The holidays have me reflecting on my relationship to giving and receiving, namely my own past struggles with receiving. Oh, how I have loved the position of giving throughout my life, but I had the hardest time receiving.
Some people feel more comfortable in the role of receiver. They cling to the perception that giving is not safe because others may reject or find no value in what they offer. But I felt more comfortable in the role of giver. Years ago I came to realize that I clung to the story that in giving, I was in control. I cringed at not being able to control what others would give me. When others gave to me I often felt either awkward or indebted to them.
I was a quick study, and followed my Mom’s teaching of “Give until it hurts and then give some more.” I found myself wrung out, with my internal gas tank empty. Can you say “crash”? Immobilized, my body’s message was clear, “Be kind to me. Love me. Be gentle with me.” I was out of balance. It took me a long time to realize that living fully requires a balance of giving and receiving. But this balance doesn’t just come from a practice of quid pro quo trading.
Twenty years ago, when my sons were ages 5 and 2 1/2 I gave birth to twin daughters 15 weeks prematurely. Amy died after 9 days and Julia was in the hospital for over 3 months before she came home. Honestly, I got my ass kicked. Our family couldn’t do it alone. People in our lives opened their hearts and gave freely. We had dinner brought to us every night for 2 1/2 months; babysitters so we could go back to the hospital later in the evenings, and oh so many more generous offerings – it was amazing. Without those offerings of support, I felt like I would have died. I know that sounds dramatic but I was so overwhelmed, consumed, and in shock, that simply functioning was almost unbearable.
I recognized early on that there was NO way I could “pay back” all of the offers of loving kindness. None. But continuing as a stingy receiver and feeling bad wasn’t going to do anyone any good. With awareness and practice, I opened my heart to receive in gratitude. To allow my needs to be met without keeping score or playing into a belief of littleness. I also recognized how much I loved to give to others and how good it made me feel. Why would I continue to deny that wonderful experience to others? It was an extreme circumstance for me to learn to receive, but there it was.
Giving and receiving are the same thing when we approach them with an open heart. When I open my heart and give from a place of love, I receive love. When I open my heart and receive from a place of love, I am giving love.
With an open heart, I thank you for the Love that you are, exactly as you are. This holiday season, and for the rest of your life, may you feel safe to open your heart to love, knowing you are more than enough.