Two days ago I decided to take the day off. My allergies are flaring and I have been longing for time alone in my house. My housemate decided to take the day off too. The previous Monday the same thing happened. So, for two weeks I have been trying to carve out some alone time in my house without success, and becoming more desperate for it as a result.
At first I felt annoyed and even mad that she didn’t go to work. My jackal thoughts went something like, “ARGH! What will it take for me to have alone time in my house?!? There’s simply not enough room for me under these circumstances!”
Then, I got sad and started to mourn my lack of space and peace. I could also connect with overwhelm and wanting ease.
I cried for about 10 minutes, just letting the feelings go, not trying to control them, justify them or even understand them. I just let them flow as I connected to my needs for space, choice, and peace.
Then, a calm fell over me when I thought, “Well, how much space do you want? What specific amount of time would support you today?” I realized that I had a class starting at 4:00 pm that day. It was 11:30 am right now, so what I really wanted was 4.5 hours of alone time in my house.
Suddenly, the situation didn’t seem so enormous and with this clarity I left my room and said to her, “You know I’m pretty desperate to have alone time and the last two times I’ve tried to do that you had a day off too. Being alone helps me rejuvenate and renew and I’m pretty depleted right now. I’m not trying to get away from you; I truly just need alone time for my own renewal. Would you be willing to leave the house until 4:00 pm today?”
She pondered it for a minute, trying to figure out how she could do that and how it would impact her life. Then she said, “Okay.”
The next day we talked about it. She said she had been unclear about how she wanted to spend her day when I approached her. She had work she wanted to do but had been telling herself that she should take the day off. In the end, my request helped her clarify that she really wanted to go to work that day, and take another day off when she wasn’t so pressured with deadlines.
In the old days I probably wouldn’t have asked her to leave the house for a few hours because I would have been stuck in scarcity thinking which tells me that one of us will lose. And if I think one of us will lose, I would usually choose to leave my need unmet. Today, simply by giving myself a few minutes of self empathy, I realized the depth of my need and a specific request that I could make. I was prepared for her to say no, or to negotiate the specifics of my request until we found a way for both our needs to be valued. By making the request, I opened the door for both of our needs to matter and to be met.
When I unilaterally decide to not ask for what I want, I am living in scarcity and thus demonstrate that my needs don’t matter. When I take the time to empathize with my needs and then make a clear request, I am living in abundance, and creating the possibility that all our needs matter.
Had I not made my request, I believe I would have spent the day agitated, overwhelmed and judgmental, and stuck in thinking that there’s not enough space in the house for me. As it turns out, I spent the day with my phones turned off, reading, watching a movie, napping with my cat, and not leaving the house until my class at 4:00 pm. I felt rejuvenated, satisfied, and full of love for my housemate.