February has ground its final days into the mud, in case you haven’t noticed, which means that my husband is boss again and we are heading into my least favorite month of the year. Where I live, we expect warmth in March and get blasted with blizzard. But March will take us thirty-one days closer to spring in Crawford County, which is always a good thing.
I’m ready to report on my goals for the past month! And I’m going to do it in two posts. For today, I’m talking about my chosen abstinence for February: giving up people pleasing. I replaced it with autonomy – that is, the perfect freedom to choose my own actions and responses. At first, I wondered how to measure this goal. Then I started keeping a running list of tiny successes, and it gave me exactly what I was going for.
I’m going to share my list with you here. [They wait with bated breath.]
If you are a born peacemaker and empathizer, like me, you will identify with some of what I am talking about. If you are not, no amount of explaining will do, so I’m going to leave that right here instead of trying to preempt your laughter or alarm. (Except for this part, which I already did. Oops.)
For me, a list like this constitutes a significant series of triumphs.
Giving Up People Pleasing
- I again requested money that was owed to me two and a half months ago.
- I said no to an enjoyable opportunity to serve, that I knew I couldn’t afford.
- I apologized once instead of three times.
- When I was annoyed about a personal jab, I kept my response short instead of making it flowery so they would think I was not annoyed with them.
- I told a colleague how discouraged I temporarily was about the future of a project we are team-playing on.
- I stopped checking back in with everyone I had conversations with, to make sure they were okay and what I had said was taken the right way.
- I talked very clearly with a professional about something that was not working for me.
- I did not call my grandma on her birthday. I had already sent her a card, and we’d had two phone conversations in the past week. I called it well connected, and I called it enough.
- I did not offer to host guests when I didn’t feel able to.
- I said a clear no to babysitting when it didn’t suit.
- When I missed an appointment, I was straight-up honest about why. (“I’m sorry! I lay down for a nap and forgot all about it.”)
- I asked for help.
- I told my husband kinda respectfully but also bluntly when I was really, really mad about a decision he’d made regarding one of our children. Instead of walking away I did this. Soon after, he was telling me what he was willing to do if the worst happened as a result of his judgment call, and I was telling him I appreciated it and I loved him, and we meant it and were gentle to each other.
- I listened to someone talk about their hard things without taking it on myself to heal their situation.
- I said out loud that I wasn’t ready to talk about it.
- I asked for a favor I didn’t think would be granted. (It wasn’t. But we coped fine.)
- I called to reschedule an appointment I’d already confirmed.
- I let myself get indebted to a good friend, who had already blessed us richly the week before. When she asked if I needed anything this week I said yes. Diapers. She brought a copious amount, and threw in a family-size pack of Oreos. I love her.
- I turned away from a conversation I was done with.
- I answered honestly. She said, “Call me if you need me.” I said, “Okay.” She asked, “Really? You’ll do that?” and I laughed and said, “No. I won’t.” Which was true. I told her I can recognize my need, I can even admit my need, but asking for help is hard. She said, “As long as we know that about each other. Me too.”
- I reached out to someone who intimidates me.
- When I didn’t have anything to say that time, I didn’t say it.
- I said the hard words to my child when I needed to.
- I stopped explaining myself so much. Just smiled.
- I made a phone call to say, “Something you said is bothering me. Can we chat? This is how I felt.”
- I waited to sign up until the service opportunity was filled, this time.
- I chose not to apologize for a pain I did not cause.
- I did not try to “get on the team” when someone was upset about an issue I could not control.
- I tried something that I might fail at, in front of others. (I succeeded! Yay!)
- I talked about feelings I was ashamed of.
- I answered a newcomer honestly but with less information than was desired, because I didn’t trust him.
- I left my house in a pair of socks that clashed outrageously with my dress, because they were warm and I was wearing them. And I did not even mention them apologetically to the person I spent time with.
- I moved into a place where I was unsure of myself relationally, and let it be uncomfortable.
- When a stranger stopped me to offer me hushed and unsolicited advice on what SHE has done regarding masking ever since this whole thing STARTED, I said simply, “That’s your choice,” and moved away.
- I admitted need and asked for my community’s help in a big, very public way.
- I did not promise to do what I was uncomfortable with, when someone I did not know was pushing me about it. I said, “I’ll see,” and walked on.
- I pushed back courteously on changes I disliked.
- I stopped trying so hard to make things okay in a painful situation – and I saw Jesus work dramatically.
- I said, “I’m disappointed. But it’s our fault too.”
- I wrote emails in the short form I could get around to, instead of the long form that would have been more enjoyable and satisfying for my friends.
- I bragged about myself extensively on a blog that is committed to confession. Hahahahaha.
So that’s how my abstinence went. In no way did I become a whole different person, but I measured some concrete baby steps.
(What is a concrete baby? No idea.)
I consider the experiment a full-on success.
But you guys. The abstinence I chose for March was giving up LUNCH. What was I thinking?! My plan is to eat a healthy light snack when needed, as late as 10:30 am or as early as 2:30 pm, but to skip lunch as a meal. Do any of you want to join me, for moral support or your own edification? Even a day here and there? If you do, let me know! Help wanted.
Oh, some smarty pants is going to tell me she always skips lunch, and likes it that way? Well, power to you. For my part, I can honestly say that skipping meals has never been my strong suit.
Folks, this is not going to be pretty.