I’ve been doing the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, and yesterday’s practice was a challenge — not because of the physical moves, but because of the emotional ones. Every day there is a different statement/theme/mantra for the practice. Some of them are peaceful and lovely: I Accept, I Release, I Am Alive, I Am Present. But yesterday’s was a doozy:
Because the phrase that came to me to complete that sentence was
I respect myself enough to ask for what I need.
This may come as a surprise to people who know me as a strong, confident, opinionated woman, but in my most intimate relationships, including with myself, I tend to negotiate myself out of my needs.
A silly example first. After my marriage imploded in August, I couldn’t eat, so I lost weight. Then I discovered that exercise was a major mood/mindset stabilizer. Since I had all sorts of free time in the evenings now that I wasn’t keeping myself available for a moment of connection with my husband, I got really into Youtube yoga and Pilates and bought a treadmill from a lady on Craigslist, and lost a little more weight. When my pants became too loose, I bought new-to-me ones right away (hooray consignment and thrift stores!). But there was one item I really needed that I put off and put off and put off: new bras. The old ones not only didn’t fit anymore, but they each had one crooked hook that jabbed my back — and had been jabbing my back for at least a year. So I’d needed new bras for a long time before I lost that weight. Still, I didn’t do it. I’d make deals with myself, “When I finish this project, I’ll do it,” and not follow through. Until finally I did. It felt important all out of proportion to the actual act of buying myself underwear, because I’d negotiated myself out of it for so long.
Bigger example: for twenty-one years, I negotiated myself into staying in a marriage in which I wasn’t getting some of my most basic needs met, because I was getting others met, so I talked myself into accepting things that grieved me on a daily basis.
For the last month, I’ve been deciding whether to ask for alimony in the divorce. On the one hand, I don’t want to because I’d rather be independent. On the other hand, we made decisions as a family for me to be a stay-at-home mom who worked freelance, which means that I’m not as employable as I would’ve been if I’d been working a regular job. So while I have work, I’m cobbling together a number of freelance jobs, and I make a quarter of what my husband did. My heart is racing and tears are burning behind my eyes just anticipating typing this, but I’m asking for alimony. Even so, I negotiated against myself, reducing the amount down to a fraction of what the state recommended for me, but it’s still really difficult to ask for.
So there’s my tale of three steps forward and one step back — one of my favorite dance moves for illustrating the Christian life. I wish it weren’t so much work to respect myself enough to ask for what I need. I’m hoping you don’t have that same struggle, but I know some of you do. I’m going to continue to work on this, and I hope you do, too.