Thursday, January 27, 2011

Never Trust a Naked Man

 I heard Maya Angelou speak here in Phoenix at Gammage Theatre a few years ago. That talented lady has been blessed with a God given ability to use words in a powerful, powerful way. Sometimes too powerful for me, and it whizzes right over my head! I was taken in with her phrase, “Never trust a naked man who wants to give you the shirt off his back”. I have thought of that quote often, and wondered exactly what did she mean, but whatever it meant, I knew it was profound at the time.

        Reflecting on that monologue that she performed here, while walking the other day, I have decided it means several things. It was my job to take care of everyone. That was a given. My Mom took care of everyone, and naturally it was my job too. In the seventies, when you graduated from high school, you either got married and made a home, which then became your job, or you went to college. I chose to get married, so it became my job to take care of my husband. As the family size increased, my responsibilities increased, as it is for most of us wives and mothers. I loved taking care of my family and there’s not a day I would change. I know I did a good job too of taking care of everyone, but myself.

        Self care is different from selfishness, I finally get that. Now that I turned fifty five, I definitely don’t want to catch that old people’s syndrome so many old timers seem to have! The all about me, entitlement, attitude you see often. I want to find a happy medium between being an isolated, stressed out, overweight, depressed  Sr. Citizen and the one who's entitled to head to the front of the line , asks for every discount under the sun, has something to say on every subject ( yikes I have done that my whole life). Maybe that’s the end result of not taking care of yourself until the end of life is visible, and the pendulum swings to far. I’m not sure.

       If people are mistreating you, misusing your time and you’re allowing it, you are cooperating in it! And wow, I’ve been good at cooperation! I have realized that when I don’t set boundaries for myself, then the kids don’t set boundaries for themselves and that’s harmful to all of us. They need to struggle and become stronger as they work out their own problems. That’s one thing Mom’s generation did well. I don’t know how many times I heard Mom say, “they made their bed now let them lie in it”! Seemed cold to me, and I never liked it… but I understand it finally after all these years. You get stronger when you are allowed to struggle. In the bible it says “even steel has to be fired to be strong”. I always liked that analogy.

        When Kerry and I got married at 18 and 20, he had a hot rod car he didn’t allow me to drive, and a stereo. I had a registered quarter horse and my little black and white 13 inch TV. Literally that’s what we had between us. I drove an old car for many years and finally got my only new car in 2007. Rarely, do I drive that car that I don’t remember the days of being stalled at stoplights, or rumbling up beside someone in a newer car avoiding looking over because I was ashamed of my vehicle. Driving a pickup truck with a rod through the floor instead of a shift knob helps me appreciate and thank God for my car now! I have even kissed the steering wheel and said thank you God for blessing me with this car! More than once I’ve done that! The struggle didn’t hurt me I guess ( but I think my fingers are crossed) , it made me appreciate what I have that’s for sure. I never wanted my kids to feel that way and tried to take care of everyone so they never had to experience what hurt me worst in my life. The thing is they have a list of their own hurts, different than mine, that happened anyway…. so it was all pretty much a waste of time.

      To set boundaries for ourselves we could take the quiet time to ask ourselves, what do I like or dislike? What do I want or need? Once we learn to value ourselves the ability to listen and trust that voice should strengthen up wouldn‘t you think? I really need to work on not caring what others say or think about where I belong. I have heard from so many people, some brave ones directly to me,  but most through someone passing it along to me, why... I’m not sure. These people have no clue what my life has been like or is going on now but throw their two cents in about where I belong. Kerry too has his rail road cronies telling him what they would do if their wife was in AZ., and he was in ND. Setting boundaries about what you will or won’t tolerate isn’t about putting up walls, but more about having the security to be close to people, but not so enmeshed in their lives, you lose yourself or smother them. I’m working on being supportive and helpful but not doing for them what they will figure out themselves. Setting boundaries is understanding where I end and someone else begins and not moving into their space unless I’m invited to, and not to see that as a rejection if I'm not invited in. I will admit I still need work on that one.

      I’m sure my kids, Sydney especially, is reading this and thinking I think Mom is finally getting this! Seeing Sydney bruised and beaten, did something to me I can’t even kick out words for yet, it upsets me so still today. I wanted to protect her at all costs and I did by coming here and giving up the life we had there. However she was 14 then and now she’s 22. I still have a hard time with not wanting to make her decisions and the need to protect her from any thing I feel is a wrong decision, or to keep hurtful people out of her life. Sometimes, I still treat her like a child, and she lets me rather than hurt me. Or she sets me straight and it hurts me, because I always have her best interests at heart.

      Micromanaging is exhausting and if you do it long enough, you feel used up, resentful, exhausted and you’re not helping anyone. Maya Angelou’s, “ Never trust a naked man who wants to give you the shirt off his back”, tells me if you are not taking care of yourself, how can you help anyone else? Like they say on every plane trip to ND…in the event of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first, because you’re of no help to anyone until you do. Setting boundaries is the respectful, loving and healthy thing for yourself— and everyone else in your life besides. Thank you Maya Angelou!

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