I didn’t become this fierce to make your life easier.
I know you do your best. I’m not writing this to blame you, disparage you, or judge you.
We are all in different places. I have no issue with that.
I have a big issue with this: you think I should use my strength to pull you up to this place I have reached.
It’s a good place: the place of being strong and happy. This place is filled with peace and confidence. It’s knowing what I want and believing I deserve it. It’s disregarding every false, blaming, negative word. It’s seeing my own power. It’s overcoming. It’s being able to make my life whatever I want it to be.
It’s fucking fabulous, and I have worked hard to get here.
And you’d like some help. You want to be here, too.
“Could you… could you just…?” you say, and eyeball the distance. “You could do it. It’s nothing. I mean. C’mon. It won’t even be that hard.”
Give me a hand. Make me happy. Solve my problem. Cater to my needs. Pause what you’re doing, and pay attention to me.
“Pull me up there,” you’re saying.
That’s not how it works.
You become strong by being strong.
I have done this. I am a woman who has lived, breathed, let go, and stood up again every morning. I have made the thousand tiny choices that add up to my own strength and independence.
I have learned how to roar. I have become ferocious.
I have aimed my power at every obstacle. I have climbed and crawled and screamed and struggled and lived with being misunderstood. I have pulled myself over a jagged summit.
Now I stand in this open, still, calm place and breathe deep.
I will not pull you up here. I could try, but that’s not how it works, no matter how much you wish it would.
You have to climb. You have to haul your own ass up this ladder.
I can’t do it for you. For a long time, I was willing to try. I thought I was obligated.
But now I know better.
A sense of obligation, like the idea of authority, is a made-up thing. It works only as long as we all believe in it.
I don’t believe in it anymore.
Who am I talking to?
Who are you, that I would refuse to grant you my strength?
You’re my friend, my parent, my sibling, my child, my spouse, my co-worker, my neighbor.
You’re any one of hundreds of people I’ve encountered.
You’re the stranger on the airplane, snapping at everyone, taking up too much room. You want me to squeeze myself smaller, stay quiet, be intimidated.
You’re the server who won’t make eye contact, overworked and rude. You want me to feed on your frustration, shorten my conversation, get out of your space, make your life easier.
You’re the pastor, preacher, religious leader, who assumes authority by virtue of your morally superior position. You want me to take your word for it (whatever it is), quit asking questions, quit making waves, be a good disciple.
You’re the business owner thinking your time matters more than mine. You’re the client who wants that urgent work done over the weekend. You want me to respond at all hours, sideline my schedule, worry about getting paid, negotiate myself down, treat you like a big shot.
You’re the judgey, side-eyeing mom in the mom group. You’re the dad who refers to watching your own kids as babysitting. You want me to bow to your disrespect, let you be a bully, accommodate your self-centeredness.
You’re every proselytizing true believer, wanting me to nod and smile and agree in your current mantra, whatever it is. You want me to count your sincerity as wisdom, praise your earnestness, validate your frantic search for meaning.
You’re anyone I’ve ever met. You’re me, not so long ago. Maybe yesterday. Maybe me again, tomorrow. I have learned the lesson, but I still forget to live it.
It’s not your fault I thought I had to be the strong one so things could be easier for you.
It’s not your fault that I turned myself inside-out and upside-down to ensure your comfort, that I held myself in, made myself small to give you space. I made my own decisions.
But I’ve made a new one now.
I see how I mistreat myself. How I treat everyone else’s needs as more important than my own.
What a revelation: to realize that I don’t have to make you comfortable. To see that I’m not responsible for your happiness. To understand that my strength is for me, first. @AnnieMueller (Click to Tweet!)
I can use what and who I am for my own dreams, needs, and desires. I can grant my own wishes. I can make my own life easier.
Your life might get a little tougher. You’re used to being accommodated. You’re used to the quick response, the unquestioning availability.
I’m sorry for the rough transition. I could ease you out of it, I guess. But I won’t. I’m done wasting my time. I won’t waste more of it, once again, to make things easier for you.
Turns out, making life easier for you is not my job.
That’s your own row to hoe, as my grandma would’ve said.
I’m done with it:
Supporting you, helping you, assisting you, covering for you, letting you use
my brain my body my insight my softness my aggression my emotion my intuition my time my analysis my skills my relationships my anger my closeness my organization my schedule my freedom my resources my work my strength
as your own.
It’s not reasonable. It’s not right. It’s not a relationship. It’s not a requirement.
It’s an expectation, maybe.
But here’s something super-cool about expectations: you can have as many as you want, and I don’t have to pay attention to any of them.
Annie Mueller is a writer, reader, seeker of growth, and transplant to Puerto Rico, where she lives with her best friend and their four children. Her crash course in self-discovery came from experiencing job loss, financial devastation, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and major surgery—all in less than a year. She writes about creativity, personal growth, and spirituality; runs Prolifica, a content management consultancy for small teams and solo professionals; and sends out a popular weekly newsletter about feelings and freelancing. You can find more of her work on her website.
Image courtesy of Ahmet Sali.