I restarted my card-drawing today, and from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, I drew my old favorite subject — Don’t Make Assumptions:
Ask for what you want
Find the courage to ask for what you want. Others have the right to tell you yes or no, but you always have the right to ask. Likewise, everybody has the right to ask you for what they want, and you have the right to say yes or no.
For most of my life, I have avoided asking for what I want. This began when I was a child, and I think I felt like I couldn’t depend on the answer I wanted, so I began to believe that those who love me should know what I wanted. I don’t remember what started this process for me; when I reached 14, and received my diagnosis of diabetes, I felt completely alone. I couldn’t ask for anything, because I feared the disdain which accompanied my requests. My early childhood assumptions left me with the belief that no one cared what I wanted, anyway.
I’m not blaming my parents or my siblings for this. In fact, Mom to me, quite recently, that my diagnosing doctor had told my parents not to be involved in my diabetes. They followed his orders, thinking they were doing what was best for me. But to me, they seemed uncaring and completely uninvolved, and I came to believe that I was to blame. I felt an extreme release of burden when Mom told me what they’d been told.
By the time I reached my 20s, I was married and expecting my spouse (-es, eventually,) to read my mind. At first, I couldn’t see that I was doing this, but as time went on, and I had the same kinds of problems with husband after husband, I just figured I chose bad men to marry. Only lately have I been able to admit that the fault lay at least 50% with me, and often much more. I actually married a couple of really good men, and treated them pretty badly. My third husband and I had this and other problems we couldn’t resolve, but once again, he did not deserve the blame I bestowed upon him.
I was afraid to ask for much of anything. I didn’t object out loud when he slept on the couch every single night of our marriage, for instance — I simply seethed and boiled inside because he didn’t know what I wanted. This anger continued for me until long after our divorce.
So what changed? One night, with a little help from Don Miguel Ruiz’ Four Agreements, and a big nudge from an old friend, I forgave myself, not only for not asking, but for all the other mistakes and missteps I’d made over the long years of my life. I can’t say I was cured of my depression, because I still take antidepressants. I can’t really say I stopped altogether my tendency to expect mind-reading in others — I’ve had a few instances of that, though nowhere near what I used to put myself and others through.
The trick about forgiving myself was that each time I faced an old situation with my new understanding, I strengthened the power of that knowledge within me, and cemented further the idea that all my self-blame and self-hatred were feelings of the past, and that I could joyfully move forward with an infinitely lighter load to carry. That one simple act, which took me 50 years to understand and complete, has allowed me to change almost all the troubles in my past into lessons for my future.
And now, I ask.