Oh, boy. Cliff-hanger city!

Well, not really. But kind of.

Last Thursday we were talking about what it means to biggify what you do while staying in sovereignty.

And I mentioned that I’d spent a week of my Extremely Necessary Vacation working on one tiny piece of my own sovereignty puzzle.

Sovereignty, in this context, meaning the quality of:

  • not caring so much about what other people think
  • not caving in to other people’s expectations
  • being able to rest in the safety that comes from knowing that my space, my body, my energy and my life belong to me
  • remembering that these things will always belong to me because guess what? I get to be the queen of my fabulous pirate-ey queendom.

The challenge:

“To approach every single interaction you have with the question, ‘how am I going to comfortably and confidently ask for what I want?’, knowing that your sovereignty thing doesn’t diminish theirs.”

And my own personal challenge:

I was a bartender for five years. I know about people asking for what they want.

The majority of my experience with other people asking for what they want? Mostly involves people handing me shit, and expecting me to smile and say thank you.

And that’s true whether you’re coordinating a fancypants cocktail party or ducking flying ashtrays in some dive bar in south Tel Aviv.

So I had to do some work to differentiate between the people who made my life hell with their insistent give-me-what-I-want stuff on the one hand, and my own practice of recognizing that I’m allowed to want things, on the other.

What I got (and this kind of needs to be its own post) is that this practice is really about the need behind the ask.

So … when I ask for what I want because my need is to connect with my own sovereignty, that’s healthy.

When I’m asking for what I want as a way to distract from my need for acknowledgment or recognition (or to establish power over someone else), that’s not being in sovereignty, and it’s not good for anyone.

So that was one of the themes I was working with, and meeting my Fear of Becoming The Asshat was my challenge.

Speaking of challenges, the “every single interaction” part turned out — surprise! — to be a bit much.

But I did practice. And I took notes.

In which I practice in the safest environment possible.

So my gentleman friend and I have been having dinner in the hotel restaurant all week. Which is already weird because we hardly ever go out.

And then it’s one of those places where they replace your silverware every five seconds (because yes of course I need a new knife after having just eaten soup).

Anyway, the waiter always pulls out my chair for me (ladies first) and it’s invariably the chair I don’t want to sit in.

That’s because if one person gets to have their back to the wall, I want to be that person, please.

And this is exactly where my highly sensitive stuff meets my “but I don’t want people to think I’m crazy or annoying” stuff.

A perfect example: Some of my family came to visit Portland and we all went out for dinner. We were too many for the booth, so my gentleman friend and I were seated at the end.

It seemed at the time that just dealing with it would be greatly preferable to asking someone to switch places with me. Too much fear (or experience) of people thinking that I’m fussy, weird or insane. Fear of having to explain.

But then I spent the meal in hard-core tension mode, trying not to completely panic every time a waiter’s hand snaked out in front of me from behind my back.

So I’m taking this week as an opportunity to practice the sovereignty thing by experimenting, but keeping it small: getting the seat that helps me feel comfortable and feeling okay about wanting that.

And yeah, it was a practice. Also I should add that — fortunately — we had a different waiter each night. Much less awkward that way.

Here’s how it went.

Day 1

What happened in my head:

Crap crap crap. Look at me, I’m one of those people who makes the lives of waiters miserable. Come on! You waited tables forever! Do you want to be one of those fussy, horrible people who always have to have things their way? Okay, just say something. Say anything. Oh, never mind.

What happened in reality:

  • Panicked completely.
  • Lost ability to get out a complete sentence.
  • Motioned awkwardly for my gentleman friend to sit there instead of me.
  • Got a “no, no, no, ladies first!” from the waiter.
  • Gave a rambling, apologetic, irrelevant explanation.

Day 2

What happened in my head:

Crap crap crap. Don’t make trouble. Get what you want, but don’t make trouble.

What happened in reality:

I took the seat offered me and as soon as the waiter was gone, I asked my gentleman friend to switch places with me.

Day 3

What happened in my head:

Sovereignty, sweetie. You’re allowed to want what you want. It’s not an irrational thing for someone to want. Anyway, it’s what you want. You can be gracious and you can still get what you want in this situation. Deep breath.

What happened in reality:

Me: “Um … would it be okay if I sat over there tonight? Because I’d really rather sit over there. I mean, if it’s alright? You know, if it’s not a problem or anything?”
Waiter (staring at me): “Of course. Please.”

Day 4

What happened in my head:

Okay, let’s see if we can do this without putting a question mark after every sentence. In fact, can we skip the “sentences” part? What if I just asked for what I wanted?

What happened in reality:

Me (with a smile): “I’m going to sit over here.”
Waiter: “Enjoy your meal.”

Postscript #1:

In a fabulous little Richard Brautigan moment, I just found the following scribbled on a napkin: “Simplicity is key. Also, sovereignty: it’s easier when you’ve been drinking. ”

Um, that’s also probably the subject of another post, but I’m pretty sure it refers to Day Five, when we had whiskey before dinner and the only thing happening in my head was “Yay, dinner”.

Postscript #2:

On Day Six, an older couple (man and woman) were seated at the table next to us. I watched as the woman gracefully and wordlessly took the seat she wanted — the same one I would have wanted — with nothing more than a confident tilt of her head and a generous smile.

Awesome. I’m trying that one next time.

Comment zen for today …

What I would love: thoughts, musings, reactions related to the stuff I’m talking about and the sovereignty thing in general. What I’d rather not have: critique of the topic, to have my stuff judged or psychoanalyzed, advice.

Thanks for being in this with me!