It’s a quiet Wednesday morning. I’m sitting cosy at my favourite spot by the window, feet stretched out, watching the sunlight dance on my toes.
My phone buzzes. A text.
Hey, can I come over? I need to talk about certain things that are bothering me.
It’s my friend. Who regards me as her default shrink. Which is completely fine with me, because I love her.
But today I don’t want to listen to her problems.
Today I want to finish this book I’ve been reading. Or watch a really good movie. Or sing along with Beyonce while arranging my wardrobe. Or maybe just sit around, doing nothing.
Because after a week of endless listening and talking and thinking and typing, I need some time to myself. To relax and revive my resources of empathy, patience and mental calm that I’ve been generously spending on my loved ones. It helps me continue being the person they can count on.
And for that, today, I have to say no.
But, how do you say no here without coming off as an uncaring asshole? You can’t. But sometimes, you have to risk their displeasure at you not being there for them, so that you can be there for you.
How many times have you dragged yourself to a ‘family thing’ when you’d rather spend some time alone, just because your relatives will be offended by your absence?
Or how about the obligatory late night call from your girlfriend, which you have to be on for at least 2 hours, even though tonight you are really, really exhausted?
Or that text from a hysterical friend, ranting about her latest relationship trouble, which you have to answer NOW, even though you’re enjoying a really good movie?
It’s easy to draw boundaries with people you don’t care about. It’s harder to do so with the ones you love. And often, that’s what you need to do the most.
And it’s okay, because their lives won’t stop just because you didn’t attend a birthday party, or cut short a call or answered a text an hour late. Neither will they keep thinking bad of you just because once in a while you choose yourself over them. If they do, then you really need to reconsider having them in your life.
Your loved ones will make demands on your time because they can. It’s up to you to prioritise. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. It means you care about you too.
And sometimes you have to not give a damn to keep on giving a damn. You can’t give your loved ones anything if you’re empty inside. And momentary absence is often way better than constant, half-hearted presence. It shows you respect the person enough to not compromise the quality of their time with you.
So get used to the discomfort of drawing boundaries with your loved ones. Learn to say no and not feel guilty about it. Believe that “because I don’t want to” is a perfectly good reason.
Real love begins inside-out. You love yourself enough to make yourself a healthy priority. And from that place of self-love and respect, you give your willing presence to others.
So I type in a quick ‘Not today. Will catch up tomorrow’, pick up my book and lean back against the wall. It’s going to be a good day. ❤