If you walk into the doors of our home it probably won’t be too long until you hear screaming. A frustrated two year old yelling loud over something. Wanting to be independent but not able to do much on her own. Finding her size an obstacle to what she needs. It happens frequently throughout the day, screaming, a tantrum over a need she cannot fulfill on her own.
So I find myself saying over and over again throughout the day, “Use your words. Tell me what you need.”
Tell me what you need.
It’s a statement we don’t hesitate to say to our kids when they cry out in exasperation over something. Because the tantrum, the screaming is an indication that a need is not being meet. Now, not every need is actually a need, some are simply wants. And not everything our kids scream over is something we should give to them.
But I have been thinking about this statement I say so frequently, “Tell me what you need.” You see I had a birthday this month and it was a time to ask for things. People want to know what they can give you for your birthday. But I was in a place where I didn’t want wants… I wanted needs.
I have felt pretty depleted this year. A life with four children, one of whom is a very strong-willed, stubborn toddler, is proving to be a bit much for this contemplative, introvert who needs a lot of quiet space to function properly. And some hard work in relationships that is taking a lot out of me. And trying to hold my call to teach and help others pay attention to where God is present in the midst of their everyday. And maintaining a household… meals, laundry, cleaning. Well, it’s feeling like more than I can hold most days.
So for my birthday this year, I asked for what felt like a need. I asked for a weekend away from my kids, with just my hubby in a place that would feed my soul, a place that would meet those deep needs in me for quiet and beauty and rest… a lake house. And thanks to my husband and some gracious friends who offered up their home, that need was met. 48 glorious hours away by a lake where I didn’t have anyone making demands of me and I wasn’t in my home that beaconed me from my relaxing to get something done. It was a time of rest and play and good conversation with my husband and it was marvelous friends!
It also just so happened that the weekend before my birthday weekend away, I was able to go to a Women’s Retreat with my church, another space to meet my need for space and refreshment from my day-to-day life. While there, I reconnected with some dear friends with whom I have journeyed quite closely in a small group through some hard things in life. The last two years we haven’t been meeting and while we often saw each other at church and would catch up when we could, it just hasn’t been the same. But while away on the retreat, we spent the free time during our Saturday afternoon talking deep like we used to. And I realized how much I missed these dear friends.
So upon coming back from the retreat, I sent out a text inviting them to a birthday party for me simply because I wanted to be with them to celebrate the beginning of this 42nd orbit around the sun for me.
The Monday night after my birthday weekend away, I sat around my living room with these dear friends laughing and sharing about life. And I felt refreshed! This need for connection and deep friendship that has felt tenuous in this full life with work and husband and four kids and activities that have us all running all over the place, was met!
One of my friends said to me as she was getting ready to leave, “Way to ask for what you need!” I smiled when she said it, and responded, “Thanks! I’m so glad I did!”
Asking for what I needed, well it gave me the energy and strength to reengage this life that is mine!
I think it can be hard to ask for what you need. Especially as adults. Especially if you feel like you should be a capable person who can take care of yourself. Or if you are carrying many roles and hold the responsibility of caring for many other things, people, work projects, family. How do you ask for what you need when you feel there are too many needs around you that you have to fill?
Maybe asking for something you need feels selfish. Maybe you aren’t even fully aware that you have needs that aren’t being met. You just keep running the full life you lead and you might feel it at the end of the day or when the weekend comes or in those moments in the car where there’s a little bit of down space, but you quickly jump back into life and push that feeling aside.
Friends, you can’t put off your needs forever. At some point they will make themselves so present to you that you cannot ignore them.
With being human comes having needs. We need water. We need food. We need sleep. We need to go to the bathroom. We meet our basic needs everyday. But there are other needs we have, spiritual, emotional and mental needs, the need for human connection, the need for quiet, for play, for beauty, creativity, rest. These are needs that are easier to not attend to. We don’t have to meet them on a day-to-day basis to function, but friends, they are part of our fundamental human needs just the same and they do need attending to at some point, or we crash, we feel depleted, we will find ourselves on the verge of a meltdown.
Now our meltdowns don’t necessarily present themselves like they do in my two year old who simply starts screaming when she suddenly realizes she is thirsty and needs her water (yes, friends, this is getting very old, but my Joy Girl really knows when she’s thirsty!).
I find when I am lacking what I need, I feel resentment bubbling up or I feel irritated and I can become a not nice person to be around. I am learning to notice when resentment or irritation bubbles up, and when I spot it, I am learning to ask myself, is there a need I have that is not being met?
What are the signs in you that your spiritual or emotional or mental needs aren’t being met?
Sometimes we can meet these needs on our own. Maybe you simply need to go to bed earlier to deal with some exhaustion you are feeling. But sometimes we need to tell others what we need. We need help in meeting certain needs. Asking for what you need allows you to be able to step into your life and live it with the energy and focus it requires, and hopefully with joy!
Friends, what do you need right now to do this life that is yours? What need might you have that if you take the time to meet it, will give you the energy and focus you need to keep going?
Take time to sit with that question and dig deep. What comes up may surprise you. Then, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need!