Italian Rum Cake Circa 1967
When I was young I did not ask for what I wanted. It never occurred to me to say out loud what I desired. I wished and hoped that the adults around me would read my mind.
In the photo I am cutting my birthday cake for my 8th birthday. My sister and I are in our matching faux Ralph Lauren knit dresses. The cake was an Italian rum cake. Yuk. I hated that cake. Look at my face. Do I look ready to dig into it? No, I was a reluctant cake cutter. But I never told my mother that I hated that cake and so every year she ordered the same cake. I thought she would figure out that I hated it. She didn’t.
For Valentine’s Day my mother always gave me a red cardboard heart filled with butter creams. I hated butter creams but I never told her. I thought she would figure it out. She didn’t.
My sister always got the birthday cake she wanted. And her Valentine heart was always filled with the candy she loved. She told me mother what she wanted. She didn’t leave it to chance for my mother for figure things out.
I’ve come to see that saying what I want – especially when asked – is not weird. It’s not being rude. It’s not being greedy. It’s being truthful.
Does asking come easily for you?
Thankfully over the years I discovered my voice and learned to articulate what I want. I learned how to communicate – without feeling guilty, without feeling unworthy. I learned that I am not surrounded by mind readers.
Sometimes I still have to have a good talking to myself – and tell myself what I want because the approval addict/good girl part of me sometimes makes decisions that don’t bring me closer to receiving what I want. So now I ask myself before taking on another project if what I am about to commit to is bringing me closer to what I want or moving me further away.
Asking – and then receiving.
Are you good at the receiving part? Do you feel worthy of receiving? Do you feel guilty for saying no to things?
Asking and receiving.
Now back to birthday cake. I did learn how to ask for the cake I wanted. And my mom was happy to oblige. One year she went out of her way to get me the German chocolate cake I wanted from a bakery in Center City Philadelphia. She had no secretly held stock in Italian rum cake. She wanted to make me happy on my birthday.
You are worthy. Ask for what you want. Whether it’s a nap, help cooking dinner, someone to pick up the dry cleaning, some time alone to read. Don’t expect people around you – even with people you live with called your family – to know what you need or want.
If you work outside the home I have some news for you. Your boss doesn’t know what you want – whether it’s a raise, or a new project, or a shift in responsibilities – unless you articulate it.
If you need help bringing in the groceries – ask. Don’t do it yourself and then fume the rest of the day. If you want someone to throw on a load of wash – ask. Don’t do it yourself and then feel like a victim. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to ask. But we don’t live in an ideal world. At least I don’t.
I’ve done the fuming bit myself. I’ve unloaded the dishwasher a little too loudly, banging cupboard doors shut after putting the clean glasses away. Only to stomp upstairs and retreat to my bedroom to read and devour half a bag of Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers gummy fish.
Now I ask. And if I do choose to do something myself then I remind myself I can’t complain. As I wrote in an earlier newsletter, sometimes you just have to do the dishes and not be at loggerheads.
I remember a conversation that I had with my husband when we were first married. I used to cook something that he didn’t like and one day he got angry when I served it yet again. I was surprised he didn’t like it – he never said anything. Why would I have continued to make something that he didn’t like? And why, I asked, didn’t he tell me? Answer – he thought I’d figure it out. How would I do that when he ate it every time? I’m not a mind reader – and he got angry every time I served it – taking it personally like I was doing it to him on purpose. Or else he said he was hurt that I wasn’t tuned into his food likes and dislikes. Don’t we all reside in Crazytown sometimes?
Say no to what you don’t want. Gracefully but without apologizing or feeling the need to explain. As one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, says, no is a complete sentence.
Speaking of Anne Lamott, I just finished her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. Amazing. Read it. You’re welcome.
I also just finished Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path. Another great book
My memoir on pilgrimage is set to go to the publisher in May – so I’ll soon be recommending my book to you!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on asking and receiving. Because, after all, this newsletter is for you. And if there are any topics you’d like me to write about – ask! Email me at anne@annegrecolilfecoaching or comment on my Facebook page, Anne Greco, Writer.