Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding the right path

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Yesterday's battle of the psyche came from the fact that people and things have been bouncing up and down on my addiction/depression triggers like a very springy trampoline.  Every time I turn around, someone is hitting a trigger that makes me want to reach for my Valium bottle, but inside my head a little voice tells me "No."

I think it's remarkable sometimes how I've lived my life never really saying "no" to anyone.  The only person I've really ever said "no" to was myself.  As in, "No, I need to be helpful,"  "No, don't be selfish,"  "No, don't think like everyone else," "No, don't be a sheep, don't follow, lead."  I often stop myself from doing horribly stupid things by telling myself no, but remarkably, I've never really told anyone a whopping "no" before.

Last night, when I arrived at my Mom's house for dinner (you just have to love Christmas dinner leftovers), I asked her very simply, "Mom, is it ok to tell your friends 'no', that you don't want to do what they're doing?"  She stood quietly for a moment and said, "It's perfectly alright to tell someone 'no'. If they're really your friends, they'll understand if you tell them "no" once in a while.  But to be honest, in our family, we never really have told anyone "no," even when we should have."

Now all of this sprung from a favorite film/topic of mine, yes, sigh with me, we're back to Eat, Pray, Love.  Yep, and one more for the fire, because you know I'm curious as to what her audience is going to do without her, Oprah, and her special on Eat, Pray, Love back in 2007.   When I surfed through the webpage about it, I found this neat little piece of advice from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love and she said this:

"Learn to say no. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do in one day and one life."

To me, that's poignant.  That spoke to me on such an enormous level.  I am realizing that I have the debilitating inability to tell people "no."  It's the truth.  Lots of people have seen me struggle with it, when night after night, my screen would light up in pink with whisper after whisper in World of Warcraft when people wanted someone to listen to them when they felt ignored, or give them advice or just talk about their day, they always came to see me because they knew I would never tell them "no."

The "Sheri won't tell me no" mindset, that I'm very much responsible for people having (it's because I'm so sweet you, also resulted in 15 different individuals all running to me and talking to me at the exact same time.  You want to talk headache?  Try wading through the thoughts of 15 different individuals simultaneously and giving good, quality answers to each and every one of them.  That was a day from hell, but it also kicks back to Elizabeth Gilbert's idea that I now have to force myself to realize what I can and cannot do in a day.  I've painfully learned that I can't take care of that many people simultaneously because it stresses me out, resulting in a longing glare at the pill bottle.  Tack that on to having to explain the actions, or rather inactions of others to individuals demanding answers to questions I don't know the answer to, and I know you're with me, you'd want that pill bottle too.  It all equals nervous breakdown in the end, in which we remember Barry's wise suggestion about not making other people's drama my own.  Some people just need to be told "not now" or "bugger off"...but I digress...

My inability to tell people "no" has been the source of a lot of my problems.  When you don't say "no," guess what happens?  Everyone assumes that you're a doormat.  They assume that they can get away with practically anything because they assume they'll never be told "no," and don't give a second thought that they may be asking for too much.  It's like a small child saying "gimme, gimme, gimme" all the time and when the "no" finally comes, they kick and scream their heads off because they've been constantly spoiled by always being told, "yes," or "whatever you'd like."

I holler and scream at the word "no" when it comes in the context of being told I'm incapable of doing something, such as being able to cook a meal to perfection or win a One Show Pencil because I'm too old, even being told I can't tank or dps because I'm a girl or because my toon is a druid or any number of cruel things people tell you "no" about because they simply don't believe you're capable of it.  Otherwise, if I'm told "no" about anything else, such as, "can I talk to you for a moment," or "can we try this method," etc., I'm usually very understanding and take it with a grain of salt and drop it.  It isn't a big deal when I'm sincerely told, "no" with valid reasons to back it up.  I'm not unreasonable ya know...

But, if I'm not unreasonable when someone tells me "no," why all of a sudden is it a big deal if I put my foot down and say it myself?  I've got valid, educated reasons for saying "no", so why should it surprise someone if I say it?  Well, it goes back to my usual inability to say "no," which leads to headaches, heartbreaks, drama and all sorts of other crap I obsess about because I didn't tell someone "no" because my heart is too damn big and I never want to be seen as someone who won't help someone else in need.

To be honest, I remember getting the crap kicked out of me as a kid because I told an adult that I "wasn't going to do something."  To be honest, I can't even begin to remember what I did, but I remember it being jammed in my head that you never tell someone "no," that you're "not going to do something" because it's disrespectful, when you're asked to do something, you jump through the hoops to get it done, come hell or high water.  I think that's where the whole problem started, but to be honest, I'm loved and adored by lots of people because I didn't tell them "no."  I guess those folks just asked the right favor at the right time and didn't take advantage of my generosity of spirit.

Last night Mother reminded me that you can't go through life just telling people "yes" all the time because they'll inevitably take you for granted, followed by becoming the proverbial doormat I wrote about earlier.  I have to laugh at that, because Mom said it just right last night, that "people will take advantage at the drop of a hat when you're generous.  They use people and dump all their problems out on you because they've got nowhere else to take it or put it."  They're more about taking than giving.  Part of me says those types of folks are so spiritually bankrupt that they stick to people like a remora on a shark's belly picking up the excess things to feed off of because they have no skills to go out and find life's rich nutritional value on their own, so they feed off of others and wear them out, then move on to another person to do it for them instead of reaching down deep and doing it for themselves.  I guess "parasite" would be too strong of a word, but in a way, all of those people who just decide to hang on someone else because they don't have their own way of getting through life without using someone else to an extreme I guess would be some sort of parasitic tendency.

