Thursday, January 30, 2014

a SHOCKING discovery! I actually LIKE who I am?

I hate myself! I shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't like this. I shouldn't want this. I can't pursue this. I'm not worthy of this. I can't be like him/her/them. I don't look right. I don't think right. I don't act right. I'm not disciplined enough to be different. I hate myself! How could anyone like me? 

I've lived most of my life carrying this inner refrain, echoing through the empty spaces, whenever I gave myself room to think. The other day Nick and I were talking about identity and insecurity.

Nick:  I'm not sure I like myself.
Me:  But I like you very much!
Nick:  I know.
(A brief pause occurs as I suddenly realize I can't say what I had been about to say: "I struggle with liking myself, too.")
Me:  in an awed voice You know what? I just realized I like myself!
Nick: What?

Now, let me re-interpret that inner voice from the past, based on the rest of our conversation and my continued thoughts on this discovery. I have been told by many that who I am is unacceptable.

Others think I shouldn't be like this, and attack me for it. Others think I shouldn't like this and laugh at me. Others think I shouldn't want this and judge me. Others don't want me to pursue this and maybe they're right. Others suggest I'm not worthy and they ought to know. Others act differently than I do, maybe it's because they're better than me. Others accept people who look different from me, probably because those looks are better. Others think differently from me and expect me to think the same as them. Others act differently from me and I don't know how to imitate them. Others hate who I am, and so I should hate myself, too.  

Realization: Others find it easy to be different from me ... because they actually are different people. I like people who are themselves, but I don't always want to be them. And I definitely don't want them to be me, because then they wouldn't be who they are!

Did I ever hate ME?... Did I ever really hate who I am?

Or did I just hate the obvious gap between who I was and what others seemed to expect of me?

I don't think I even looked directly at myself during all those years. Not clearly. Not without obstruction.

I could only see who I wasn't. And of course that's a hateful perspective. It's completely negative and also blocks any glimpse of the positives.

I set myself up to lose by only seeing negative contrasts ... and so I lost myself.

From the very beginning, however, my favorite moments in life were the moments where I was secretly me. The ones where nobody knew to judge me, because they didn't see me being me. And sometimes, rare and beautiful, the moments where someone appreciated me being myself. I collected them like treasures.

Sitting tucked beneath the library window, reading in the midst of shimmering dust motes, thinking my own thoughts where nobody could see. Escapes hidden in the branches of a tree, dreaming of the sky. Reaching out and becoming the unexpected gift of presence to a friend who hadn't known that I could be there for them in that way. Times I spoke from the depths of my existence, and my voice was heard with surprised appreciation.

These were the times when I let myself out of the box of my inability to be someone else. Moments like deep gasps of air that kept me alive until I learned to choose to be me out of all the smothering possibilities I couldn't absorb.

Now that I think about it, the person I hated ... the part I hated the most ... was the part who tried to be anyone else but myself. That "person who would never succeed at not being me" hurt me deeply by not being me. Believing the lies about who I should be damaged me.

I couldn't see that it was okay to be myself because I was surrounded by people who would hurt me for that, too. Even when others valued me, it took years to realize I could believe them.

These days I'm experimenting to learn how to be myself. It's sometimes hard to know what is really me, because I spent so much of my time trying to stop that reality. One thing I'm discovering, though ...

I really like who I am! It's amazing.

Those moments that shine?... I have them all the time, now.

And, looking back,... being accepted as myself marks the times I've always valued. Being accepted as someone else always felt fake, which was part of why it was so painful to not be me. That I secretly liked who I am is probably why I could never really eliminate myself entirely.

I'm so thankful to the maker of meaning for my intrinsic design.
I'm glad I exist, because I have value and love to offer those who need me.
I'm amazed at and grateful for who I am becoming.

I like myself!

Wow ... who would have guessed I could ever say this? I can't even type those words without tears filling my eyes.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Yesterday I realized WHY I need to admit my depression and ask friends for help ...

Over the years, deep channels of belief in my lack of worth grew in my mind. Long-standing patterns of thought that ruled without much challenge, because I really was treated like I was worthless for many years.  

