I separated from my ex almost two years ago. The divorce was final last October. When I left him, I had already lost count of the number of times I'd asked, "What did I do wrong?"
Before we go any further, thank you, yes, I know that you're thinking, "It wasn't all your fault." That's exactly why I asked the question. I'd like to think I'm perfection walking, but we all know it takes two to make things work, and it takes two to make them fail. So I asked the
"Nothing. You never did anything that bothered me."
Of course I didn't believe him. Who would? I mean he lied about everything, why not this, so that I could permanently wallow in guilt because I couldn't see a way to make it work.
As much as I wanted to believe in my own perfection (please say this with tongue and cheek. I really don't have a huge ego. I just play one on TV), I couldn't. I asked my friends. And lemme stop right here and say, If you ever want to know the truth about your character, ask a friend.
My self-perception was: strong, independent, a little insecure, brave, proud, maybe a little introspective, even-tempered, and stubborn.
Theirs? Well, let's just say there was a twist on most of those. While most of my friends think I'm funny, they also say I often cross the line into inappropriate. I believe the phrase is, "wildly inappropriate."
While I'm stubborn, proud, and diplomatic, that can be construed as bitchy and greedy when it comes to business. Although it was pointed out to me that I haven't always been diplomatic, to which I pointed out, that was only after several attempts of diplomacy which was met with nastiness. Then I let it fly. Also, it appears I must be careful of email correspondence. I'm one to zip off an email and hit send, then do the, "doh!" dance. Yep. Clever, I know. It does bite me in the butt.
But why do I bring all this up? Because in the journey to rediscovering who I am and even whether or not I like the person I've become, I've learned some things on my own.
I have commitment FAIL. Not in relationships. No, unfortunately I stick with those beyond their death, believing they can be revived (which, incidentally, I don't see as a flaw). What I mean is, with projects in the real world.
I over commit to book contracts. Oh, I get them all done, but I'm stressing like crazy on the other end of the laptop. I over commit with friends too. My first instinct is to say, "yes", to just about anything. You want me to come watch you bowl, let you drink, drive you home when I have three books due and can't sit in front of my computer to work for the next five hours? YES!! You want me to attend a sex toy party even though I can't buy anything at the moment and I really need to be at home watching the nieces? YES!! You want to borrow my car and I momentarily lapsed about what I need it for? YES!! You want me to drive three hours one direction to bring you something, without gas reimbursement and then drive home again the same day? Oh, wait, I DID say no to that. Yay me!
It was only as I came into this week, that I really allowed myself to think about it. I need to say no more often. No doesn't mean I don't want to help my friends, or that I care any less for them. What it means is that I'm respecting my time more. I'm respecting your time more.
I've gotten to the point several times now, where I'll whip out that "YES!!", then when the day comes to collect on it, I flail for a way to back out when it heavily conflicts with other priorities. A good friend doesn't back out after she's said yes. A person struggling to make it on her own, doesn't cripple herself by doing things that keep her from working when she's already maxed out.
As writers we talk a lot about giving our careers legitimacy. We want other people to recognize our office hours and not take advantage of that precious time to create and sell. We can't do that until we take our hours seriously. We can't treat our friends like the precious ones they are, if they feel abused by our lack of reliability. Here's what it comes down to: Take yourself seriously, with the respect you deserve.
Would you volunteer someone else's time beyond their ability to cope? Would you want your friend to tell you she's coming to something, then back out? I'm guessing not. Don't set yourself up for failure.
We all have our quirks to work on. We are also really harsh talkers to ourselves. Stop it. You can only do so much. Handle what you can. Start with your schedule and learn to say no. It's not mean. It's respectful. Once you get a grip on those things, then look to those other characteristics you want to hone. What you'll find is that respect comes first.
If you're respectful of your time, you won't over commit. If you're respectful of your friend's time, you won't let them down. If you respect other people, you won't hit "send" before you think about your emails. If you respect the creative process, you won't whittle your time to nothing with the family, because they recharge you. Because you need them and respect them, too. If you respect the process, your writing improves.
It all starts with you. Do you respect who you are? Do you really? Or do you take yourself for granted?