Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about Getting Knocked Down and How to Stop Saying Yes.
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Hello and welcome to episode #55 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Getting Knocked Down and How to Stop Saying Yes.
Getting Knocked Down
It seemed like I was knocked down or hurt so many times that I thought I was one of the unluckiest people in the world. If my life wasn't miserable, it was a struggle with one challenge after another. Worse, what was my life worth? Not much, I thought. And then, in middle age, I met a stranger who forever changed my perception of my life.
Mom gave me away when I was five because Grandma Sandy offered to care for me since motherhood was overwhelming for Mom. Knocked down by circumstances, my self-worth was at risk. Feelings of hurt and heartache ensued with an ache that persisted in affecting all my relationships. Could I ever recover from the trauma of being thrown away and feeling unloved and unwanted?
Uncle Holden, Uncle Ray, and Uncle Rick said I didn't belong in their family with Grandpa, Grandma, and my two aunties; they said I was with them because my parents didn't want me. Knocked down by my living situation, my self-esteem was at risk. Injured feelings followed to have no remedy to heal. Could I heal myself?
My plan to get a college education was stopped by the absence of money because no relative would finance my education. Knocked down by my position, my future was at risk. Alone to fend for me, faceless people were in front of me, providing no support. How was I going to do it alone?
My plan to live happily after getting married ended in divorce because my husband was too controlling, had a monstrous temper, and was exceptionally anal. Knocked down by his jabs of emotional abuse, my self-esteem was at risk. Disillusioned with marriage, readjustment to singlehood was next. Would I ever remarry? Could I be happier single?
My plan to make millions in a business ended with failure. Knocked down by my lack of ability, luck, or connections, my financial security was at risk. With drained bank accounts, daily life became a struggle. Could I get back up on my feet and be on solid ground?
My plan to marry my boyfriend ended when he cheated on me. Knocked down by his infidelity, any future relationship was at risk. With the unforgivable act bearing its weight on me, I held myself hostage from loving again. Could I ever find my way to forgive and move on?
My plan to move abroad was stopped by a travel ban because of the worldwide pandemic. Knocked down by the enormous obstacle, my financial security and livelihood were at risk. Anxiety-ridden, pangs of despair pressed on me. Would I resolve this problem before I became penniless?
Those were just some of the many adversities that put my livelihood, finances, relationships, self-esteem, and self-worth at risk. The weight of all the misfortunes only provided proof of a miserable life. Pain and struggle with a bit of joy in between seemed to be the norm for me.
Could I or did I ever overcome all the adversities?
A bamboo symbolizes strength, flexibility, adaptability, resilience, patience, and growth. It springs back to life after experiencing adversity. I possess those qualities; they have helped me overcome many hardships. I call myself a bamboo. Knock me down if you will, but I will stand back up. No matter how many times you knock me down, I will bounce back up each time more vital than the last. My secret to survival is standing tall like a stalk of bamboo.
Feeling unwanted and unloved because I was sent away, the rebellious five-year-old me fought back with determination to stand tall and make something of myself. I toiled away to obtain college degrees and have careers; I became independent at seventeen. I granted myself some worthiness. This bamboo would not stay knocked down.
Alone because I didn't belong with the family I lived with, the defiant me fought to stand straight and show that I was unique and different and didn't need to belong in any group other than my own. I escaped into my imagination and searched for knowledge to find a place in the world where I belonged. Like a bamboo, I swung back up; my quiet strength would never go unnoticed.
Desperate to find money to finance my college education, my survival instincts drove me to search for the solution. With creativity, luck, and a particular encounter, I learned how to pay for my college education. As a bamboo, I refused to stay knocked down. I had to get up and show the world I would not accept defeat. My life was at stake; I had to win to live another day.
Walking on eggshells to endure an unsatisfying marriage, I fought to keep it intact but found my freedom and happiness were more important. I refused and did not deserve continued emotional abuse and disrespect. Courage to go through a divorce was in order. This bamboo stood back up with strength, power, and freedom to enjoy another day.
Having risked my safe and secure job to embark on a risky business without guarantees for financial wealth, I boldly stepped forward, daring to make my dreams come true. With tenacity and a never give up attitude, I persisted. But, in the end, I lost more money than I had earned. The bamboo in me came up with a solution: Move abroad with a job and begin again.
Devastated by a cheating boyfriend, I went numb. Refusing to go into a deep depression, I took a trip to sort things out. I decided to move abroad and enjoyed living a carefree, worry-free life for a couple of years. After some years, I declared that I forgave and stopped punishing myself. This fighter refused to stay knocked down, and like bamboo, I got back up and lived life more fully.
Imprisoned by a travel ban that stopped me from moving abroad a second time, I stayed home and pulled out my creative skills to find a way to move out of the country within the travel restrictions. I found a way and started on a new passion, which could turn into a new career. As a bamboo, I jumped back up, more energized to move forward.
While enduring a pandemic, I was jobless and nearly homeless. I began to write my stories of adversity and share them with a perceptive stranger and an excellent listener. He was a language partner who helped me get ready for my move abroad for the second time. Through our conversations and thought-provoking discussions, he helped me discover the gems in my adversities. Some of my miseries sounded like soap operas that hooked him in to listen. He was intrigued, and my stories stirred him to ask many questions. But what captured him was how I found ways to overcome my adversities. He said it inspired him.
