I do my best negotiating against myself

Photo by Drew Hays of a woman with her hands blocking her face; illustrating the blog post, "I do my best negotiating against myself."

I’ve been doing the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, and yesterday’s practice was a challenge — not because of the physical moves, but because of the emotional ones. Every day there is a different statement/theme/mantra for the practice. Some of them are peaceful and lovely: I Accept, I Release, I Am Alive, I Am Present. But yesterday’s was a doozy:

I Respect.

Because the phrase that came to me to complete that sentence was

I respect myself enough to ask for what I need.

This may come as a surprise to people who know me as a strong, confident, opinionated woman, but in my most intimate relationships, including with myself, I tend to negotiate myself out of my needs.

A silly example first. After my marriage imploded in August, I couldn’t eat, so I lost weight. Then I discovered that exercise was a major mood/mindset stabilizer. Since I had all sorts of free time in the evenings now that I wasn’t keeping myself available for a moment of connection with my husband, I got really into Youtube yoga and Pilates and bought a treadmill from a lady on Craigslist, and lost a little more weight. When my pants became too loose, I bought new-to-me ones right away (hooray consignment and thrift stores!). But there was one item I really needed that I put off and put off and put off: new bras. The old ones not only didn’t fit anymore, but they each had one crooked hook that jabbed my back — and had been jabbing my back for at least a year. So I’d needed new bras for a long time before I lost that weight. Still, I didn’t do it. I’d make deals with myself, “When I finish this project, I’ll do it,” and not follow through. Until finally I did. It felt important all out of proportion to the actual act of buying myself underwear, because I’d negotiated myself out of it for so long.

Bigger example: for twenty-one years, I negotiated myself into staying in a marriage in which I wasn’t getting some of my most basic needs met, because I was getting others met, so I talked myself into accepting things that grieved me on a daily basis.

For the last month, I’ve been deciding whether to ask for alimony in the divorce. On the one hand, I don’t want to because I’d rather be independent. On the other hand, we made decisions as a family for me to be a stay-at-home mom who worked freelance, which means that I’m not as employable as I would’ve been if I’d been working a regular job. So while I have work, I’m cobbling together a number of freelance jobs, and I make a quarter of what my husband did. My heart is racing and tears are burning behind my eyes just anticipating typing this, but I’m asking for alimony. Even so, I negotiated against myself, reducing the amount down to a fraction of what the state recommended for me, but it’s still really difficult to ask for.

So there’s my tale of three steps forward and one step back — one of my favorite dance moves for illustrating the Christian life. I wish it weren’t so much work to respect myself enough to ask for what I need. I’m hoping you don’t have that same struggle, but I know some of you do. I’m going to continue to work on this, and I hope you do, too.

I respect.

7 thoughts on “I do my best negotiating against myself

  1. This is an important post, Natalie. For me. Thank you. I’m glad if you found it helpful, too. 😉

    I’m sure you’ve noticed the symbolism of stabbing yourself in the back. Boy-oh-boy, can I relate.

    One way I’ve always been able to talk myself into doing right by myself is when I can see how it would benefit my children. It’s a sideways manoever into self-care, but it works. To me it’s obvious how your kids will benefit from a financially secure, supported mom. Don’t short-change them. Or your ex, for that matter. Fathers deserve to know that their contributions matter.

  2. Thank you, Jan.

    The stabbing myself in the back is so apt — I almost chose an image of a woman bent over, revealing her bumpy spine, just to get at that dynamic.

    Yes, that sideways manoever of thinking of the kids has worked better for me, too. I need to remember it more often 🙂

  3. Three steps forward and one step back is still progress. 🙂

    One of the things Yoga with Adriene has taught me is that taking care of myself is an act of honoring God… and act of worship. Loving myself enough to take care of my body, mind, and heart–all three of which God created–is respectful not just to myself but to God too. I’d do anything for God, and now I know that includes asking for what I need, be it rest, time, emotional support, etc. It’s REALLY hard, but I am starting to experience the relief and rest Jesus talks about when he says, “I will give you rest.”

    I would think asking for what you need in regards to alimony would fall under taking care of yourself–your life with your kiddos–and honoring what God is trying to provide for you.

    Peace and prayers for your heart,
    Leanne

    1. Thank you, Leanne. Those daily phrases have been very powerful for me, and often in ways that connect directly to my faith. On “I surrender” day, I kept singing, “I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

  4. Thank you for this – and being so vulnerable. I can so relate to the emotional aspect of yoga-it sure hits you right in that spot that takes your breath away. I know it probably sucks on multiple levels to work through it all and I applaud you for asking for what you need.
    I see bravery and honesty in your journey. Sending love!

    1. Thank you, Julie –I receive your love and send some back 🙂 With all the talk of releasing and accepting, yoga really has become important to me. You’ve been a bit of an inspiration to me, actually (you and Gena), with how physically active you’ve remained, and how much pleasure you get from pushing your body.

  5. awww, thank you my friend. Yoga has become such a foundation for me as well- I started it for the physical and now realize I need the mental space so much. A lot of tears, dreams, hopes, prayers and laughter have graced my yoga mat in the past 18 months I’ve been practicing! Thank you for saying I’ve been an inspiration, that means a lot. I’ve learned that being physical is critical to my sanity and helps my creativity. I don’t know if I’ve posted this on FB- but I had a time in my life where I was not healthy and was quite overweight. After my 2nd child was born, I lost 55lbs over the course of 6 months through a program offered with my benefits at Microsoft. I realized that I never wanted to be in that space again- not just physically but mentally. It’s been an interesting road to say the least but at the end of the day I just do the best I can and enjoy my hamburgers and French fries and wine without much regret 🙂

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