Wednesday, October 10, 2007
When I was in my twenties I had a group of three close friends. One of those friends told me once about a young woman she had just met, who had left her family home to escape having sex with her brother. My friend, Barbara, said this girl, Twyla (I remember the name because it's unusual and it's the same as the dancer's), had no place to stay.
At the time my three friends all lived at home. One by one they all eventually moved out but at this time I was the only one living by herself. I told Barbara that Twyla could stay at my place until she found a place of her own.
That's bad enough. Really. Bad enough that I opened my doors to someone I didn't know, based on information that very well may not even be true. But I compounded it. I let Twyla and her boyfriend sleep in the living room, really the only room available (I am surprised I didn't give them my bedroom now that I think back), where I had to tiptoe around them and listen to their music played loudly on my sound system, and I let them use my car! I reasoned that I could take the bus straight to school each day while they would have a harder time looking for work without a car.
That may be true, the bit about the car, but why me? Why should I be the one to fix their problem?
There are times when it's good to take care of others, to be the one who steps in and helps when others stand by. Seriously, this was not one of those times. Twyla wasn't a baby. She was a capable young woman, and she had a boyfriend. They could take care of themselves. I remember being so horrified at the thought of incest that I believed she was deeply scarred and needed a refuge. I couldn't contemplate her sleeping on the street, which is the only place I expected she could go.
This was perhaps the time I went furthest out in giving of myself. As I said, giving is good and it is important to give, but we can't let others take away our own lives. This example may be the worst example of my sacrificing my own needs for others but it is hardly the only one. I am not Mother Theresa. I can easily believe that, in spite of her doubts, she was fulfilled by her mission. I'm not fulfilled when I let others walk all over me. And I am sure that even she didn't let that happen.
And that's because it's so hard for me to say no. I have to be able to draw lines and stick to them. I'm not talking about "lines in the sand" because I hate that expression and it suggests a line that changes, anyway. I'm talking about the line where I give up myself. I don't think it should be hard to define where that is. And this leads to my fifth commandment:
JUST SAY NO.