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.
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.