Sunday, October 7, 2012

asking and accepting

There is a story, an anecdote my mother has told on occasion  I was too young to remember this, but apparently once, when I was three or four, I was taken out with my mother and grandmother as they ran errands. At one point, we were in front of a store, and I saw a doll I really wanted, and asked my mother for it. She said no, we cannot afford that. Ok, I replied, and dropped it. Apparently my grandmother was so impressed that I didn't beg or plead or throw a tantrum, that I was so well-behaved about it, that she went into the store and got the doll for me as a reward.

Pretty story, right? To me it will always bittersweet. I don't remember those events, but I do remember this: my entire childhood and well beyond, having this intense guilt and inability to ask for things. Material things, sure: I would trail behind my parents in stores, and well after we'd gotten to the point where they could afford to by me small things, I would nonetheless pick something up, look longingly, hoping my mother might notice, ask if I wanted that, and take my hesitant 'maybe...' as what it was, a yes, please, I do. And if most of the time she did not, then I would put whatever it was down, walk away. Asking was taboo. Asking was being needy, burdensome, wrong

It's easier, as you get older, as you painstakingly acquaint yourself with etiquette and unspoken social rules, to learn how to ask for physical things in appropriate contexts - though I can't even begin to enumerate how many times people have gotten frustrated with me for not speaking up clearly about what it is that I wanted.

Much harder to speak about more serious things, more personal things. There are issues I have struggled with for years and years that I have never had a serious conversation with my closest friends about, because...listen to me talk about how unhappy I am, listen to my troubles, help me feels too much like that image in the seven of swords. Being annoying, taking away from their time, their sympathy reserves.

Giving to poor strangers, that kind Six of Coins generosity... it seems easier in some ways because it is fleeting; you don't expect to seem them again, have no reason to feel obliged to keep giving, day after day. I don't want to be the kind of friend always making demands on others' emotional energy, or time.

It seems like in some ways it really is easier to learn to give that to receive gracefully. I know how to do that in small ways, enough so that I don't think my relationships with others feel unbalanced to either party. But for the really serious issues...that old sense of guilt, as if by asking I would be that sword thief, running away with the goods. Is there a logical reason to try anyway?

Balance, balance. Search for it.


Barefoot Fool said...

I once told one of my closest friends something that I was too afraid to tell anyone. It was real hard, because I was afraid of her judgment. Her reaction was compassionate instead of judgmental. Her acceptance was such a wonderful gift. Maybe not telling (or asking) is the thief, and you run away with the possibility of deeper friendship, & telling (or asking) is empowering someone else to be the lady in the 6 of coins.

But I'm such an introvert. What do I know about communication?

Inner Whispers said...

Oh my, such a sting in this post it hurt to read! I think many people find it easier to give than to receive, which is hard because then who does the receiving? Love what Barefoot Fool said!

Bonkers said...

BF: quite a it apparently. i really like that metaphor :]

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