I don't always know when I'm being swept away by that pattern of self-hatred, because the thoughts are so familiar that they don't feel like lies to me. 

1. I often project that old pattern of self-hate on someone else, even friends, and believe they are the ones who think this way of me.

2. I believe I deserve to be disliked, and feel the need to apologize to my friends for giving them reasons to want to pull away. Even though I'm usually the only one who thinks this in the first place.

3. I respond with fear and over-react to normal changes in interaction, since my friends are sometimes busy and have social lives. Even though these friendships and activities are things I 100% support and encourage, because I love seeing my friends succeed and find happiness.

At some point over the past years, I realized it helps to contact my friends when I get into this state, instead of assuming it will burden them, though I hadn't clearly defined why ... other than noticing they do cheer me up somehow. 

Now ***CONTACT FRIENDS!!!*** is the first thing on my to-do list .... when I admit I'm actually depressed and not "merely having a bad day." And that contact has to specifically admit that I'm slipping into depression. 

If I hide it, I don't find the help I need. 
If I don't trust/believe them, I won't benefit, either.

I need both honesty and trust to gain anything from connecting to my friends. I used to sabotage their help by saying, "You don't know!" or thinking "You must be saying this just to be nice!" ... I treated them like liars and fools instead of the trustworthy and kind people I knew they were. Incredibly, they stuck it out till I learned to believe them.

Today I'm writing out the realization I came to yesterday, sorted out in a series of conversations, starting while I was still completely blind to the fact that I was lying to myself. There's a reason why I need to contact others ... and a reason why it helps if they're good friends or at least positive and kind people. 

I still don't know what set me off this time. 

Emotionally, I'm always unstable at this time of month, but I usually don't end up in a blind depression anymore. (Now that I think about it, that's a huge success! There was a time when I couldn't expect even one good day in a month, and now I'm concerned when I slip into the darkness for a few hours.)

It took me nearly all day to admit I couldn't handle it by myself, though. 

I kept telling myself it was only natural to feel so disappointed over a series of unexpected events, starting with missing a long-wished-for, real-life meeting with my internet friend (Slim) because my car wouldn't start.... Nick was busy this past week, so our communications were less transparent.... I've had more interaction than usual with X and even though it was positive or neutral in tone, I'm always on the edge of a breakdown when we have to connect. 


The first revelation arrived during an incredible phone conversation with Seung Chan Lim (Slim) while he waited for his plane. He presents a beautiful and easily understandable perspective on building an honest connection with others in his book, Realizing Empathy. At one point he said, "At the end of my presentations, I always end up saying, 'I hope this was helpful,' and then I wonder if that's a bad thing. Do I really need to ask them? Shouldn't I just feel confident?"

Even as I told him that I think it's a mark of strength to know you need affirmation and encouragement, and to have the courage to ask for it, I realized that this is one of the reasons I need to talk to friends when I'm depressed. I would never have learned to see myself differently without them handing me a different view in a direct challenge to the negative thoughts I communicated to them. 

There might come a day when Slim no longer feels the need to ask, after building a strong foundation of positive responses. And it is wise to choose to build that foundation. He might never reach a level of confidence that frees him to be even bolder with his message without gathering evidence that proves it has value to others, also. And what he has to say is something people need, desperately, to hear. Every bit of courage he gathers will enable him to share that gift with others even more. 

We are social creatures and it is obvious that everything we do affects others. Since we can't read minds, it's good to ask and learn instead of assuming we can project an accurate assessment of their thoughts. We do not know unless we ask and receive honest feedback. And seeing the truth in others takes empathy. 


Next in my process of revelation, take a look at what happened when I guessed at what Nick was thinking during yesterday's depression. I'm not the only one. Society trains us to think negatively first, I think. Nearly everyone I've ever interacted with has a tendency to do this to some extent, especially artists and people who see differently than the social norm. 

