I tend to think of myself as someone who speaks my mind fairy easily. So I’ve been quite surprised by my recent foray into a whole new realm of truth-telling (not as opposed to lying, which I haven’t done in years, but as opposed to keeping quiet about how I feel), because it’s shown me that I’m not nearly as good at it as I thought.
Not everyone is pleased by hearing my truth. I guess there’s no such thing as a world where you can say what you mean and enjoy everyone’s approval. And that, I think, is the real bottom line on speaking up. I guess it just boils down to this one key question: How much do you care what others think of you? More than I thought, I guess, but I’m doing it anyway. Because once you pull the covers off a pattern like that, there’s just no going home again.
Though it’s not the most dramatic recent example, today two people, two total strangers, emailed me for the first time ever and asked me to mail them a free book. One was in Russia, the other in Brazil. Ever mailed anything to Russia or Brazil? It’s not cheap.
I did something I almost never do in this situation. I said, with regrets, that I couldn’t.
Maybe I’m still weighed down with the burden of being that “Pay It Forward person.” She has to be nice, right? But Paying It Forward is about spontaneously offering favors, not needing to say yes when someone asks too much of you. And also, it’s about Kindness rather than niceness. There’s a difference. Kindness is spontaneous and real. Niceness just mostly wants to be liked.
Many years ago, when I lived in L.A., there was a little mom and pop store on the corner. Behind the register was a hand-done sign. Here’s what it said:
You ask for credit, I say no, you get mad.
I give you credit, you don’t pay, I get mad.
Better you get mad.
Life is full of moments when two people’s needs are in conflict. Someone is going to be unhappy. If I speak up, it will be the other person. If I don’t, it will be me.
I guess I’m wondering why I spent all those years choosing me.
Yeah, I know, this is not about writing. Just a musing about life. I went back and forth a lot about whether I should blog it. The reason I did is because I suspect I’m not the only person in the world who struggles with this stuff.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.