A friend was telling me about how hard it is for her to ask her family for what she wants. “I mumble and kinda slide from the room, hoping I can get upstairs to my writing before anyone asks me for something.”
I got halfway up from my chair and mimicked creeping from the room. We shared a loud long guffaw.
I laughed the loudest of all.
Because my golly gosh is it hard for me sometimes to ask for what I want.
Societal conditioning, being mansplained and interrupted, racism, sexism, colonialism, being shamed, being labeled a selfish bitch, sure that’s part of the reason it can be hard for us to speak up and…
…there is also the fear of naming what you want, of taking it seriously.
My friend, the brilliant journalist Brigid Schulte, wrote an article that went viral and read, “I wonder if that searing middle-of-the-night pain that, at times, settles like dread around my solar plexus may not only be because there’s so little unbroken time to tell my own untold stories, but because I’m afraid that what may be coiled inside may not be worth paying attention to anyway.”
Asking for what you want means bucking societal bullshit, and it means declaring your desires are worth paying attention to no matter what.
When is the last time you asked for what you wanted without hemming and hawing or waiting until everybody else got what they wanted first?
When is the last time you asked your sister, “I want to go for a hike on Saturday morning, can you visit mom this weekend instead of me?” Instead of, “Do you think maybe some Saturday, if it’s okay with you, and it’s not too much, you could take mom?”
Or you start to have sex with your partner and she or he asks you what you’re in the mood for and you say, “Whatever you want,” but you really have something very specific in mind?
Or you’ve decided to write a book but you know that means changing things up in the family, who does childcare/ eldercare /cooking /cleaning but you keep putting off talking to your peeps instead you make passive slightly aggressive jabs about who does the most.
Or maybe you are superb at asking for what you want at work but not so much for your creative life or your health. We all have areas of our lives where owning our desires and power is more comfortable.
Here’s an idea: what if we expand our range of asking?
What if we start asking clearly and boldly for what we want?
Even if it makes us squirm. Blush. Stumble.
We can slow down and remind ourselves no one is going to die if we make our wants clear.
We can take the time to get the other person’s attention.
We can practice making sure we are asking, not demanding, reminding ourselves they can say no, they can make a different suggestion, and that doesn’t negate our desires or mean we can’t get support in another way.
Let us stretch to let ourselves know what we want, and then own it in front of someone we trust.
Every time we do this, we feel so much more alive. Like Lizzo, Kamala Harris, Lady Gaga, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg combined.
From whom could you make one clear bold request today?
Clear requests save time, they save heartache, they cut down on confusion, but most of all, they say “My desires matter!”
Which means you get your bother on more and more.
And that is worth some discomfort, don’t you think?