I often find myself in a situation where, usually at a highly inopportune moment for me, someone comes to me with a random story, problem or question. And even though I try to maneuver my way out of it, politely explaining that “sorry I am actually in the middle of something and now is not such a good moment”, I feel trapped and in a strange way obliged to listen. It happens and it leaves me feeling exhausted after.
Then I remembered a situation some years ago during a yoga retreat in France. A fellow yogi was sitting in a deckchair by the pool when his girlfriend came, sat next to him and talked to him about something that had just happened. He was sitting there, acknowledging her presence but for the rest, completely ignoring her. When she was finished talking, there was silence. When she then asked for some sort of reaction he replied in the calmest way possible: “Did I ask something? Did I ask you a question?”. Being on a deckchair not too far from where they were I overheard what he said. I was shocked by his blunt and rude response. Poor woman. All kinds of curses I called upon him, this macho rude dude.
Later that day I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when he came in to help. So while chopping unions and washing the veggies I asked him if I could ask him a personal question. Of course, he said. So I asked about his response to his girlfriend that afternoon by the pool. I also added my unvarnished opinion of the situation and that I didn’t understand his complete lack of empathy. His response will stick with me forever.
“Have you ever considered how rude it actually is for someone to take your time and energy without asking? When someone takes something from you without asking, let say your wallet, it is called theft. Something that is completely embedded in our society as wrong and unacceptable. But when it comes to our own personal space, our time and energy, we feel it is ok for others to just take what they need, whenever they need it and enforce it upon us. A wallet can be replaced though, but your time, your energy cannot be returned in any way. So I do not consider myself rude or careless, I was just clearly setting my boundaries and preserving my energy”.
I think we all know that there are people that suck the energy right out of you for no apparent reason. The so-called “energy vampires”. And if you pay close attention, you’ll find that it are actually those suckers that never ask.
I know I cannot change someone else, but I can take back control of my own time and energy. So from now on I’ll ask more often: “Did I ask something?”. And if the answer is no, I will not feel guilty for not responding or reacting, I will simply remind myself of the story and self-preserve.