Standing your ground can come at a steep price, but you will never regret it.
We’re there, you and me. All our lives, accommodating. Using time and energy because we care about other people. It makes you feel like a doormat sometimes, doesn’t it? But you understand everyone goes through ordeals, and hey, I don’t judge. I’m betting you don’t either if you’re a giver. So we continue to try and understand, to extend ourselves to our own detriment, and in a weird way, it still feels good.
Due to the crazy emotions of never believing I was enough, of needing to prove myself, I lived in that place. Then a couple of weeks ago when I’d had enough, I left.
The shift in offering help to taking hits from disgruntled people was imperceptible, but not. A wavelength, a hair’s width of an energy field moved within me until a crack appeared in my force field, which let others in I would usually turn away. Suddenly, I got sucked in to drama. Three people did the sucking to be exact.
I became stressed out, sick and buried under a pile of their work.
I tried to help the first person with a project. Could do nothing right, then was charged with doing too much. I became stressed out, sick and buried under a pile of their work. With more calm than felt possible, I suggested we call our situation a learning experience of what not to do. Let’s agree to disagree, I typed in a careful email. I added a wish also to be allowed peaceful moments to de-stress before the recipient replied. Nope, my request was ignored. One red-hot poker response received in mere seconds. Stress elevated.
On to the next person. No, I couldn’t be there (the words were foreign—I nearly had to rehearse them). I couldn’t be there in any way. Underscored. Nope, I wouldn’t spare the energy as I was still trying to heal from transverse myelitis (multiple sclerosis’ ugly sister). I advised this person to find the strength harbored inside themselves to solve the playground scuffle they had allowed into their middle-aged life. They simply needed to believe the power was there and unleash it into a solution, I said. Further, I advised the dramaphite (not her first rodeo), that they held the power to prevent such clashes in their life in the future. My short-term future that followed as soon as the last letter came off the keyboard? Roasted on a spit. That’s okay. It’s why Yahoo invented filters.
My energy, devolving into a dilapidated flag rattling in a gale-force wind would remain vulnerable as long as I let it. No one was going to call me to come into shelter. I had to remove myself.
Emerging cool, crisp and unapologetically unfeeling, my exit was at least satisfying.
The third, insidious and sneaky, got past me like a plodding, persistent snake. Fool me once, Shame on me. A constant pecking vibration emanating from this person tore me apart via email again (I’m sensing a trend of hiding behind the screen?), trashed my competencies and hammered at my very capable mind during phone calls, even though I know I am a steel trap, dammit. Throughout their transparent tirade, I maintained professionalism, didn’t bend under pressure to burst, despite the slow squeeze this high-level executive put on me. Emerging cool, crisp and unapologetically unfeeling, my exit was at least satisfying.
Still, the altercations were shocking because in each case I’d told people to respect my boundaries and my thready fading energy. (As every shrink recommends). I never use the phrase “I have a disease” to preface any sentence. I hardly use my handicap placard because people give me a glittery, hard eyeball when I dare to walk without my cane on a rare, good day. But in these instances I’d clearly communicated what I needed and what I wouldn’t allow. I had to because my body demanded it. I couldn’t endure anymore wheedling, whining or martyrdom. I couldn’t endure noxious fumes rolling off the interactions I was permitting. My focus needed to remain healing. Yeah, I’d been whitewashed in naiveté that people actually got offended when I expressed my needs, which translated into NO SOUP FOR YOU aka no emotional caretaking, codependency for you! I am still unpleasantly surprised people can be so mean. Yes, I sound like I’m eleven years old, but that’s what it made me remember, fifth grade…the degrading of adult communication torn down to such an elemental level. It’s another reason I refused to engage. I am not eleven years old.
After my piece had been said, I quickly returned to the task at hand: finding the hole in my boundaries and fixing it. Major repair was needed as it seemed someone had launched an IED right into a chink between the mortar and the brick! I called in for backup, my support system, and by the end of the week, my wall had been mended. I’d deleted emails and messages before even reading them, blocked people; I’d pushed out the negative energy into the air, hoping it would dissipate.
In that week, I also faced my own limitations. I am not good at coaching people who are closed off and have no intention of changing their hurtful behaviors. I can’t tolerate drama even if it means growth…eventually. As a result, I’m determined to bud in different ways. And I will, like a plant placed in a window, stretch toward the sunlight instead. It’s homier, up here anyway, reaching toward the sky, my limbs bathed in healing rays.
I can opt out of the game at any time, especially if it’s a lesson I don’t want to learn again. You can, too.
None of this means you shouldn’t say no. It means you should! Since I have blocked such negative vibrations, timely and exciting opportunities have materialized and I am in the process of discovering my magnetism. I am in the process of understanding and change, too, as we all are so I do respect every person’s differing level and their tools. Some have more. Some have less. But even as I begin to grasp this phenomena, I can still say no. I don’t have to take bad treatment to assist another in their journey. Neither do you. I can opt out of the game at any time, especially if it’s a lesson I don’t want to learn again. You can, too.
The painful and short-lived moments from the backlash initially inspired raging and ranting as I tromped all over my porch, likely scaring the neighbors. Then I realized these pockets of time (soon to be forgotten) didn’t matter because that’s how time works. I realized I had to release in order to move ahead. Only I am responsible for my forward momentum. Only you are responsible for yours.
Standing your ground can feel similar to parting with a friend, but it’s not the same even if makes you feel alone for a minute. This type of contact comes at a steep price, a loss of friendship usually inspires much more sadness. Defending your right to healthy treatment is freeing.
When you recognize no one is permitted to put a hold on you without your permission, you will walk away, my love. You will open your lips and loudly pronounce no. You might weather a jolt or two to your system, and you may even smile in wonder at yourself, but then, because you are your gatekeeper, you will move to next.
The beautiful development? As you grow comfortable saying no to people, you will find yourself saying yes to many more opportunities. Some you could never even fathom.
Freelance Minnesota writer, author and die-hard word nerd, Hilary Lauren Jastram reads grammatical reference books in her spare time.
She is the author of Killing Karl, a story about a career killer masquerading as an everyday man, and his wife trying desperately to live in denial. She also operates J. Hill Marketing, a business specializing in digital media, copywriting and editorial services.
She cannot stop writing. She simply has no control over love. And that is what writing is … love. Like any other kind of passion.