Saturday, July 22, 2017

You don't have to have lunch with Shirley

Here is a lion who does
not want to have
lunch with Shirley anymore.
My mother  told me a story once about her friend Mary, who decided in middle-age to no longer be around people who were a bummer. Period. The end. Starting now. 

Shirley, another woman in their circle who was negative, and self-absorbed and needy was the first casualty.

"I'm past fifty," Mary said to my mother. "I don't have to have lunch with Shirley anymore."

This happens a lot to fifty-somethings. 

They don't just wean themselves off negative relationships or pleaser behavior. They figure it out in the night and the next day, they look in the mirror and say, "That's it. We're not doing that anymore."

Figuring it out never ends. Boomers, Millennials, small children, and the elderly all have that in common.

At age never-mind, I'm understanding the things we learn after we know them; things we have to practice for a long time before they become as natural as walking across the room.  

As a recovered pleaser, I can tell you that one of those things is the concept of choice. Choice is worth talking about because it often hurts before it rewards you with self-respect which, we all know, is delicious.  

It takes a while to become good at it because even bad choices can make sense before they don't. 

We choose to be silent when we should talk, to keep the peace.
We choose to talk when we should be quiet, to keep someone's attention.
We choose to dismiss someone's behavior rather than call them on it, to avoid conflict.
We choose to over-compromise because "assertive" feels like "selfish."
We choose to stay where we know we don't belong because, change.

We walk past our crooked paintings of vague dissatisfaction when we should be stopping to straighten them. But in every situation, even the ones that lied to you, we still choose how to deal.   

Here is what you learn when you become age never-mind:

You can choose to stop neglecting your needs to make others comfortable
...and people who have taken advantage of you will think more of you, not less. 
You can say, "I just don't agree,"
... and people who value independent thinking will respect you more, not less.
You can say, "I'd really rather not,"
...and people who don't like being squeezed or manipulated will like you more, not less.
You can say, "That's not something I'm comfortable talking about,"
...and people who value privacy will honor yours more, not less.
You can say, "When you (use that tone/mock/tease/are sarcastic)  it hurts my feelings," 
...and people who care about you will not ask you to change your feelings, but will fix their behavior.
You can say,  "I love spending time with you," 
...and even if people don't know what to say, they will feel the right thing.
You can say, "You mean the world to me,"
...and some people will be awkward and turn red, but they will have a little joy where there was just happy a minute ago.
And you can say, "I need to be alone for a while,"
...and some people may wish that wasn't true, but will give it to you easily, because they love you more than they need you at the moment. 
You have a choice.
State your needs. 

Don't apologize.
Do it now. Period, the end. Starting today. 
You don't have to have lunch with Shirley anymore. 


  1. Yes, yes, yes! I love this post. So true, though I confess I find it harder to do than I thought. But I do in fact do it now. Very freeing.

    1. Hi D.A.! I agree, it's work in progress but it gets easier to draw that line.

  2. This is perfect - and is also something I'm working on; because I have to say, I'm pretty darn tired of having lunch with Shirley.

    1. It's funny how "lunch with Shirley" became our code phrase for stuff we realized we only did out of obligation or for appearances. We still use it!

    I love this so very much. I can't remember when I finally learned all of this but I have watched as it is thrown many people in my life for a loop. I'm aware that when I state my needs and ask for my wants I may not get them? But I am definitely not going to get them if I don't ask.

    1. Perfectly said. All you can do is ask, and believe it's perfectly okay to do so.

  4. It's so hard to do some of these things - I struggle with them all the time, but if we don't do what is true to our authentic self in Midlife, when are we ever going to do it? I am a work in progress with this one but I'm taking two steps forward for every step backwards - so I'm making progress. Great post and really encouraging for people like me who are striving to get off the people pleasing band wagon!

    1. Everything starts with starting. That's all we should require of ourselves, I think. The rest comes, the Shirleys show themselves and you turn into a Mary.

  5. Hooray for coming into your own. This is great. Keep declaring your needs and setting boundaries. Hugs.

  6. What is great about what you list is that if you are not respected once you speak up you then know to put them on the Shirley list!

  7. Hi Susan! I love the idea of a "Shirley List!" I'm going to start using that one. I do believe it gets easier and easier to "practice" as I get older. Definitely one of the benefits of aging. Learning to practice self-care is such an important quality--and one that I was certainly never taught as a child. Thanks for such good affirmations for a strong and self assured person. ~Kathy

    1. I was thinking about your comment, "self-care" in particular. I think people really DO have to retrain themselves not to see assertiveness as selfish or needs as demands. So many of us do that for a long time.

  8. Amen!!! I've given up lunch with Shirley for a while now; it's definitely a "permission" I gave myself that came with age. And each time I said no, it reinforced that the world wasn't going to end, so it just got easier. Wonderful, affirming post!

    1. Thank you Roxanne and I'm glad you've become a Mary. I've decided to make it my mantra.