Finding the Courage to Ask For What You Need

I often find myself feeling overwhelmed.  Almost always, after a quick examination, it is because I have over committed to others, with things that I don’t want to do.  I understand that normal, healthy adults are able to say ‘No’ to invitations, favors, events, and commitments. It seems that I did not pay extra for that upgrade.  I am always agreeing to things, and finding myself regretful and resentful as those calendar items approach.  Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin?  Let me share a few examples with you, then I will discuss my new found favorite response…”NO”.

I am not a very social person.  Even lunch with my sisters sends me into a panic.  “Who will be there?”  “Will I end up having to pay for everyone?”  “What if there is nothing that I can eat?”  “What if she brings up that topic that makes me uncomfortable like she always does?”  My sisters are the opposite of me.  Very easy conversationalists, no worry at all.  Lunch is a wonderful way to chat and spend time together to reconnect.  I, on the other hand, am full of anxiety the entire time.  We have been meeting for lunches on each other’s birthday’s for about 4 years now.  Every time my birthday rolls around, I make an excuse that I am busy, and its fine with me if we skip.  I’ve never wanted to admit to them that it’s really uncomfortable for me, so an excuse was just easier.  This year, however, it was suggested that maybe we should just start planning family get togethers on all of the holidays and rotate houses and hostesses.  So, my excuse plan backfired in a huge way.  Not only did one sister tell me that I should reconsider because I am missed, and whatever other guilt trip was available at the time, the other sister recommended MORE anxiety filled get togethers!

FULL DISCLOSURE: That’s not really me.  But I can totally relate to this young lady.  Still.  As an adult.
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is my family, and I should feel comfortable, right?  Well, not all families are like the ones in the movies.  I’m not interested in airing out the dirty laundry.  Regardless, each family member’s memories and experiences are all different, so there’s no point in even trying.  I do my best to get along and be a peace maker, but at my age, I’m a bit tired of that.  In fact, as they say, you can’t choose your family.  I disagree.  I am choosing my family, and I am choosing it carefully.  I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself for the whims of others anymore, just because we are related.  I’m over it.

This whole situation with the get togethers and the lunches could have been averted, had I just been honest from the beginning.  “Thank you for thinking of me.  Social situations like lunches cause me anxiety, so I would like for this to not be a tradition on my birthday any longer.”  I eventually got there.  In the mean time, panic ensued.

I was also in a situation recently where we agreed to help a long lost relative out as a favor who wanted to relocate to Arizona.  We offered a place to stay until she was able to get on her feet at no charge.  We also asked a few people we know to consider her for a job.  Once she arrived, she did nothing but disrespect our wishes and acted completely unacceptable.  When the jobs didn’t come through for her, she blamed us, and said it was the only reason that she relocated to Arizona.  Things got to a point where we asked her to please find somewhere else to stay within 30 days.  She did..and stole about $200  worth of things from us.  So how could we have avoided this situation?  Simply by saying “No” in the first place.  As much as we all want to be helpful to others, we truly had no business opening up our home to someone we didn’t even know.


I think that many of us are conditioned to turn the other cheek, or to act in a way that you would like for people to act with you.  When we do that, we often find ourselves being taken advantage of by others who’s own moral code likely doesn’t line up with ours.  I have come to the conclusion recently that people who are out to take advantage of me, or guilt me into doing things for them are not worried about my feelings, or what is good for me.  So, in turn, I will no longer be afraid to say no, or at least ask for my needs to be met in these exchanges.  


I know that we are not easy hosts at our house.  We are very particular.  Dishes should be cleaned immediately.  You don’t need to use multiple cups in one day.  If you use the dryer, empty the lint trap.  Be kind, and at least ACT like you enjoy spending time with us.  For us, these situations have forced us into deciding what we are and are not ok with.  We are ok with two day max house guests.  We are not ok with anything beyond that.  We need to be kind to our guests and let them know that staying beyond that will cause resentment and anxiety, so two days is all that we are able to accommodate.

It is up to you to decide what your boundaries are, and then find the kindness to enforce those boundaries.  There is almost nothing worse than feeling like you are being held hostage in a situation.  It is just better to be open and honest upfront.  Doing so will undoubtedly save hard feelings and relationships.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  In most cases, people will respect your honesty and appreciate it.  It happens to the best of us.  Don’t worry…

You’re probably not crazy!!!

Get off my nerves!! ┬áStrategies to deal with people who know how to push your buttons.

Hello, my friends!  First, allow me to apologize for my fickle posting schedule.  I’ve had some challenges that are not insurmountable, but I’ve needed to take some time to myself to reflect on who I am, and come up with some strategies to deal with them.  For today, I am choosing this topic because this is exactly what I am dealing with on every side of my life. So, maybe in writing this, it will help me to find the courage to draw specific boundaries and retain my own sanity.  See what I did there?  

