making personal change

Not Getting What You Need? That Used to Be Me.

A client reminded me today of the story of my last birthday.  It was a good day, but not for the reasons you might suspect.  I was not spoiled.  I didn’t get that one gift I’ve always secretly wished for, but never requested.  The weather wasn’t even that great.

 

The amazing thing (to me, at least) is that it was a good day DESPITE the fact that my celebration was decidedly underwhelming.  Neither of my sons (who, I should say are usually pretty good at this sort of thing) got me even so much as a card.  And my husband got me a mug.  A nice mug, from one of the best coffee shops in the world Blue Bottle (and mug that I had admired – which he’d noticed,) but still, not exactly a trip to Tahiti! 

 

There was no special dinner, no special dessert planned. But when I told my family (some of whom we’re feeling bad when they realized what was happening) that I really was FINE.  I wasn’t just saying it.  I really was fine.  In fact, I was quite happy.  I was in a place I’d chosen to be in, with my parents and my kids and my husband.  It was enough.  It was good. 

 

Mind you I was not always this Zen about underwhelming celebrations of me.  But I am now, more often than not, because I have learned to do the two things I’m going to suggest to you.

 

1)    I’ve learned to ask for what I need and want.

 

2)    I’ve learned to regularly get for myself what I need and want regardless of what my amazing loved ones do or do not do.  In other words, I take responsibility. 

 

If you’re already great at asking for what you want and taking responsibility for getting what you need on a regular basis, that’s awesome!  You probably don’t need to keep reading.

 

But if it’s hard for you, as it was for me—for decades—then read on.  I’ve got a couple thoughts about how to overcome some common barriers to getting started.

What Do You See? What Do You See?

As you know if you read my post last week, I’ve been observing my younger son closely—taking a break from giving him instructions about how he should live his life. (Yes, I still tell him to put his dishes in the dishwasher!)  I must say it’s been a really fun experiment! 

I don’t know how all the energy stuff works in the world, and though I think there’s some truth in it, I also think there are some serious gaps/errors in the whole Law of Attraction/The Secret idea—you know, the “what you think about is what you get” concept. 

But at the same time, I’ve certainly found that my own experiments with changing my focus and my stories about life, focusing on what’s good, using my imagination in positive ways to envision what I hope for, often have a hugely positive impact in my actual, physical life.

This is one of those times. 

During the past week, it’s as if I opened a door to growth for my son, just by backing off and observing him with a spirit of compassion and curiosity.

It may be coincidence (the only way to know will be to keep trying new experiments to see if a pattern appears), but without my prodding in the past week he’s moved out towards: 1) doing something he loves in the arts AND, 2) conquering the ever-illusive concepts of geometry in his own way.  These were goals his dad and I had for him, but our rules and plans about how he should reach them had thus far had little effect.

In addition, I’ve noticed that he’s responding to his dad and me in more mature ways in relation to the responsibilities and expectations we have for him, expressing his own desires and preferences in ways that leave room for us to work out a plan that feels good to all of us. 

For example, on Sunday I wanted him to go put his clothes in the dryer at a time when he didn’t want to do it.  I said I didn’t want to go to bed without feeling sure that it was going to happen.  Rather than getting defensive or yelling something to the effect of “I’m fifteen.  Why can’t you just trust me!  I’ll get it done!”  He said, “If I don’t do it, no screens for me tomorrow.”  I said, “Okay, that works.”  And when I woke up in the morning the clothes were done.  Win. Win.

I also learned that he doesn’t just like music, or rap, he likes “lyrical rap” specifically.  This is a new term for me.  And it’s given me a hint about how I might be able to help him move in a direction he’s interested in. 

It struck me that I’ve been practicing this kind of curious and compassionate observation, not only with him, but with myself—and with similar positive results.  (Maybe next I’ll try it with my husband!)