I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
Here is another 99-word flash fiction for the Carrot Ranch weekly challenge; this week‘s topic is “What good is power?” After a recent conversation with a friend about our lifelong struggles with warding off intrusive attention from geeky, desperate boys for whom we feel sorry (hence the flash, below), I started thinking about my never-ending inner war between standing up for what I need—a.k.a. empowerment—and worrying about other people’s feelings.
This basic conflict lies at the heart of a thousand different unpleasant social situations throughout my life, from relatively simple situations like this one to deeper issues like claiming my right to my own opinions as a woman, a writer, a reader, a family member, a citizen. I never want to be unkind to anyone, but sometimes that is almost what is required—or at least it feels that way—in order to protect my emotional boundaries. I often cling to this quote:
“But so may you give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-reliance”
Ultimately, I must always choose to honor my needs and practice mature assertiveness and self-care rather than giving into fear of other people. The more I practice this, the easier it gets, but it’s never actually easy.
Empowerment vs. Other People’s Feelings, Chapter Three Million
“Hey, Becky!” David hurried toward her with his usual lopsided gait.
Becky sighed. David followed her everywhere now, ever since she had helped him up when he’d fallen on the campus sidewalk last month. When she’d tried explaining that she wasn’t interested in him romantically, he’d protested that they were just friends—yet he kept paying her more-than-friendly attentions. Lately she’d even started hiding from him.
She took a deep breath. She couldn’t bear to be unkind to him; that wasn’t who she was. But living in fear wasn’t either. “David, I’m really sorry, but I need some space.”