fun, mama’.”
When Sean and I were new parents I was sitting at the computer writing. I’d been blogging for several years and had found support and friendship with other writers.
I said to Sean, “I wish I could go to BlogHer.”
He smiled, “When is it? We’ll send you!”
He was excited and I was shocked. I said, “It’s happening right now.”
His shoulders slumped, “Why didn’t you tell me? Amanda, you could have gone. You should be there, but you made it impossible for me to help.”
Looking back I realize how foolish it was, bordering on cruel. I thought I was being selfless and realistic about what we could afford. What I didn’t acknowledge was that I was also harboring resentment for all the things I didn’t get. The time I didn’t take, the full price purchases I didn’t make, the extra sleep I didn’t ask for, and the compliments I didn’t acknowledge I needed.
The truth is I’ve made a pastime out of finding it scandalous that people can articulate and claim what they need. The nerve. The thing is, we get this one chance at living. There isn’t some checkpoint where someone measures all the things you have gone without and gives you some sort of reward. The people who love you don’t achieve the gift of mind reading and stage an intervention to tell you that they are putting a stop to your tendency toward joy deprivation in order to fulfill all your unspoken desires.
Sometimes people will get lucky and read between the lines, helping you to get what you need, but mostly they won’t. Where does that leave us? Seems to me it leaves a lot of us without the love people have to offer, without the cushion our lives could have, and it leaves us without the resources we might have if we dared to say aloud, “I need this. It is important to me.”
Last week I did it, it was awkward and I felt sheepish, but I spoke it aloud.
“I want to see the sunrise tomorrow.”
No one said much.
“Finley and I got up today and tried, but we couldn’t see it from here.
“So tomorrow I really want to get up and go to a place where I can see the sunrise.”
Sean rolled his eyes, “She does this everywhere. She always wants to see the sunrise.”
I nodded, “I just—”
“You love it.” He smiled at me. “We’ll find it, together.” My stepdad said, “I’ll go.” Finley said, “I’m in.” Briar and Avery chimed in as well.
We all met up before 6 am and drove twenty minutes to a beach, from there we had another twenty minutes of walking. The sky was overcast and the wind was stiff, like lean forward and it holds you up strong. I had packed towels and a blanket thinking we might swim and stay awhile, the wind and temperature made the bag seem laughable. I muttered blends of, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” as we trudged along.
Eventually, we rounded a bend and the sun began popping out from behind the treeline. It was magnificent. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. As I looked around at my people, all of them bathed in the golden light, I realized how lucky I am, no, scratch that, how worthy I am.
Sunrise is important to me. Helping me have the things and experiences that are meaningful to me is important to my family. The act of sharing with them what I needed and allowing them to help me was a circle of generosity that could not happen if I didn’t speak up. I am guilty a thousand times over of not saying what I need and, beyond that, of silently screaming that people don’t support me. I cannot have it both ways.
It’s time to be brave and say the things that only we can. I promise that on the other side of the terror and the sense of being greedy, is an abundance that we can share.