Here are a few sections from the email I wrote Mica when I finally realized it was time to ask for help. Then I'll explain the contrast in perspective that soon followed.
I'm so lonely right now. Nick is difficult to connect with, and I think he's overwhelmed because I feel it so much when he's busy and can't talk. I'm on my period, which makes the feeling so much stronger. I hate this. Why can't I be okay with being so far away from him? 
I went on like this for several paragraphs, then:
I'm afraid. I'm afraid. I don't like being alone, and I wonder if I will be. If I'm too intense for Nick, then who could handle it? 
Note how I say, "I think he's overwhelmed," and "I'm too intense for Nick." <-- THAT, right there, is projecting my thoughts onto Nick.

Nick isn't like that. My relationship with X, however, was very much like this. Since I was caught up in my emotional residue from the past, I couldn't see that I wasn't thinking about Nick's thoughts at all. This feeling overwhelmed me in spite of the fact that we had really good conversations earlier in the day and over the past few days.

In other words, I was in the middle of an emotional landmine. Nick wasn't the cause of my feelings. And I had no clue ... at all ... that I wasn't seeing clearly. I really believed Nick must be secretly thinking these thoughts even though:

1. Nick doesn't think I'm too intense at all, and really appreciates how I think and explain things to the point where he always thanks me for it.

2. If he's overwhelmed or feeling pressured by anything I say or do, then he talks it through with me and doesn't ever keep his feelings a secret or just start avoiding me without explanation.

Finally, late last night, after posting that I was slipping into depression to a small group of good friends, and writing the email detailing my feelings to Mica ... I realized I should talk to Nick, too, and give him a chance to tell me what he really thinks.

This is the message I wrote for Mica after that phone conversation.
so you don't worry ... Nick called as soon as he left the party and we talked. He took my fears and proved they weren't worth worrying about, just like that. (By being himself.) Accepted me as I am, and made me feel safe again. He said, "We're not just best friends. It's something more, but there isn't a definition for it." He also told me that wild horses couldn't drag him away ... LOL so amazing, dear. How can I so easily forget how deeply he accepts and loves me? 
Feeling lonely was real. But the fear that came out of the loneliness was just the past blinding me, and not Nick at all. I just needed to see it, and it was there all the time. Thankfully he doesn't mind reminding me.

I still think there's something wrong with me, not to see through the lies I tell myself when I'm depressed. I wonder why I can't get out of it by myself. And yet, it's amazing to realize that a huge reason I need my friends is because they see differently than I do.

When I need an alternate perspective ... especially when I'm caught up in an emotional landmine ... my friends can snap me out of it just like that. Just because they see from a different perspective. Because they actually know what they are thinking and are capable of correcting my false impressions like Nick did in our call last night.


Also .... because they can take my negative perspective on an actual disappointment:

"Slim and I couldn't visit, after all, just because of my stupid car. All he had time for was to drive up to my door, give me a hug, and drive back to the airport. Ugh ... I missed out!"

And change it to a positive realization:

"Wow! It's so cool that he thought it was important enough to meet you that he took the time to drive over and actually stop by for a minute, even though he was worried he'd be late for his flight!"

You know ... I'm not disappointed anymore, because when you look at it that way, I was given an incredible gift yesterday. And Slim and I got to have a insightful, empathetic, and honest conversation on the phone. I hope it's the first of many.


I'm so grateful for the people who see things differently than I do.

I'm thankful for my friends, who have taught me to trust them.

It's such a relief to know that when I'm lying to myself, my friends can tell me the truth.

And when I'm blind to the good things in life, they can help remove the distortions so I can see beauty again.

It's really amazingly simple, isn't it? And it works every single time, even though I STILL think it couldn't possibly help ... every single time. Heh!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In which he dreams about being engaged, and I realize I'm not being entirely honest with myself yet.

Recently I've been dreaming of Nick a lot. I don't have romantic dreams ... thankfully ... I'm not sure how I'd cope with that just now. Usually we're helping our friends on some epic quest, or I wake up convinced he's sleeping beside me, with a sense of support and comfort. I forget most of them ... keeping only the emotional memory of a dream with Nick, usually a residual feeling of confidence. 