Since April of 2009, I've been on Emerson's quest, to not follow along like a sheep or take an easy, well worn road.  I'm always looking for the path that isn't there so that way I can blaze my own trail without sorrow or regret.  I've always been a trailblazer, I've never really ever been a follower, and thinking about what Barry said the other day, he's right, I'm a constructor of empires.  I like building huge structures which house brilliant ideas, high moral ground and a family structure.  That's what I do.  I like folks to come together and rely on each other, trust each other and damn it, I want them to believe in each other.  When hurts come, it's the sign to dig in and gut it out, have the fight, finish it with a hug and go back to the business of being a family.

BUT, and here comes the caveat (you know the other shoe had to drop), I build it through the trust I build with others from my unquestioning belief in them.  I have repeated it so many times, I know you know what I'm going to say, "Leadership is about support," amen, hallelujah, and pass the collection plate...gosh, how many times have I preached and lived that gospel?  My support for other folks is always expressed in a "I believe in you," and my "Relax, breathe and pretend I'm Oprah" openness that welcomes everyone in for cookies, candy and all of the rich nutritional value of the good feelings that come from feeling at home.  It's all rooted in my "if you're laughing, you're learning" approach to teaching, when things are fun and the people around you have nothing but good things to share with you, barring the occasional up-and-down movement of life, it all turns out pretty peachy.  After all, isn't life supposed to be fun?  Aren't we supposed to be getting the most out of our lives and just not "getting through it"?  Where is the moment where we blaze our own trail just by standing up and being counted because we have the courage and the fortitude to put our foot down and say NO, yet are still respected for our generosity and our willingness to go the extra mile for others.

Wait, tangent.  "The Extra Mile."  Why are the people who DO go that extra mile so rare?  Is that what makes us into doormats?  Because we actually CARE about other human beings?  If that's the case, that's just sad.  So sad, in fact, that I can't express it without a long string of really bad language.  F'ing pathetic is the first phrase that comes to mind...please feel free to add others...

Back to topic...We all know you can't go through your life telling everyone "no," but you sure as heck can moderate when you say "yes," because it can't be all the time.  Trust me, I've said "yes" so many times when it should have been "no" that it has resulted in never-ending, incessant IM's, whispers, e-mails, and so forth that have worn me down to the nub too many times to count.

That's why I'm so busy on this little journey of mine, trying (which sometimes seems in vain) to find the right path, or rather lack of one, so I can make my own.

The point is, there's nothing wrong with saying "no", just as long as your honest with yourself as Liz Gilbert describes, being realistic about what you can and can't do in a day or in a lifetime.

Not too long ago, I spent an entire evening in WoW with my status set to "busy".  Some of you may remember that.  It was a peace unlike anything I'd ever felt.  I was overjoyed and got so much done I couldn't believe it because I simply put out a blanket "no."  But a blanket doesn't hide the problem any better than sweeping dust under a rug.  It doesn't solve my inability to say "no" to people.  Damn, maybe my heart is too damn big.

I have all sorts of regrets about not saying "no," like the other night when I didn't like how things were going, I should have slammed my foot down, said "no," added a "hell no" along with Barry's colorful explicatives and walked out the door, but I didn't.  I sat there getting trod upon when I should have had the common sense to stand up and call "bullshit" on the whole deal.  I'm more angry at myself for not doing that than I am at the guys who stepped on me.  I didn't say "no" when I should have, to my eternal shame.  I should have said "no" when I was told I had to heal and not do damage in WoW. (I'm a cat goddamn it! LOL)  I should have told so many people to stick it where the sun doesn't shine but instead I helped them right along and smiled as they left treadmarks on my back from rolling over me.  Something's just got to give, but I don't want to be a cast iron bitch either...

So, I've got to learn how to say "no."  To stand up and holler "kiss my a**" (but still offer a positive solution) when I know things aren't right and not always go that extra mile for others.  I need to save that "extra mile" mentality for me, because last time I checked, there are but very few who do that for me.  Why not give myself that little extra mile?  Why not save that pep talk for myself because I KNOW for a fact that the people who do need to listen, aren't.  Why not say "no" to the people who take me for granted and give them  a side helping of "kiss my a**"?  It's definitely not me saying "what's in it for me," it's me saying, "you need to take care of your own business because it's not mine to deal with," or a "take out your own damn garbage" or a "carry your own damn bags, what do I look like, your own personal bellhop?"

KP has been on my butt to say "no" for so long.  I mean the man has chased me up the proverbial tree always telling me, "don't put up with that," "don't let people walk over ya," and so forth.  Moral of the story, outside of first listening to my own heart, rule number two is "always listen to KP and Barry" because they're usually right.

Well, come New Year's Day, there's going to be quite the few people being told "no," if not "hell no."  It's time for me to start cutting that path.  I've always believed in maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses, and to me, the best place to start minimizing those weaknesses is by turning those weaknesses into strengths.  After all, the chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, right?

I guess I should warn folks then, I figure it's the only proper and polite thing to do...For those of you who found it necessary to dump all the hard stuff on me, guess what, I'm not doing it anymore.  So the next time your ego takes a beating, don't look to me, because if you ask for an ice pack for your bruised ego and expect me to make everything better and clean up the mess YOU made, you're going to hear only one word...


And you may possibly receive a not-so-kind piece of my mind as a nice healthy kick in the pants bonus.

Because if there's one lesson in life I've learned, sometimes, you've got to suck it up and take care of things on your own because it's not going to get done unless YOU do it.  And THAT is blazing your own path, which, according to Emerson, and a whole lot of other stoic philosophers out there, is a very good thing.

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