I learned two very, very important life lessons in my first marriage.
The first is that when you’re in the path of a tornado and the voice in your head tells you to get out of the car, do not–under any circumstances– ignore it to listen to dude in the backseat when he yells that you have to keep driving to get under the bridge that’s nearly a mile away.
The second is that when you’re playing basketball and you want the guy under the net to take a shot and win the game, do not pass the ball to him and say, “Do whatever you want with it,” because when the buzzer sounds and he’s perfecting his dribble, you’re going to be pissed off.
We lived because I listened to my intuition in that tornado and I am sane today, at least in large part, because he told me the latter is what it was like to live with me. We didn’t know about codependency then, and we hadn’t yet been to that one therapy appointment. We both knew he was going off the deep end but had vastly different opinions about the cause.
Finally, there was this one moment… a divine kiss of inspiration, where he had the gift of the basketball metaphor to explain that I don’t ask for what I need and it made it impossible for him to be a good partner to me.
The undeniable truth of it took my breath away.
Welcome to the world of codependency. Describing it, as I’ve said before, is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. I’ve written much about it and long before me, there was a thriving industry offering explanations and support to those who wish to be free from these patterns. My interest, for now at least, is to make it so codependent behaviors don’t have to suck the life out of this holiday season.
During Thanksgiving week, I wrote about how we can enjoy a Codependency-Free holiday season (Cody-Free for fun) by employing Rule One: Protect yourself from mean people. And in honor of the aforementioned dude, I offer you the following additional guideline.
Rule Two: Ask for what you need.Rule Two: Ask for what you need.
If you want to decorate the tree, tell the people you live with that you want help decorating the tree. If they are unavailable to help, then decide if you want it bad enough to recruit a friend to help you, or to do it alone. If you don’t, for the love of all things glittery, do not hold your decision against everyone else.
Just don’t do it. Just admit that you don’t have the time or energy or patience, and don’t decorate the tree. And if the idea of not doing it is absolutely unbearable, then say no to something else and honor yourself.
Our needs are our responsibility.
Forgive me, if that’s old news to you but I promise that when everybody gets it, I will quit saying it. And until then, it’s important enough to repeat. Ask for what you need.
This might mean staying home instead of attending the third holiday event this week. It might mean buying green beans from the Chinese buffet on the way to your mother-in-law’s house, dumping them into a fancy baking dish, and reheating them before the big, serious family dinner because you dropped the ball on buying fresh ones before the stores closed Christmas Eve (a gift from my second marriage).
It might mean taking a nap.
What would the holidays be like if you spoke of your needs, simply and directly, and the people around you could just respond, simply and directly, with the truth about whether they can meet that need or not? What would it be like it everybody quit trying to be everything for everyone and you got to put yourself first on the list? What would happen if you didn’t do what you didn’t want to do?
It sounds like a Cody-Free holiday to me.