Last night he dreamed of me. Since he's losing his voice right now, he typed it out in hangouts, and I have to admit I'm impatient for him to get his voice back for more than health, now. I want to hear his voice to get a real sense of  his internal process, because writing isn't his thing. 

The crazy part is that he dreamed a specific scenario that has been on my mind as I face the lingering romantic attraction I feel toward him. I never told him about it, because ... I'm in denial. 

He typed, "I had a dream that we got into a decade long engagement before getting married. Like 9 or 10 years!! The biggest irony is that after it all the dream ends with us setting a date and I get nervous cold feet about it. The marriage part is what woke me up." 

I've been thinking how difficult it is to even consider a romantic relationship right now, and not only because I panic every time I become interested in anyone. I can't easily move for the next 5-6 years while the kids are still legally attached to their father. Also, for the next ten years the kids will still be in school or college and that will affect my choices, too. Then, I'd need to find someone who can handle the fact that I fully intend to live in assorted countries for at least a few years, and possibly be somewhat nomadic for the rest of my life. 

I thought, even before I met Nick, that I should just see who ends up walking beside me over these coming years, and see whether we want to keep going on through life together once I'm finally out of the home-parenting stage. I'm not convinced there is anyone out there who could handle my specific set of circumstances "in a relationship" right now. 

So, yeah, long engagements without confidence for marriage, even after all that time.... 

I swear he read my mind with his dream. 

My reaction was a jumble of laughter, because the dream seemed so out of character for Nick (Does he ever think about getting engaged to anyone?... a question I want to ask now.) and a sudden rush of fear and introspection, which I unsuccessfully tried to communicate with him. It didn't help that he kept typing questions marks, leading me to explain further ... and dig myself in deeper without having a real sense of his response. 

So, yeah, ... chat isn't the place for depth with Nick. 

If I'd realized what I was going to do to myself, I would have saved it for voice once he recovers, because that's our communication-norm. I might not have gotten overwhelmed if I could have heard his tone in response to my craziness,... although I didn't realize I'd destabilize in the first place. Hindsight and all that. 

Humor quickly spun into panic. 

I feel both a very strong desire to be with Nick in a platonic, best-friends-forever way, and a desperate fear of my inclination to wonder about more. I know how crazy it makes me feel to even think about how our romantic-relationship needs for freedom and security could so easily clash and hurt us both, so I consciously put up a defensive wall around that idea and refuse to think about it. 

His dream knocked a hole through my self-protection, exposing strong ideas and feelings on the other side. 

I don't do well when I feel misunderstood, especially about relationship factors. While I trust him to accept me and work through stuff ... I also hate, hate, hate it when anything comes between us even for a few minutes. I told him I was feeling emotionally unsteady and he firmly reassured me that he didn't think my reaction was a big deal. Thankfully, I'm not losing my mind here. 

That's a huge thing for me. I trusted his word, and my emotions stabilized. A few years ago I'd have gone into at least a week of depression over that awkward conversation, convinced he was lying about it being okay, and reviewing it over and over in remembrance of how truly terrible I had been. Today, I'm not worried. I'd have to look up the conversation  to remember what we said. 

All the same, now I know something lurks ... or so it seems. *sigh*

I wonder if my wall will grow back before he regains his voice? If so, we might not talk about it again. I'm okay with not facing that particular emotional landmine just yet. Maybe never. I don't mind plateauing for a time. Sometimes I wish growing could wait while I just feel okay for a while. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Learning to accept "You're Beautiful"

For some reason it's the sweet old lady who told me I have a cute butt at the laundromat all those years ago who stands out in my mind even today as the one who gave me the most exceptional compliment. Perhaps it was the incongruity of the moment.

Why is it that everyone who compliments me gets labeled "creepy" in my mind?... even sweet little old ladies.

As a teen I felt certain I was plain. Not ugly. Not lovely. Just ... invisible and sometimes gross or annoying. Boys didn't notice me much. The explanation seemed obvious.

