Do You Know What You Need? Are You Willing to Tell Others?


A close friend of mine was dealing with complications from  a chronic illness and one of the first things that came out of my mouth when I heard the news was, “What do you need?” Depending on the day, his answers would vary from a slice of gourmet pizza to fresh vegetables to a simple six pack of tomato juice.

He is amazing. And not because he loves gourmet pizza (well, maybe a little because he loves gourmet pizza), but moreso because he can identify and communicate what he needs so easily.

And just like anytime someone we know can do something better than we can, we get a little bummed. That is until we start the self-help rituals or therapy, whichever comes first.

As I think about it, I’m not sure where this particular personality trait came from, but I know it is frustrating to my friends and family.  A first years ago though, I discovered that if I couldn’t tell people what I needed, they would decide it for me, and the only child in me did NOT like being told what I need.

Enter 2016, my love of TED talks,  and the word vulnerable. After reading two of Brene Brown’s books and studying the concept of vulnerability more, I found that I had some work to do — on myself. I used what I studied and learned to admit some things to myself and others.

My name is Toni. For the past 25 years of my life, I have never been able to tell someone what I need from a relationship. Not my friends. Not my boyfriends. Not my ex-husband. No one.

I have never communicated my needs in a relationship to anyone.

My name is Toni. If you are going to be my friend, I need your support and kindness. I’d like to know that you really want the world to be a better place. I need you to understand that yes I am an extrovert, but when tempered with my only-child nature and LOUD three children, sometimes I absolutely need solace. I need you to know that between essential oils, Google, Shonda Rhimes, channeling my friends who are doctors, and all the medical advice I have ever received for every illness I’ve had, I am the expert on most medical conditions.

To know me, to really know me and love me means you know that the only thing I think I have done right in this world is parent those kids to absolute best of my ability. I need your reinforcement and smiles and hugs for fuel.

Don’t ask me not to be connected to technology. Don’t tell me I’m addicted to my phone. My phone, my computer, and yes, even my tv are important to when, how, and what I write. Yes, writing is how I eat, but it is also how I express my best self. Next to prayer and meditation, it soothes my soul.

this is the time when you must tell people what you need. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

To Jay. (Not his real name. Most definitely NOT his real name.) You are probably one of the few people in the world that I know is smarter than me. While I live for information gathering, politics, and the news. I need to feel that our love thrives on mutual respect, admiration, and affection for one another. I need you to tell me what I mean to you in clear terms. If you can’t do that, or won’t do that – then we can’t be anything more than two people who’ve known each other for a really long time.

To Carl. (He’d sue me if I used his name.) When you told me you loved me, I needed you to honor that sentence. I needed you to stop being passive aggressive and doing one action, that was really a reaction, because you don’t like the way I did whatever. Just tell me, or better yet? Do it so I can see what you are talking about.

To David. (You guessed it. Not his real name). Fidelity is important to me. I needed to know that our lives are shared with each other only. I know that in some cultures polygamy and sister-relationships are the norm. Not with me. 

To Kyle: (Nope. It’s safe to say that I’m not using real names here at all). I needed you to stop trying to fix things for me and use all of that energy to find solutions to the problems in your life.

To Me. I need you to stop being so critical with every mistake I make. I need you to eat at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I need you not to feel guilty when you do something nice for yourself. And Toni, this is the time when you must tell people what you need. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

Looking For Your Unwritten Letter

write that unwritten letter

Last week I published a blog post that was actually a letter to my ex-husband. When I wrote the letter, I had no idea it would get the response that it did. By the end of the week, I had numerous PageViews and emails about it. Many of you said that you also have a letter that needs to be written  so you can move on to bigger and better things.

Even though I wrote that letter to my ex-husband,  I have plenty more letters  in me that have yet to be written. I need to write to a friend regarding a stressful time we went through a few years ago that changed our relationship forever. I need to write to a few former bosses that I parted with on less-than-favorable terms. I need to write to my doctors about all the health crap I’ve gone through, even though they said, “everything is fine.”

Since I’ve gotten those emails and text messages from readers and friends, I’m pretty sure that you have a letter in you that needs to be written. And once that letter is written, it needs to be published in my new book.

I want you to write that letter and send it to me. I am working on a compilation of letters (that will become a book) to share with the world. Here’s how it will work:

  1. You write the letter and email it to me. In the heading of your letter you write Dear plus a description of what role they played in your life. For example, “Dear First Love” or “Dear Real Estate Agent.”
  2. Write what you want to say. Tell your story to that person in that letter.
  3. Don’t sign it. You don’t need a closing.
  4. Email it to me at toni [at] twillimedia [dot] com. In the subject of the email  type: MY LETTER.
  5. I will follow up with you when I receive the letter and may ask you a couple of questions about formatting, etc.

It’s just that simple!

I also understand that as badly as you may want to write that letter, you don’t know where to begin. All you have to do is send me an email telling me that. I will email you back some questions and we can go from there. Yes, my friend, I can even help you write the letter if you have difficulty putting your feelings on paper.

Writing the unwritten letter can be a harrowing experience. It takes some vulnerability on your part, but in the end, it is a very freeing experience. Even if the recipient never sees it. See what some commenters said on the original blog post:


So friend, what do you think? Are you willing to write that unwritten letter?

Do You Have to Be So Blunt?

My Mommy communication skills faced a whole new challenge this week. Aside from the drama going on in the news, T1 had a little classroom trauma of her own.

Two boys in her class were caught smoking marijuana in the bathroom at school. Once the smokers were caught, the principal and the teacher talked to the entire class about the incident and asking the other students questions in an attempt to piece together the details.

Part of the class conversation included other boys from the class recanting a conversation where one smoker said to the other, “Pass me the blunt.”

As I processed the entire story and experienced the grief with learning these things go on in our small, suburban neighborhood school, I decided to let her talk. As she talked more and more, I listened more and more, and discovered something very important. My baby girl was scared.

If she was scared, then I definitely did not need to show my fear. Especially since her brother and sister were listening. And brother said out loud, “I am scared.” We talked about how fear is a normal reaction to something like this. I told them that’s why I serve on the drug prevention board for their school, and I told them about the addictions that cause some people to become regular users and abusers of drugs.

The conversation didn’t have to have a solution. They just needed a forum in which to talk, and for me to listen. And then I asked if they had any questions for me about drugs? And they did, about slang terms. What is weed? Why did he call it a blunt? And the list continued. And I stopped in my tracks.

I took a breath, I answered the questions the best I could, and if I didn’t know, I said I didn’t know. And in a world like this with so much going on, I realized what the tweens need from their mother. The ability to speak without being interuppted, the ability to ask questions, and the trust that adults will be honest with them.

And for the next two days, more drama surrounded the school with the incident. Drug dogs were brought in to sniff all the students’ desks and backpacks and eventually, another student was taken into custody for selling the marijuana to the students caught smoking it.

And we talked some more. Our conversations also included physiological affects of drug use on the body, the premise behind innocent until proven guilty, and the juvenile justice system. While the conversations had me rattled, I noticed that this is how the tween years are. And because honesty and trust are at the root of conversations like this, sometimes you do have to just be blunt.

How do you process circumstances that your tweens face?