Learning to live as one who knows they’re loved is an intense journey. It’s hard because everyday there are moments when you feel like “If I say this about me, they might not like me as much”.
But I’m discovering, more and more, that love just exists. It just is. It’s there, and you can’t help it. That means that there is freedom to take risks, make mistakes, try new things, show up more, speak up more, and quit hiding.
I’ve had the honour… or you could say terror of being on the receiving end of realising people love me no matter what. But I’ve had to tell people more about me, show how I really feel and share what’s really going on, to find that out!
I call these moments “choosing to be brave”. It’s scary to be seen. It’s scary to show your true emotions, or admit what you need. But every time I choose not to be held back by fear, the response I get, is love.
Story-pause: When I first moved to California and was making friends, they would invite me to their house, then offer me food or drink. I thought it was polite to say “no thankyou, I’m fine”, because I was under the impression that it would, “put them out of their way”. I guess I believed I was causing them trouble, and I didn’t want to be a burden to anybody. So I’d sit there parched and tummy rumbling.
It took one of these brave moments to discover the truth. My friend was making french toast (eggy bread to us Brits), and it looked and smelled delicious, cooked in butter, and topped with powdered sugar. She offered to make some for me, several times, and each time I said “no thankyou”… Then the war within me reached a pivotal moment, and the hungry side won, so I mumbled with my face down on the counter, sheepish and wanting the ground to swallow me up…. “Mmm. That french toast looked nice…”,
And instantly she knew.
“NAOMI!” Mili exclaimed, “I offered you french toast, and now I’ve put EVERYTHING away, you admit you want some!!” Gah. Just what I did not want to happen. I put someone out of their way. But in love, she got the sugar out again on the nicely cleaned counter, heated up the pan, added the “makes-everything-delicious” butter, and made me some of the best french toast I’ve ever had. Oh Mili. I thank God, that the moment I chose to admit that I was hungry in someone else’s home, He let it be in the home of somebody so hospitable.
I had to be dragged from my culture of politeness and sweeping everything under the rug, and placed in to a culture that asks for what it wants, and more importantly GETS what it wants, to learn that it’s okay to ask for stuff. My American friends taught me that when they offer food and drink, it’s because they genuinely want to feed me. It’s not a burden to them to make food. In fact, it is more rude to say “no thankyou”, because then they feel bad about their food, or about their hospitality skills. It’s like Indian and African cultures, where you must eat everything on your plate, even if the hosts won’t eat until after you, and it’s rude to have leftovers, because rejecting the food = rejecting the people. Aren’t cultures funny?
I knew I’d changed for good when my parents flew out to see me, and we went to one of those family-run Italian diners. It was the only place open in a misty little Californian coastal town where the only thing to do in the summer was sit away from the rain and eat pizza, which came served with freshly baked loaves of bread (not slices) and bread and butter pudding for dessert. (I ordered the salad, and the server was so shocked that I didn’t want a dozen loaves of bread for dinner, that she brought out a whole extra plate of sliced meats, because she didn’t think my bucket of salad was enough for a meal!).
Anyway, my Mum’s side salad (which came on a full sized dinner plate) was doused in 2 cups of Thousand Island Dressing. Completely soaked in it. You couldn’t even see the lettuce. My mum was going to just push it aside, and not eat it.
I said, “Send it back”. She looked at me, like I said I wanted to throw it in the chef’s face. “Send it back?!?!” That’s as bad as firing somebody.
“Of course,” I said, “If you don’t like it, send it back, and ask for it how you want it”. She squinted her eyes and tested me, “If you’re so confident, you send it back.”
Ooh. The moment of truth. I’d only just learned to ask my friends for what I want… could I do it in the risky restaurant environment?!
The server came back, and I combined British politeness with American go-get-it nature, and said: cue heart-winning British accent, “Excuse me, but please may we have a salad with dressing on the side?”
This, may to many of you be the average restaurant interaction, but to us, it was like we were insulting the restaurant’s very reason for existence and asking to come back in to the kitchen and make it ourselves.
There should never be fear in asking for what you want. Your needs are nothing to be ashamed of.
You’re important. What you say is important. What you feel is important. What you think is important.
And you must be heard to be understood. The more we know about one another, the more we understand why you are the way you are. And when you understand someone, you have grace for them, you have mercy for them, you can more easily extend kindness towards them. When you know what they’ve been through, and the events that have shaped them, you know WHY they do things funny. It’s our individualities that makes us lovable.
For example, we often have lots of people round our house, and my Mum doesn’t want them to think that we are messy, so seconds before she answers the door, she throws everything in the shoe cupboard. Growing up, if I ever couldn’t find something, I’d go there first. Handbags, laptops, sewing machines, school projects, lunch boxes (not a good idea- I left a tupperware of tuna pasta in my bag all summer. What a treat for September when I went to pack my bag!)
Anyway. This little “ism” of my mother’s, we have an affectionate name for. If we lose something, we say it has been “Donnafied”.
People love discovering what makes you YOU! Embrace your foibles. Or as my mum would say, “foil-boils”.
Be yourself at all times.
- One must show all they are to be loved for all they are.