What A Friend Taught Me About Saying What I Need To Say
Dinner handled like a champ.
If you are anything like me, crockpot meals can be a life saver.
This week, our crockpot saved us from potential heart disease. Fast food drive-by’s were super appealing because I was too sick to care about making dinners. As I emerged from my feverish fog though, it occurred to me how lucky I am to have slow-cooker freezer meals at the ready.
How convenient, nutritious and life-saving!
As I prepared the most recent concoction, I pondered the dump-and-go metaphor.
Sometimes that method is perfect. And sometimes it can lead to a pile of sludge – depending on what’s being dumped in the proverbial pot, particularly when it’s our words or feelings.
Too often in life, we suppress what we honestly want to say. We dump our unsaid words into the vast physical catchall of feelings, and those unsaid utterances begin to stew, but not in a good way. They swim around in our psyches causing stress, sadness, and regret.
Research tells us to hold our tongues in some cases, and I agree. It’s not necessary or helpful to always state your piece. But sometimes it may be essential for your well-being.
Remember my friend Peggy? She’s the one I left in the Tenderloin of San Francisco because I panicked, she was carrying our valuables, and I could run faster than she. (If you need a refresher, read about our adventure here). The rest of the story is, once home from our adventure, she was promptly diagnosed with a brain tumor. At first, the tumor was declared benign. All she had to do was survive a little brain surgery and go on with life. It was scary, but she had hope.
Weeks later, she called to tell me that the Mayo Clinic had advised her to get her affairs in order because she had an invasive, aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. I will
never forget that phone call. I was stunned.
She survived a year after her diagnosis. Posthumously, I received a letter she had written (before her faculties had been too affected) that made me evaluate how much I don’t say in life.
In certain circumstances, maybe I need to say more.
As Peggy faced the end of her life, she was compelled to speak her truth to her close friends and colleagues. She chose to write us all carefully-crafted letters. From what I know, the letters were honest, not always complimentary and were to be delivered after her death. To some it may have seemed macabre, cowardly, or dramatic, but it could also have been a ritualistic need to prepare for her impending demise. As I saw things, it was her life, and she was allowed to decide how to purge herself of unsaid words.
On a warm spring day, her adult son dutifully carried out her wishes. He personally handed me an envelope addressed to me.
This letter has served as a lesson to me for the past decade.
Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. That’s it. Say what you have to say, or you may have unresolved words that lead to unresolved feelings – for a long time.
That’s why I committed 2015 to be my year of being BRAVE. To me, it was not about physical bravery like climbing Devil’s Tower or running a marathon; it was about saying what I wanted to say and writing what I wanted to write in my own voice.
My theme song was Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave”.
The refrain goes something like this:
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
I listened to the song over and over.
Coincidentally, what I didn’t know when I selected my theme for 2015 was that I would publish a book, the story of my parenting journey. I started out unsure of what the year would bring, but by April of that year I had spoken to my publisher and signed up to get the
It’s funny how that works.
The writing process was both easier and harder than I thought. The most debilitating part of writing the book was the idea that someone might judge me or my story negatively. Luckily, the publishing program I had chosen offered a writing coach who provided profound and helpful insight. I also had deep moments of self-reflection. To help me own my words, I wrote a preface outlining my intended purpose and settled into typing my story. I know now that releasing sacred words into the world means letting the chips fall where they may.
Sometimes, that means enduring the negativity of others.
So, how do you know it’s worth speaking up?
The simple answer might be: when you have done the emotional work first and still have a burning need to say something separate from how something makes you feel.
For example, for years I’ve had the notion that I would write a book called Lee & Me. I can’t say I knew the structure of it or what its purpose would be, but processing the experience before writing about it was paramount. I had to personally reconcile the moments of frustration, anger, and exasperation (with myself and others). Without processing my book content first, the result may have been a lengthy exercise in whining and complaining.
The basic rule is: if you want to say something and can feel anger, annoyance, or want to blame someone when you talk through it, then you may not be ready to speak your truth. You have to deal with the feelings before you can compassionately express yourself, even when it’s uncomfortable for you or your conversation mate.
It’s ultimately about self-care.
It’s about learning to say those things that need to be said before we die.
Although, I’m going to say this: I’m pretty glad to have my posthumously delivered note from Peggy.
And that’s what I think about when I decide whether it is necessary to have a hard conversation and say my truth.
In the end, I don’t want to stew in my regret.
I’ll save the stewing process for delicious meals instead.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha
Asian Lentils with Potatoes & Chicken
A variation based on the recipe from The Monday-to-Friday Cookbook by Michele Urvater & Simms Taback
Put all ingredients into a slow cooker:
1 small, chopped onion
4 potatoes, cut into bite size cubes
5 cups of chicken broth
1 cup brown lentils
I lb. of chicken breasts, cut into bite size cubes (shredded rotisserie works great!)
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. of chili paste
1 small bunch of chopped scallions
1/2 cup of fresh parsley
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
How do you react when you speak out and have second thoughts?
Is there something left you need to say at this point? How will you do that?