To be a loving person, you do not have to give everything away.
I’m a giver. I inherited this trait from my mother. I can remember leaving toiletries on the neighbors porch around Christmas time because my parents said they needed shampoo and toilet paper more than we needed more toys. I often drop what I am doing to go help my nieces or to an answer a call from a Drama Room baby that needs some help. What the past year has taught me is that if I give when I am not full, it is actually not a GIFT. It’s a take. A take leaves me starved and drained and I can’t even face simple daily decisions. A gift makes me feel full and useful. Once I give, there is even more in the tank. Not less. It’s almost like a magic trick.
How do you decide if giving is a GIFT or a TAKE? This is something I am still working on.
I’m also discovering giving is my form of RESISTANCE. Ooooh that sneaky SOB. I thought resistance was supposed to look nasty and full of puss like procrastination or perfectionism. I never thought the word GIVING or ACTS OF KINDNESS could be the bad guy! Oh, but GIVING can be resistance running round in disguise, my friends, and this is my go-to form of Resistance, “I couldn’t work on my stuff because so-and-so needed me!” (Stephen Pressfield was visited by the creative genius when he wrote War Of Art. In it, he talks about the creatives resistance. Everyone I admire references this book. I keep it in my bathroom which is where I keep all my books of wisdom)!
Here is one example of a take: A take can look like sucking it up when someone is openly sexist to me. “You should wear a low cut shirt and make videos. People would watch that.” I’m learning it is not KIND to let that go unchallenged. If I don’t speak up for myself, it will cost me. I’m learning to use my voice because trying to be nice and ignoring that comment costs my soul too much. Treating me like a piece of meat instead of a brain with a heart and ideas and yes, boobs, is not ok with me and I’m tired of pretending that it is. Giving them a pretend smile is a take. Not a gift. At this point in my life it doesn’t do me any good. I’ve learned that being quiet is too much of a price for me now. There was a time when sticking up for myself would have been too costly. I couldnt handle the rejection of not being liked. It was indeed better to just walk away because sticking up for myself would have been a big price to pay. I wasn’t ready. But today, I make a different choice. I do not give the fake smile. I have a lot in the bank. And sticking up for my body is a price I’m more than willing to pay.
Here is a trickier example of a take: I had a situation recently where someone I care about very deeply needed me in a way that was simply asking too much from me. This is trickiest when it is someone we love. But I knew I didn’t have it to give. It would have been a take. This someone had every right to ask me for the gift, but I had every right to not fill the order.
How do you know the difference? I’m still learning. So far, in the example above, I’ve learned I have to write to myself alone and in a quiet space. I ask myself the question, “Will I be giving a gift to someone or will this person be taking from me?” And, “If it’s a take, how much will they take? Is it worth the price?” See, I think everything has a cost. And since I’m in the business of me, I’m the one that has to balance the books.
For example, putting down my writing to go pick up my niece when I wasn’t planning on it effects me. Sometimes, it adds money to the bank because I get to see her and she’s amazing and I know in the car ride we might have an amazing conversation (like we did to start this whole being me movement). And sometimes there is a price, I have to neglect my work. I was in the flow. I’m afraid I won’t get it back. Leaving my work costs me some price. Usually the price is so small, and I know the gift back will be larger so in the end I wind up FULL, so I decide to answer the call and go.
Sometimes I can give by listening to someone else’s pain, and I can hold that space of listener for them without it draining me. It doesn’t cost me a thing to listen. I give them my ear because it feels good to help by listening. I know this because I feel better even when they’ve been crying and hurting. BUT there are times when listening costs me a lot. At 40, I’m learning to say, “No, I can’t do that. It costs me too much.” It feels uncomfortable because I’m not used to it. I’m a pleaser. I love making people feel good and loved and happy. I love giving! It feels great. Except when it doesn’t. I’m learning that sometimes I can’t GIVE and that’s ok. Not giving also comes at a cost. The person needing from me gets angry. (Of course, they are used to me being there. It hurts them.) I run the risk of losing them. I run the risk of not being the person they come to for help. It’s a sucky, really really sucky cost to pay but losing myself is not worth the price.