In the early days of our marriage, we slipped into a dangerous pattern. I’m not sure there is any one glaring example that illustrates it. Suffice it to say that, after episode number 853, I was sulking and my husband was in the proverbial doghouse. While I can’t remember what exactly got us there, after 23 years I can still remember my husband’s response. Let’s just say, he’s never had to repeat himself. “Love, I’m good at many things, but I am a terrible psychic. I simply cannot read your mind. You’re gonna have to ask.”
I am so glad that he had the guts to say this. To this day, I firmly believe this was a pivotal moment in our marriage that helped make possible all of the subsequent years of (relatively) peaceful togetherness. Somehow, him asking me to ask for what I need blew away the fog of wishful, wistful notions of a “Hollywood” perfect relationship. The romantic ideal that “if he really loves me, he’ll know what I need,” popped with no more fanfare than a bubble.
While I don’t claim to be a perfect communicator, thanks to his words, I have gotten pretty good at asking for what I want from my husband. But the last 10 days have shown me that I still need practice when it’s someone else I need something from.
It started, as it so often does, on my mat. I’ve been dealing with a flare up of TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction). Yes, when I’m sound asleep, I’m a tooth grinder and jaw clencher. All of the dental work that I’ve had done over the last couple of months is having some significant ripple effects in my jaw. In addition to lost sleep, I am experiencing some tightness, weakness and soreness in my upper body. After a particularly bad night, my yoga practice can leave me feeling more tired than restored.
Earlier this week, I could tell as I began to move that it was going to be one of those days. My inner drill sergeant (though she has her uses, I really don’t like her) kicked into gear and I slogged through the next several postures like I was on a march to battle. And then my knees hit the floor. As I sank into child’s pose, a little voice within said, “I need to take it easy today. Could we just do that? Please?” A tiny part of me was actually cringing at how I expected my drill sergeant to reply. But when she did, her voice had changed. It was as if my whole being heard my request. “Easy sounds good,” I thought. And easy felt good.
But there something greater going on here than just acquiescing to a tired day. It turns out that asking for what I needed from myself was a lot less natural than it is when I’m talking to my husband. It was actually kind of hard. But what wasn’t hard or unnatural was giving myself what I’d had the courage to ask for. That felt just as natural (albeit a little surprising) as it feels to give someone else what they ask for from me. Hmmm.
That same exact day, I found myself stewing in the shower after my practice. I’d called the doctor the day before to make an appointment, only to be told that the next available time when she could see me was more than a month away. I was still annoyed at having to wait so long. As I stood there with the hot water running down my back (site of many an epiphany), I realized that I hadn’t actually asked for what I wanted. Yes, I ‘d asked for an appointment. But I had not asked for what I really needed – a timely appointment.
Suddenly my experience of asking for what I needed on my mat felt serendipitous. If my inner drill sergeant (who is not always particularly nice) responded so kindly to an honest expression of need, it seemed likely the woman who answered the phone could do the same. It also seemed silly for me to think that the receptionist at my doctor was any more psychically talented than my husband. I decided to try asking.
I called back, explained my situation and requested that the receptionist speak with the doctor to ask if she would be willing to squeeze me in earlier. You guessed it. The phone rang less than 10 minutes later. The answer was yes.
My husband’s words of wisdom bear repeating – “My love, no one can read your mind. You’re gonna have to ask.” I promise, I’ve never been sorry that I did. And neither will you.