Monday Notes: When Being Yourself Isn’t Easy

Be yourself. Love yourself. Create boundaries. Speak your truth. Allow others to be themselves. If you’ve been following my blog for even a few weeks, then these should sound familiar. They are mantras by which I have lived over the past five years. However, I never want anyone to read these and believe that I think they’re easy. They are not. And usually I’m reminded by how challenging they are whenever a family member arrives.

This time it’s my grandmother.

img_6084Growing up, I spent a lot of time with Grannie. She was born in 1926 and holds certain opinions. One of them is that children should be seen and not heard. And if you spoke out of turn with her, you either were slapped, or told to shut up.

Much of my childhood and early adulthood I remember wanting badly to not only be heard, but also to be understood. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a communicator and have a lot to say…all the time. Being around Grannie meant silence, unless I was directly spoken to. And as exaggerated as it sounds, it always felt like an assault on my spirit.

shhBecause the caveat for speaking my mind seemed to be becoming an adult, I thought surely that when “I got grown” I’d be able to use my voice with her. The answer is yes and no. It seems I can share what I believe or know is true for myself, but not at the expense of a disagreement or misunderstanding. At the age of almost 45, my insides still begin to swish around when I answer Grannie truthfully. When this happens, I remind myself that I’m an adult, whose words are important. And no matter how much I’m shaking on the inside, I take a deep breath, speak my mind, and if an argument ensues, I deal with it.

This occurred during her most recent visit. It began with a simple question: Do you want eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast?

“I want whatever you’re doing,” she answered.

“Okay,” I said. “When people visit, then I usually make breakfast.”

Just like that. The conversation shifted.

“I’m not people,” she said.

“Yes you are Grannie,” I replied. Cue shivering insides.

“I’m not people,” she repeated.

Not one for morning confrontations, I looked at her and said, “This is not a big deal. This is a yes I want breakfast or no I don’t.”

“Yes,” she said and went back to reading.

But this wasn’t over.

The conversation continued when she asked if my feelings were hurt because she didn’t attend Kesi’s graduation or my 43rd birthday event.

“Whenever people…” I began.

“There you go with the people again. I am not people. I’m special.”

She’d traded slapping and shut up for interrupting my words. At this point, I could feel myself getting angry. Instead of pushing it down as I would have in the past, I let myself be mad.

“Yes Grannie you’re special. But I treat people the same no matter what.”

“You do not treat people the same,” she said a little louder with a mouthful of eggs.

Cue shaking voice. “Grannie how are you going to tell me how I operate with others?”

Grannie paused. She seemed to be thinking about what I said. How could she really tell me how I function? She couldn’t. She doesn’t see it because she lives over a thousand miles away.

Her next words? “You might treat everybody the same, but I don’t like it.”

“Aha,” I said. “That’s what it is. You might not like it, but that doesn’t make it not true.”

“Well, you might make breakfast for everybody, but you better not make everybody your grannie,” she added.

This scenario ended with me laughing and saying, “That’s impossible. Everyone can’t be my grannie.”

I realize that I could’ve ended this conversation by simply saying, “okay” at the beginning. I understand that I could’ve stopped the discussion when it entered “I’m special” territory. But that’s not me. Years of silence have shown me that if I have something to say, then it’s okay to voice it, even if everything about the exchange is invisibly scary.

Also worth mentioning is that having unresolved issues that creep up in interactions and conversations seems to be common for everyone. But as I’ve said before on this blog, other people’s issues are not your responsibility, even if the person is your grandmother.

The only person you can ever control is you.

So, in that moment, I’m glad I controlled myself and still managed to speak my mind. Did I have more to say? Of course. Something in me still wanted to be heard. Understood. But it wasn’t going to happen that day. That’s something I realized. However, I also recognized my growth. No matter how tiny, it was significant. And this was a small success for sure because I was mostly silent for the remainder of her visit. But that’s okay too. Small victories are what have lead me towards the direction of being my true self. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll speak up twice. Or better yet, maybe I’ll release the desire to be heard.

 

Got Boundaries?

Well do you? Do the people with whom you interact know exactly how far they can go with you? Physically? Emotionally? Psychologically? Do you know how far you want to go with others?