Throughout my life, I’ve been faced with people who I just do not understand.  I often joke that I was raised like a feral dog, so my sense of social mores and politeness are often baffling, even to me.  I was the youngest of 4 children, then later 6 when my dad remarried.  All of my parents did the best they knew how to do.  We were never homeless.  We always went to school.  But I never really learned manners, or how to show gratitude until I was an adult, on my own, observing others.  I am now highly irritated at the lack of courtesy and manners around me.  I guess I figure that if I was able to learn that mailing a thank you card for a gift was polite, then why should others, who were not raised like I was, be excused from this?  If someone took their preciouos resources (time and money) to give me a gift, the least I can do I’d take my resources (time and a postage stamp) to express gratitude.

I have also found out that the world consists of givers and takers.  Both are very good at what they do.  However, givers are often manipulated by takers.  They play on their good nature and sympathy to get exactly what they want, then rarely show gratitude in their actions.  A text message of ‘Thank you!!’ Just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Lately, I am finding that takers are coming out of the wood work to prey on me.  Not only to take advantage of my empathy and good nature, but to follow up with a guilt trip if I don’t follow their code of conduct and do exactly what they expect of me.


Let me get a few things off my chest, then I will move on to strategies for givers in dealing with this.  First of all, if you are staying with someone in their home, it is not your right to drain their resources.  Offer to make meals, bring groceries, help clean up the house, and don’t leave cups and dishes scattered in your wake.  Clean up your messes.  Observe how your host lives, and follow their lead.  Maybe even offer to treat your host to dinner.  Secondly, if someone goes out of their way to help you, or do you a favor, maybe consider doing something special for them.  You don’t have to spend money.  Write a nice thank you card.  Offer to mow their lawn.  Maybe even house sit.  Let your actions show that you are thankful that they sacrificed to help you and you appreciate it.  


My personality is such that my initial reaction to anything I don’t like is to avoid it.  If I feel like someone is trying to manipulate me, I just ignore them.  I don’t answer the phone.  I don’t return calls.  I am short on responses to emails.  I know that is not the correct way to deal with things, and I wouldn’t encourage it, because all it is going to do is encourage the taker to just keep calling, texting, and emailing.  Rarely is the outcome what I want, which is for them to just go away.  What I should be doing is setting my boundaries.  I should be answering the phone calls, and when the person asks me for what I am anticipating, I should say, I’m not able to help you with that.  When they ask why, I don’t owe them an explanation.  We are allowed to say no.  We have every right to put our own interests in front of others.  That doesn’t make you selfish.  It makes you not co-dependent.  It is not your job to take care of other people or their problems.  If you choose to do it, great.  But you are not obligated to do so.  The fact of the matter is, you can ALWAYS say no.  

I have learned to ask myself, “Am I willing to follow through on this?”  If I am not willing to follow through, then I must say no.  I shouldn’t be offering to help anyone move if I know that at the last minute, I am going to bail out.  I don’t know  about you, but I have a lot of ‘hinters’ in my life.  These are people who don’t come out and directly ask me for anything, but they hint at what they want.  For instance, “I really want to relocate to your area, but I don’t know where to apply for a job or where I should live.  Oh, but my current employer is abusing me and I don’t know what to do.  What should I do?  You’re so smart, what would you do?”  This person hasn’t asked me for a place to stay or for me to put in a good word at my own employer, but they are certainly using techniques to play on my emotions.  What is their end game?  What is it they want from you?   The best thing in this situation is to stay out of it.  When I was in grade school, my parents fell for this one with a step cousin.  He lived with us, for longer than he said he would, wore out his welcome, became the master of the television, and was all around annoying.  In fact, who among us hasn’t fallen in this trap?  What is unfortunate is that I believe that we all just want to be helpful.  More often than not, we just end up used, abused, resentful, and unwilling to do it again.  Side note, if you have been the person who stays with someone and wore out your welcome, I hope that you can find it in you or conscience to make things right.  


My advice is to set your boundaries.  If behavior isn’t acceptable to you, don’t accept it.  Don’t surround yourself with people who are just taking advantage of you.  Ask yourself if they would be there if you didn’t have something to give them.  Relationships should be two way streets.  There is no law on the books that prohibit you from letting people go.  If the relationship is leacherous, let it go.  Back away.  If they question what is going on, tell them that this is just not working out for you.  We don’t need to fear hurting other people’s feelings.  I mean, I’m not advocating being a jerk here.  I am saying that people who take advantage of others aren’t really concerned about the damage that they are doing.  So why are you concerned with saving their feelings?  

Now you may say, “But I can’t just let go of my boss or coworker!  What do I do?”  Well, this is the toughest situation because you are kind of stuck.  In this situation, I usually try to be pleasant and still ask myself, “am I willing to follow through on this?”  If your coworker annoys you, don’t engage them on personal topics.  Keep it to business, and be as pleasant as you can.  If they are not doing their job, and it’s not affecting my job, I ignore it and let them deal with their consequences.  If it does affect my job, I have a discussion with them, and keep all emotions out of it.  If things don’t change, I leave it with my boss. If the boss does nothing, I document.  If things fall apart, you now have a record of attempting to correct the situation.  You may consider getting HR involved at that point.  DON’T sabotage anyone else.  Keep the emotions out of it.  Follow your company’s guidelines in dealing with conflict.  And document EVERYTHING!

