Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Asking For What You Want

In my family needs were not okay, much less wants. Wants, or personal desires, were considered selfish. You know that dirty word selfish. Nobody wants to be that. 

I grew up with the message that I *should* be Superwoman. No Needs. No wants. Take care of it on my own. Independent. Not needing anything from others, because God knows how unattractive a needy woman is. And in the mean time, be sure to take care of everyone else's needs. Be nice. Be sweet. Don't rock the boat. Be a good girl. Act like a lady. Don't make a fuss.

Good southern stuff.

Well, today I bumped up against some of that and won. Yes sir-eee, indeedy I did! I won, and I'm proud of myself.

You see, I had been commissioned to create a sculpture for a woman who lost her daughter in a horrific and tragic incident. I was to sculpt an angel wing out of clay and carve the daughter's name on it. What a beautiful idea! I was delighted. What I didn't expect was how it would touch me and my own grief, my own vulnerability.

My mother died from cancer a year ago this past Christmas. Being the 1 year anniversary of her death made it a bittersweet time, filled with loss and memories. It wasn't just the loss of my mother. My beloved companion, my black lab, Max, also died 23 days after my mom. I'll tell you, it kicked my ass.

Grief is a funny thing. It's not done in a day, a month, or a year. It becomes a part of you. I am wise enough at almost 57 years, to honor that truth. So when my own grief surfaced again while creating and carving this angel wing, I let it come. I welcomed it. It an odd way, it sort gave me permission to create this soul piece for this woman I did not know and may never meet. I poured my heart and my tears into the wing. I thought about my mother as I worked, and my Max.

Finally, after the lengthy process of two firings and a pearl-white finish, it was ready to be shipped. I headed to Fedex with my precious creation carefully wrapped in thick layers of bubble wrap. It was to be double boxed and packed carefully. The young woman totaled up my price and set it on a counter in the back. I could see it just lying there. Still. Untended.

I was anxious. Should I leave? Will she box it correctly? She doesn't even care about it. She has no idea what has gone into this piece. This piece is irreplaceable. Even if I had to create another, it wouldn't be like this one. It would be a different one.

I decided to tell her. I approached the counter where she stood. "I'm feeling vulnerable, and I'm just going to be honest with you." I then told her about the sculpture and that I was the artist that created it. I told her an abbreviated story of what it was created for, this girl's memory … for her mother. I told her I was worried about it, and would she mind if I watched her box and package it right now? She replied, "Well, I put it back there because we wait until it's not busy and wrap it then." It wasn't busy. There was no one else in the store. Truthfully, I don't think she wanted to wrap it just then.

She said, "I can start, but if a customer comes in, I will have to take care of them", to which I responded, "Oh, of course. No problem. I totally understand." You hear that good girl in there? You hear that sweet, "Oh, I don't want to be a bother…"

The young woman began wrapping and packing. She wasn't using the little air pillows or peanuts, just lost of tiny bubble wrap. I asked, "Are you going to use the little air pillows?" "No. Just this. This is the way we do it." I was growing more anxious. I had shipped artworks before. Some broke in the shipping.

I texted my husband with my concerns. He texted back SEVERAL texts about power. "You have the power. You are the customer. You are in control. You can ask for what you want" that kind of stuff. All this I knew on an intellectual level, but here was an opportunity to live it. I could ask for what I wanted. I could express how I was (God forbid) not happy with the packing job that this young woman was doing. I could make a stink, upset the apple cart, make a fuss, not comply. I could go against all that passive southern good girl programming and ask for what I wanted.

I could and I did.

I found the manager. I read her name on her badge and stuck out my hand, speaking her name and introducing myself. I told her about the sculpture and spoke honestly about my fears and hesitations. I was clear and direct. It felt good. I felt empowered. She explained to me how they pack and why they do it that way. What they have discovered works best and what doesn't. 

I was so grateful for this information. It made sense and helped me let go and trust. I asked her if she would be willing to personally oversee the packing of my sculpture. With enthusiasm, she said she would be happy to, then walked with me over to the counter where the young woman was boxing my artwork. The packing was examined and the two of them talked about the best way to move forward.

I did it! I asked for what I wanted. I broke free from old programming and stepped into a place of personal power, and man it felt GOOD!

It might not sound like much to you. But I'll wager there are quite a few women out there who know exactly what I'm talking about. To those women, I raise my glass!

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