At first X called me beautiful like it made him look better, too. Wandering hands as proof of his words. Yet he worried constantly about how I was letting myself go, pointed out I shouldn't eat certain snacks or gain weight, complained about my preference not to wear makeup, fought to put me in "sexier outfits" ... so I'd look closer to his ideal.

He was always pushing for change.

My overall impression was that he felt I needed fixing to be presentable, and in the end his compliments couldn't reach me through the scars of everything else he thought of me.  I was unacceptable to him, and at some point I came to believe than anyone who gave me a compliment must have ulterior motives.

I sometimes wonder if the elderly church ladies noticed when I tensed up under their comments. "You're so pretty!" "You look so good in that outfit!"

"Why don't they compliment something more intrinsically who I am?" I used to sigh.

I couldn't take them seriously as anything other than nice people offering social flattery. But it turns out I have a hard time accepting compliments on my thoughts or actions, too. I still freeze up when Nick compliments me on an insight or thanks me for help, even though I know without a doubt that he's 100% sincere. 

I feel like explaining or apologizing for somehow misrepresenting myself as having value.  It took a lot of work to learn to simply say "thank you" and even longer to realize people are sincere.

So when my new friend D recently told me straight out, "You are objectively beautiful....You could be a model." I felt that internal shield blaze up under the challenge of his words. He became a suspicious person before my eyes. It took a moment to quell that sudden push-back, and I took the easy way out by reminding myself he's an artist.  Artist's are allowed to have good imaginations, right?... and to see value where others do not.... 

I'm still learning to make space for the things I struggle to believe by repeating the new story people live out for me. It takes time and experience to replace the ingrained, habitual thought pattern. I have to consciously take compliments out of the spam folder in my mind, dust them off, and recognize them as serious input. 

Do I trust D?... I don't know him well enough to do so without hesitation.

However, I'm not going to learn whether he is trustworthy by tagging him "suspicious" over a simple compliment. I've learned it's better to give people space to be who they are, and to recognize their complexity as innate. He has many friends, and I think part of that is because he informs people when he appreciates something about them. 

I'm actually more worried about being rejected for who I am.... If I link D to this blog what will he think of me? His response won't change what I'm learning from our interaction now, though ...

I wonder why it even feels important. I told Ree the other day that maybe this is what bothers me....


Why on earth does this self-awareness that is only a value-less comparison to air-brushed ideals prevent me from interacting with people without those thoughts intruding? It would be good to feel comfortable with my body like I am with my clothing style.... Only in this case, I have what I was given from birth. I don't want my kids to see themselves this way. I want to demonstrate a better path.

The only thing I can change is my perspective.

I became confident in social situations by acting confident and learning I can pull it off.

I made friends by trusting and caring first, until I found those who would not betray me. 

This is one of the reasons I choose to model for friends's art and take self-portraits. If I put myself out there in a place where my view might be challenged, I can see myself through other eyes.

I like what my friends see ... so eventually, I may find a new perspective through the art they make and the words they speak.

Until then ... I'll keep wondering and over-thinking it, because that is what happens between not-knowing and knowing ... and KNOWING. I suppose it's a sign of growth that I'm even willing to challenge this long-held view of myself. 

I model for Miha from time to time.... (because she's my best friend, and I trust her.) She has been working to gradually erode my resistance. D's compliments have taken their place as external confirmation of her words.

Maybe I will see myself as art someday ... or maybe it has already started. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Living the infinite JOURNEY in 2014

Last year was a year of letting go the past, of reaching and failing, of trying again and realizing I already had what I needed.

This year my word for the year is


Because I'm already moving and I want to keep going.

Because I don't want to change my life, I want to explore it.

Because I'm not resolving to do or to be anything other than who and what I already am. Only more so ... and more ... until I forget what it is like to TRY to be myself and simply AM by design.

My journey teaches me who I must be by exposing me to new situations and unveiling the responses already ingrained. It gathers experiences into my mind and collates and conjoins them in sometimes-inappropriate ways.

I'm not setting goals.

I'm finding them by traveling unexpected pathways and involving myself in unforeseen events, always with a personal intentionality to expand who I am within reality where it is uncovered most naturally in every day choices.