I do understand that this may be contrary to your religious tastes.  I get that.  You have to do what is right for you.  If you want to continue to turn the other cheek, more power to you.  I, however, will no longer choose this.  We are not on this earth to be used by others.  It is my right to say what I am and am not willing to do.  I am not bound to do everything that suits my parents because they are my parents.  If they are taking advantage of me, I have a right to say no.  I hope that you are able to courageously take a look at the toxic relationships in your own sphere and bravely stand up to those more interested in what you can do for them rather than what they can do to contribute to a healthy relationship.  Do not let the deceptions ever make you question your own sanity, as I am currently questioning mine.  I’m going to listen to my own advice here for sure…
I’m (You’re) probably not crazy!

An open letter to my country

This weekend, a rally was planned in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of a general of the Confederacy when the United States was in civil war.  The Confederacy lost.  The Union prevailed.  The Confederacy did not want to recognize slaves as people, and argued that they would be financially ruined if they were unable to obtain the free labor provided by slavery.  The Confederacy lost.  They argued that these possessions, ripped from their homeland violently, packed into the bottom of boats, shackled, beaten, malnourished…these were savages.  The Confederacy lost.  

The history of my country is shameful.  It is ugly.  It is disgraceful.  My ancestors arrived here, murdered the native inhabitants, allowed the survivors to stay on reservations (at least until vast natural resources were discovered, then nope), shipped in slaves, and basically raped and pillaged like pirates.  They didn’t ask for anything.  They took it.  “Manifest Destiny” they coined it.  The country was built upon slavery and murder, all while praising God for blessing them so richly.

I know there may be some who read this that claim I am suffering from ‘White Shame’.  To them I say that I am indeed ashamed of the cruelty that so easily passed from the hands of generations before me.  I am not afraid to call it out of the shadows and talk about it.  I am not afraid to be honest and open and totally appalled at it.  I am not afraid to recognize that there is absolutely nothing that makes this justifiable or acceptable.  But just as Germany teaches its children of the country’s original sin, and owns its history, SO MUST THE UNITED STATES!!!

Look at these faces.  Some are smug.  Some are angry.  Some are smiling, like they are at a high school bonfire.  They are carrying their torches and chanting “Blood and Soil!”  They are chanting “White is Might!”  They are chanting “TRUMP!  TRUMP!  TRUMP!”

James Alex Fields Jr told his mother he was going to a rally in Charlottesville.  She assumed it was a Trump rally.  She stated, “She didn’t like to get involved in his politics”.  He took his sporty silver car, found a street with a clear view of counter protesters, holding signs that said “Love Trumps Hate” and “Racists go home”.  Then, he sped towards that crowd, ramming another car from behind, murdering a peaceful counter protester and injuring more that 20 others.  Look at him.  Look at all of them.  These are our neighbors.  These are our cousins.  Our sons and our daughters.  Our brothers and our sisters.  These are our coworkers.

When you sat through World History in high school, and you learned about the rise of Hitler, Stalin, and Moussolini.  When you heard the story of the Jews and Blacks and Homosexuals in Germany, how they were murdered or put into concentration camps to die, or to be science experiments.  When you learned about the Japanese Internment Camps in the UNITED STATES.  Did you tell yourself that you would have stood up for your friends, for your neighbors, for your coworkers?  Did you wonder how you would react?  Did you think that you would never let fear grip you so tightly that you would silently watch these atrocities happen?

The time has come, my friends.  How are you reacting?  I live in sunny Arizona, far from what any would perceive as a conflict area.  Yet, the seedy and disgusting racist views come out in the people I least expect.  They aren’t outwardly awful.  They’re not wearing uniforms.  But once in a while, you will hear it.  “Those dirty Mexicans.”  “DEPORT THEM ALL!”  “What are you?  Are you African, or what are you?”  The FORMER Sheriff of my county, you may have heard of him, became famous for his racial profiling orders. For harassing people, just for their skin color, demanding papers, ripping families apart.  Though our county kept him in office for 20 years, we FINALLY were able to get him out.  The fact that he held office for so long tells me that there is a lot of underlying racism in my community.  Some may argue that he was a good sheriff, but let’s be honest.  The only reason that YOU know his is because of his outlandish tactics that were covered in the national news.  America’s Toughest Sheriff?  Nah.

If you are not calling people out on the spot for racism and hatred, you are part of the problem.  You have got to find the courage in yourself to not shrink back in the face of this hate speech, but call it out.  Bring it to the light.  Confront these people and tell them that patriotism is in direct conflict with white supremacy or racism.  I often wonder how some people reconcile this idea that, because they were born in a place that was farther away from the equator make them superior to any other human being, simply because they have less color in their skin.  It is time to stand up.  Find your voice and use it.  Denounce this ridiculous notion that the color of your skin determines your worth.  

  Be brave.  Find your courage.  Do what is right without fear.  These students stood inside of a crowd of angry white supremacists.  When your conscience is nagging you, listen.  Because you’re probably not crazy.