Ask Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men Edition the Eighth

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Today's question comes from the wise and wonderful Jeri, who asks,
WTF is a pompatus of love?

Seriously - we've talked about your decision to cultivate a slow life, a deliberate relaxed lifestyle to manage health and stress and etc.

Can you write a little bit more about what made you turn that direction and what steps you took to put it in place and be happy with it?
The Pompatus of Love is a movie, I believe. What do I win?

Back when I was doing the necessary work to change my life, I discovered a number of things about myself that helped me to determine how best to cultivate the life I needed and wanted to be happy. Here's a short (not all inclusive) list:
  • I need to spend a considerable portion of my time by myself. Without the opportunity to do so, I become cranky and snappish.
  • I don't like to talk on the phone. For whatever reason, it's extremely irritating to me, although I'm fine with more asynchronous forms of technologically based communication such as text, e:mail and chat.
  • For the most part, I am a low maintenance friend. I can go weeks without communicating with my Sista from Anotha Mista The Mechanicky Gal, but that doesn't mean I don't love her - and it also doesn't mean I wouldn't be on the first flight to Southern California if she needed me. And I need my friends to be low maintenance for the most part, as well.
  • I place tremendous value on helping others, including those whom I love and complete strangers. But one thing that will drive me right over the edge is if someone has some sort of unjustifiable expectation that I help them. I choose to commit my help to others for my own reasons, and it's my choice. I don't owe people anything simply because they have an opinion that I should.* Taking my help for granted is a sure way to earn yourself a punch in the throat, regardless of who you are.
  • As much as I enjoy social events, they must be spread out. Back-to-back-to-back commitments increases my stress, even if the events are fun and include people I care for and enjoy. 
When I over-commit, either socially or professionally, I end up feeling bad, stretched thin, overwhelmed. My depression creeps back, and I find I simply don't enjoy the outings as much as I might if I felt better. Which brings us to my decision to cultivate that slow, deliberate lifestyle Jeri asked about.

When I was finding my way, I had to decide that saying "no" to event invitations, to requests for help, to phone conversations, was perfectly okay. And if the reason for declining was "I don't want to," then that was a good enough reason, regardless of what others' thought. If I received an invitation to a social event, I would examine my feelings to determine which I REALLY wanted to do - go on the outing, or stay home and read. And if the answer was the latter, I had to learn to say NO - and mean it, and expect my friends and family to understand. If someone asked me for help, and I decided I had no obligation to do so, I had to learn to say NO, and not feel guilty about it. Because to allow myself to be pressured into doing things I really don't want to do for the benefit of others is not conducive to my mental or physical health.

It took me a long time to learn to say "no" for my own benefit. I could always be pressured or guilted into changing my mind, and learning that my own needs and desires don't always have to be subordinated to the needs and desires of others was a tough lesson. But it was a lesson I needed to learn - to do otherwise would have condemned me to a life of stress, and feeling taken advantage of, and not having enough time to do the things I knew I needed to do for my own benefit, such as exercise.

There are trade-offs, of course. Many people don't understand my need to decline their invitations, and take it personally. I occasionally miss out on opportunities to socialize because I need to spend the weekend in hermit mode. Sometimes I choose to say "no" to people who genuinely need my help. But that's the trade-off - I can have a low stress, healthy life, or I can be a social butterfly. I've learned that for me, having both just isn't realistic. So I chose to put my own mental and physical health first. And those whom I love understand this about me, because they're low-maintenance, and know me well enough to know that in this case, it really is me and not them.

Thanks for your question, Jeri.


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*Which doesn't mean people shouldn't ask if they need something from me - far from it. But it does mean that if I say "no," that's the final word. Trying to get me to change my mind is a sure way to piss me off and ensure I'll never help you again.

5 comments:

Anne C. said...

The subtitle of this seemed to be "The Power of Saying No," which I find to be really interesting, since it's the opposite of my character arc. When I was young, I was a hermit, and though I had friends, they tended to be as hermit-like as I was. In online parlance, I was a "lurker" -- taking in life, but not really participating in it to the level others did. I attribute this (rightly or wrongly) to passivity and a tendency to not believe invitations were sincere.

Long story short: When I moved to Colorado, I decided to try a life experiment: say "yes" to more invitations. The result is that I get less reading done, but I've tried more things, know a greater variety of people, and actually believe they like me (well... most of them). I do need to have some time alone, as you do, but it's easy for me, as I live alone.

Does everyone start out at extremes and then adjust when it's not working, or is it just a matter of fine tuning?

Janiece said...

Anne, for me it was more a question of allowing myself to be who I was - and wanted to be - rather than allowing others to dictate my actions with their expectations.

Also? We TOTALLY LIKE YOU.

Anne C. said...

:)

Witiko said...

I must say that in my opinion this way of thinking is rather deceptive. When one gets f.ex. invited to a social event, it will very often be the case that he would find it more comforting not to go. Saying no is much easier than saying yes, but a good decision doesn't equal a comfortable decision. Thus depending on one's own judgement may end up as a neverending loop at the end of which one ends up way more separate that he'd like. My $0.5.

Janiece said...

Welcome, Witiko.

There's some truth in what you say, and social isolation doesn't usually end well, even for a recluse like me.

I do have a gauge, however. If my friends and family are getting together and I'm not included, my indicator that I should say "yes" more often is whether or not I feel excluded. If I feel excluded, then I reach out proactively, and gear up my social life on my own.