I aspire to be myself now, wherever I am, to bring my particular nexus of experience and ideas in exchange for connection with yours, theirs, hers, his,... OUR visions woven in possibilities and practicalities.

This journey is infinite, and so am I. (Finite and Infinite Games, by Carse ... Read it!)

So I will learn and change and grow every breath of every day so time will track the differences in quick moments flowing fast. There are no limits to what might be open to me if I open my eyes to see.

There is no end to this journey. If I think I've arrived, then I've fallen again.

I wonder who I will be next year? and the next? and the next?

I've found a path of discovery, and I've been traveling for a much longer time than I once understood. You are, too. You don't even need to try.

Just notice the changes as time pulls you through life, and when you see an opportunity to be yourself ... live it.


This post is linked to the writing prompt, below.
Click through the image to read more articles on the topic.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

He doesn't say what I expect him to say ...

"It's not that I don't want you to pay me," I told him.

"Just don't tell me you're paying me ahead of time, and then I don't mind if you give me whatever you think it's worth after I'm done, since I'd do this to help you anyway."

Nick fell silent for a moment and the phone-line hissed as he exhaled. "I can't figure you out. Why can't I just tell you I'll pay you to help me as my manager?... Might have to sleep on this one and talk about it tomorrow." 

As he pondered over his dilemma, I tried to figure out why he was so confused. Why is it so difficult to understand that I'm actually de-motivated by money,... by official transactions of any kind, really? 

Of course, being my perspective, it naturally makes sense to me ... or, at least, it did until I asked myself why I think this way. 

Is there a difference in how I would invest my effort between me volunteering to help him out with paperwork and calls and him asking me to do these things for pay? 

Wouldn't I be doing the same work for the same reasons, with the bonus of a financial reward? 

It's not like him paying me actually makes me less willing to help, does it?

I don't mind him paying me after the fact, so why can't I accept the agreement?

I don't remember what Nick finally said that made me realize what was going on, but it suddenly clicked in my head. Sure, this way of thinking is normal for me. I've been doing it for years, in all sorts of situations. It's one of the reasons I don't have a regular income ... aside from the state of my health. 

But it isn't necessarily normal to think this way. (Really?)

I have been actively avoiding any official responsibility for helping Nick, while putting in as much effort as I would if I were working for him. I do the same when I help any of my friends with their businesses.

This mentality is actually one of the emotional landmines I've been running into for a longer time than I can remember. 

It doesn't come with panic attacks and nightmares, but rather such a subtle effect that I've been looking at my resistance to "promised pay" until after I've completed my "volunteered work" for years without understanding that it's even a problem. 

It's easy to disguise this landmine as spontaneous generosity, since I do enjoy helping people. I've explained it that way for years. Most people look at me funny, then shrug and go along with it. They don't care if they're paying me for work I've already completed, since they intended to pay me all along. 

However, if my "enjoyment of helping" was the full story, then I wouldn't struggle to keep working when people pay me in advance or ask me to be officially in charge of something. I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed at the mere idea of responsibility. 


X (and I) supported ourselves with an online business for several years, early in our marriage. He called it his business, but all the less glamorous aspects gradually became my responsibility, since he had no intention of putting in the time for them and I was conveniently available to help for free. 

I had struggled with housework from the beginning, and two toddlers overwhelmed me further (especially since his mother had apparently been capable of having small children while maintaining gleaming glass and chrome furniture. You can imagine how the comparisons went from there.) 

I often dropped into a fog of timeless incomprehension that I have now learned is a symptom of complete emotional overload that would have set off emergency alarms with anyone trained in psychology.

However, building the business was interesting, and I offered to help early on. I enjoyed the article writing, site design, e-book construction, copy editing, etc. At first I was glad to supplement his efforts, because for once he was grateful for me. Even if he was upset about a mess around the house, he would be pleased with my help on the websites because he hadn't expected it of me, and my help was valuable to him. 

