Photo: Circa kindergarten. Me (far right) with my family about to start the ride...
Greetings from 2018! I'm feeling good about this new clean slate, but I'm very grateful for the year that has passed. Despite all the crazy, there was much to learn. (Consume in one dose - quick read, promise!)
Right before the new year, I met up with a dear childhood friend. He described experiencing his current life lesson like a toddler learning to walk. He’s still falling down, but he is learning how to get back up and try again.
He is one of the most loved people I know, yet at 52 years old, he’s learning how to truly let love in. Each dose received is more practice. I, too, know I’m surrounded by love, but learning to look it in the eye has been a life changer.
If I were to look back to determine where things went awry, I can point to kindergarten. Back then, we were taught to give as a sign of kindness, many times at the expense of our own happiness. It’s a child’s instinct to say “mine” or “me first.” With a 1-2-3, adults undo this and turn children into sharers. Kids learn that giving makes them feel and look good. The receiver and the adult teacher are happy too. And so on starts the cycle of giving to please… even if we are not pleased.
A lifetime of this lopsided giving dynamic creates a literal unhealthy balance. Overworked, overscheduled, overfed and under-rested, we give our energy away. While our intentions are good, many of our daily offerings are obligatory – things we’re supposed to do. We reject help as a sign of weakness and resist pausing to take in new energy. We start our mornings with coffee to mask fatigue, chase our energy all day with sugar and more caffeine, knock out with a cocktail at dinner, sleep restlessly at night and repeat. We give at the expense of our own wellbeing. It’s called stress and it leads to much dis-ease.
For me, the imbalance manifests as feeling overwhelmed – those days when I wake up, get dressed and count the hours until I can get my pajamas back on again. Despite yoga, meditation and good food, when my cup fills to full, I alert my family by saying, “I’m gonna lose it!” I wave this announcement around like my white flag. When I hear the words myself, I know it's time to back down, stop doing and receive. Like my friend, I'm learning to do that more.
The lesson came for both of us this past year when the universe knocked us both off the grid. While my car collided with a semi, my friend crashed into cancer. Both doers and givers, we had to finally give up and give in. We had to let others help us and we had to ask for help. We learned to receive, but the giving source had shifted as well. The gifts were full, not empty and obligatory. While some came wrapped in bows, all were given from love. We had to shed our armor to accept that love with an open, vulnerable heart. Rather than cutting off the giver by saying, “really, I'm fine," or "that's not necessary,” we completed the exchange by saying, “I see the love you are giving, I’m taking it in and I return it to you.” It’s a balanced dynamic that leaves both feeling whole, calm and loved. It's healing. It’s giving on a higher level and receiving as a form of surrender. It’s “giving up.”
I also call it Receiving 101. When you’re down, it’s easier to accept help. Asking for help when you’re up is hard. Giving yourself space to pause to receive new energy even harder. Giving and receiving this love with self is the ultimate advanced practice and a delicate, balanced exchange no matter who’s involved. Give too much and you’re selfless. Receive too much and you’re selfish.
When my friend and I hugged before the holidays, he thanked me for helping him. I told him it was on an honor to be with him. He said, “I don’t allow many people in.” I said, “I know,” and then unknowingly folded my arms in front of my chest as he looked away to pick up something on his desk. Later, I had to laugh. We had just talked about how good we’re getting at this! And then there we were in the thick of it, acknowledging what we gave and received, and we folded in and looked away. It’s a practice. The adult version of learning how to walk. We love. We feel. We fall. We laugh. We get back up… and repeat.
Sending love to...
My sweet friend. Can you send some too? I just watched the documentary, Heal, where they show how the collective and subconscious can truly heal.
My spiritual teacher, Ramaa Krishnan, for showing me that giving and receiving are two sides of the very same coin.
All of you for your care and concern from my last post. I’m 99% better and, ironically, am left with only four little scars on my upper arm that form the shape of a lopsided smile.