I never imagined that my adversities could inspire others. He said my life was full of fascinating twists and turns and incredible ups and downs. He wished he had a bit of what I had. He seemed to enjoy a rollercoaster ride vicariously through me. He was having fun on the ride, but I was not. With one challenge after another, I felt adversity followed me, giving me no joy. While he enjoyed my life's twists, turns, and ups and downs, he had me see my life through a new set of lenses. I always thought my life was terrible, with a bit of joy in between. But through this stranger's lenses, it was an abundantly meaningful life. It was an eye-opening moment; for the first time in my life, I saw that I had a meaningful life, and it tickled me with joy.
How to Stop Saying Yes
Imagine having a job that involved various tasks, and each day would bring surprises on top of that. The surprises would be unexpected or emergency problems that needed resolution as soon as possible. And off you go to resolve the issues. By the end of the day, you would have gone through feelings of anxiety, thrill, excitement, and satisfaction. With each request for help, you say YES, but then one day, you say NO. Suddenly, the thrill of the job is over because you said NO. But something new and wonderful emerges to make you happy to say NO. And then you stop being a yes, ma'am or yes, sir responder.
I had such a job. This job was the right job for me as a person who can easily get bored. I thrived on having a variety of things to do each day. I would be at a different location each day of the week, talking to other people and listening to any issues they had. Then I would advise, make suggestions, mediate, or resolve problems. Other tasks included sharing presentation and communication skills. I had more duties, such as searching for more workers to fill positions, setting up appointments, meeting candidates, processing contracts, and training new hires. Though there were many things to do for the job, they utilized my creative, listening, and problem-solving skills. I practiced them daily and found them valuable life skills.
Aside from the variety of daily tasks, I had more to do. As I walked into work each day, Trisha would say, "Oh, Emily, can you help me with this?" Bella would ask, "Emily, can you help me check this?" Casey would say," Emily, Emily, Joe is complaining about his new schedule. Would you please talk to him?" Hearing my name called to do this or that, colleagues bombarded me with requests for help. Before I could begin my day doing my job, co-workers would ask for help with their job. Sometimes I felt like a dog and would say, "I am not a dog!" No one seemed to understand what I meant. They needed help and were only asking for help because I was capable of helping. The demand for my assistance did not stop because I said, "Okay, let me see what I can do to help." Basically, I kept saying YES; I would help. And the demands kept coming in.
And then, one day, Bella said, "I need you to edit this and design an assignment." I said, "When do you need this?" Bella replied, "Tomorrow." I responded, "I have to meet with Jed at 10:30; I need to help Kent at noon. I have to be at the following location from 2:00-4:30. I have people to work with from 5-8 PM I have work to check until 9:00 PM. So, the only time I have to get it done is after 9:00 PM. Did you want me to work on it?" A few days later, Bella requested my help as she was in dire straits, and again I told her my schedule of tasks and people to meet. I didn't exactly say NO, but I didn't see how I could have the time to help.
Miraculously, after two times of letting Bella know that I was seriously too busy to help her take care of last-minute emergencies, she stopped asking for my help altogether. I felt terrible that I couldn't squeeze in more time to help, but my plate had been spilling over with things to do for a few years already. When Bella stopped asking, I felt like she finally heard me; I was indeed busy. Then I thought, "Did she think I had time on my hands, so I was the one to help her?" When she stopped, other co-workers stopped incessantly demanding my time. Suddenly, it felt like all was quiet on the eastern front. And I was left to work on my long list of tasks.
I would sometimes be asked to do something, but the tone was now different. Co-workers would respectfully make requests. "Only if you have time," they'd say. Now they respected my time. It took me a while to gather that they were not treating me like a dog, but they found that they asked me because I could resolve issues or had the skills to complete some tasks. However, I also realized that as long as I said, "YES, I will do it," they would keep asking and not notice that their requests stacked on my plate were piled high and about to topple over if I didn't lighten the load. Despite my constantly full plate, I didn't directly say no to any requests.
It would take a few more years later before I started saying NO. How come it took so long? What led to the NO? Perhaps it was through time and me feeling disrespected. My ability to tolerate was not my strong suit. I would endure many things for years and make myself suffer until I would wake up one morning and say, "Enough is enough! I won't take anymore!"
I wanted to help others, and I was in the position of serving others, but I had needs too. Though I may please others by helping them, I was not always pleasing myself. More than anything, when I made a request, which seldom happened, I realized that others were not thinking or caring about my needs. So, if I said no to them, it would be okay. I didn't need to feel bad about saying no or not helping someone. Everyone has needs and has a right to make requests. We also have a right to say no, too. It is not being unkind to others. It is letting others know your availability or limits. If we don't set boundaries, they will keep asking, and you will feel overwhelmed. They are not to blame. It is I who has to name the limits.
You can stop saying YES all the time when you know there is also power in the word NO. When I say NO, I let others know what I will accept and what I will reject. It lets them know where I stand and allows others to respect my time and value my abilities. By saying NO to what I don't want to do or don't have time to do, I not only let others know, but it is also me respecting myself. When I respect my time and value, I allow others the chance to do the same.
Though my life has been filled with many challenges and struggles, it has also been filled with lessons learned, and wisdom gained, making it a meaningful life.
Though I often said yes and helped many people, I have learned that saying no sets boundaries for others to respect my time and abilities.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Devils Encountered and From Hate to Love. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!