Then the workload grew heavier and heavier. I began to struggle to keep up as X gave me long lists of things to write, research, build, edit, confirm, and on and on. 

His anger about the state of the apartment continued, even when he knew I was spending long hours working on "his business" ... yet he continued to leave those chores to me as well. If X stepped in to help it was with the expectation that I would then maintain the area he cleaned to his standards, in return for his grand gesture of assisting the hopeless. 

His gratitude for my unexpected help with the business quickly became a long list of expectations, and then demands I couldn't fulfill because I didn't know how. When he didn't make as much money as expected or when something went wrong, X raged at me, sometimes for weeks. Some things came up again and again for years. 

Every failure and inability became a weapon against me, and I believed I deserved it. Eventually my health degraded to the point where I couldn't even try to help. Even though he still blamed me for failing him, I felt relieved. I was suffering anyway, but at least then it was for something I hadn't even tried to do, not for doing my best and still not being enough. 


Last night as I spoke on the phone with Nick, he asked a question that suddenly made me remember those years and years of effort. As I did my best to explain those experiences to him, he surprised me by getting it ... even before I completely understood why I was remembering those times just then.

"Oh, I've been accidentally triggering those feelings, haven't I?" His voice was so gentle that I almost cried. "I could sense something was off in your hesitation, and I think that's it."

Even now, as I type, my eyes fill with tears at the memory of that moment. 

"It's okay." He continued. "You just need practice." 

My mind immediately progressed to how I would learn to be confident enough about helping him that I wouldn't feel overwhelmed by any task. I would keep trying!

What he said next was completely unexpected. "Just tell me 'No' as much as you want...."

"What?" I couldn't have heard him right. 

He continued quietly, "I have a hard time saying 'No' sometimes, too, but it helps to practice." 

I couldn't figure out what to say to that. Why would I tell him "no" when I want to help? 

"I'll just ask you to explain how to do it until I feel confident," I suggested.

"Hmm ... that's fine, too. But I want you to say 'NO' as an experiment. Find opportunities to say it, and see how I respond." He sounded so calm--so accepting--that I could hardly believe this was a real conversation. "You can tell me you don't want to do anything, and I'll understand. Tell me 'No!' until you really believe that it's okay and feel comfortable saying it." 

I'm still realizing the implications of his words.

He didn't say what I expect him to say! 

"You can do it!" 

"Keep trying!"

"I'll help you learn how!"

Instead, he told me I could stop any time. 


In contrast, I realized again that what I expect of men ... of people in general ... is really, truly awful. 

Inevitably selfish expectations first. 

I insist on being spontaneous in giving my time and effort because I don't ever want anyone to stand over me, expecting I do more than I thought I was offering to do, yelling, angry, upset because I haven't done it right or didn't finish in time. 

I don't want to disappoint anyone, because that disappointment calls up the old pain.

It's easier to make sure nobody depends on me for anything.


The truth is, I really don't HAVE TO do anything? 

I can change my mind, stop, say "no" ... and life will go on. I'm still trying to understand how this realization could change my world. Nick is probably going to have to remind me a lot, until it sinks in. 

It's okay to take responsibility for helping someone and to still say "no more" if it becomes too much. 

It's okay to set limits even when I'm officially being paid to manage online communications. 

It's okay to ask for help. 

It's okay not to understand how to do something and even to choose not to learn how if I don't want to. 

It's okay to say, "I can't do this." 

It's okay to be overwhelmed. 

It's okay to be Nick's "official manager" and it won't prevent us from being friends. 

I can act from generosity even if I'm being paid.... or, at least, that is what I think I'm discovering. 


Just the thought of having someone depend on me makes me so terrified that I want to run and hide. 

I have a commission right now that I want to complete. It's an interesting project. And I haven't started,... because it is a commission ... so I'm afraid there are expectations I won't meet.

The worst that can possibly happen is she'll say it's not for her and then I won't ask her to pay for it. She is definitely not going to be angry. Why would that thought stop me? I do this type of thing for free all the time.

I think I'll go play with that project now. It should be fun. 

Let's see if I can get past this fear.