I recently listened to an Iyanla Vanzant episode centered on relationships. You can find it here. In it, she suggests that we not only establish boundaries in our relationships, but that we also make those boundaries known to individuals. Another useful step is to ensure those people know what the consequence will be if they should violate your stated boundary.

I can see how this will work with children because, well, adult-child relationships definitely require boundaries. For example, my 15-year-old, Desi and I were texting one day. In it, she replied, LMAO. To which I responded, you don’t get to laugh your ass off with me ma’am. She hasn’t done it again. She tested a boundary. It failed. She learned how far she could go.

But what happens when there are two adults and something more serious? Remember Buddy? According to Iyanla’s lesson, I should have stated something like this ahead of time: Buddy, I will not tolerate drunken, violent behavior. If you become drunk and violent, then you will have to leave our home.

While I have no problem having a boundary conversation with most adults, I do wonder if I can establish boundaries and allow the person to be him or herself, simultaneously.

Stay with me here. You know I value allowing people to be whoever they are; however, if I establish a boundary, then aren’t I asking the person to not be themselves while they’re in my company? So, is it better to ask Buddy to be mindful of his drinking limit, or just not invite Buddy to the next family function? For most of my life, I’ve just done the latter. That way Buddy can be himself…at…his…home.

I suppose my question is, can you establish boundaries and allow the person to be him or herself at the same time, or are these two different philosophical ways of living life? Can the two work together?

I know this post is more questions than answers, but that’s how (my) life is most times. Let me know what you think. Which do you prefer? Are you a boundary-setter? Tell us all how you do it.

Monday Notes: Thoughts During My Facebook Break

Every year I take a 30-day Facebook break. Just like other things, I tend to use Facebook intently and intensely, so I need to deactivate every now and then.

My social media vacay is typically around the holidays, but this time August seemed to be the best time of year. I figured I wouldn’t miss the back-to-school pics, latest Donald Trump outrage, or eclipse images. I was right. The only thing I missed is my go-to for random thoughts. Instead, I used my Notes section.

img_4769Here are August’s thoughts, with a few explanations.

Boundaries help define who you are and who you are not ~ Thomas J. Leonard I forgot where I read this quote, but it was helpful. With the help of Dwight, I’d recently realized that I still have some unresolved issues with my grandmother. Part of it is a boundary issue. While I’m firm about who I am and what I’ll take from other people, with her, my boundaries look a little like jumbled up squiggly lines (sometimes). I’m going to work on that.

It is possible to only do things you WANT to do. People argue with me about this, but for me, it’s all about choices. If you’re (an adult) participating in situations that you don’t want to, then I’d suggest it’s because you made a choice to do so. Stop choosing negative and displeasing experiences, and watch how much your life will fall into a place where you’re always where you want to be.

When do you put your spirituality into practice? Well, when do you?

Life is just an exchange of energy with others and we can choose how much, what frequency, or how often we make that exchange. I wrote this comment on Reena’s blog. I forget which topic, but something she shared made me re-think how we function as people. We tend to forget that connection is important, but we don’t have to be beholden to others’ whims.

People will not combust if you say, “No.”

If you ask me to do something, and I say, “No,” and you try to convince me to do it anyway, then that’s called manipulation. Have you ever thought of it that way? I first heard a rendition of this from Oprah years ago. And once I considered it more, I agreed. This month people have asked me to do all sorts of things that I just wasn’t feeling. I’ve gotten a lot better at simply saying no. Once they go into convincing mode, it’s much easier for me to stick to my decision because I now view it as manipulation, and I definitely don’t want to be controlled. Conversely, I respect others’ decisions more readily because I also don’t want to manipulate them into doing what I’d prefer.

Relationships aren’t meant to be stressful. Period. I’ve had a few pleasant experiences with friends this month. My friend Tarra and I hung out for approximately twelve hours one day. We laughed. We ate. We drank. I fell asleep. There was no drama and no doubt that we were both in good company. Likewise, my friend Rhonda reached out to me during her annual Florida trip. We went to the beach. I got to know her sons a little more. We ate. There was also little doubt about our friendship. In my mind, this is how relationships are supposed to be…stress-free.

Let me know what you think about social media, social media breaks, blogging breaks, or any of my August thoughts.