Receiving is actually something I’ve had to practice. Literally. To build the muscle for.
I was sitting in the kitchen with my colleague Dain, years ago, and he offered me a coke.
“Yes, thank you!” I replied as I reached over and grabbed it off the table in front of him.
He stood there, looking at me blankly.
“Do you realize I can’t even hand you a coke?” he asked me.
“What do you mean?” I replied a bit defensively. “I mean, it was right there.”
“You always do everything for yourself. I can’t even hand a coke to you, let alone open or pour it, and heaven forbid, actually offer you some ice. I just wanted to fix you a coke.”
It struck me with a zing.
Now I had been raised by an amazingly competent single mother who had lived through women’s liberation. She had raised 2 kids, chopped her own firewood, started our broken car by hand with a screwdriver every morning, milked goats before school… she could do everything. And she did.
I had grown up lifting my own suitcase, navigating my own way to events, opening my own doors. I was grateful to have been raised to feel confident and competent and know that I could take care of myself when needed.
But what else had I tied together with this way of thinking? What had I excluded along the way?
I realized, perhaps for the first time, that just because I can do something does not mean that it is the choice that will create the most. Of course I am physically capable of opening a coke can. But what will that choice create? What would it create if I allowed someone to do it for me? What if I smiled and was grateful? What reverberations might that have throughout that person’s day or life and perhaps even, world?
I tried to picture a replay of the scenario in my head with me sitting back peacefully in my chair while Dain casually poured the coke over ice. Ehhhh. Even in my head it made me squirm.
“Wow. I get it.” I professed. “I’m not very comfortable receiving. What will it take to change that?”
And one thing that I am grateful for about myself is, when I finally see a limited way I’ve been functioning in the world, I don’t just smile and hope it will change. “What will it take to change that?” actually means “what will it take?” and “what will it take” and whatever awareness I get when I ask that question, I follow and see what shows up.
So I put myself on a dating site. Cause, well, it was the first thing that came to mind. And in my profile I wrote “I’m recovering from women’s lib. I need you to open the door for me even when I go to do it myself.”
I went on dates and literally sat on my hands when the check came. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t pay. I just wanted to practice waiting 10 seconds to see if my date would offer. And if he did, I then tried to keep the bile that would inevitably start rising in my throat down just long enough to say “thank you” as genuinely and graciously as I could muster.
I hated not offering to split the bill. I hated standing next to a door pathetically while it was being opened.
But somehow, over time, I hated it less… and less… and then at some point I started to noticed I wasn’t actually standing there being pathetic anymore, I was standing there grateful… and I kinda even liked it!
I found that allowing someone to bring me a coffee or write down a quote from my seminar or lift my bag for me, when they actually desired to do so, made them feel great. And the more I responded with elation and gratitude and delight, the more joy the person gifting to me seemed to receive from their gift as well.
It seems this is just another one of those topics I had gotten backwards.
What if receiving was the gift? What if by refusing to receive, we don’t “spare someone the trouble” we actually eliminate the possibilities that exist?
If you are not getting everything you desire in life, is it possible your receiving sucks?
Is it time to start building the muscle?
It is time to sit on your hands for a bit?
I’ve realized that being strong and independent and capable doesn’t mean you can’t also be gracious and grateful and receive.
My receiving is still not perfect. I’m asking for more all the time! It’s a journey this thing called awareness.
But my life has expanded with people and things in ways I never could have imagined. And thankfully, I no longer cringe when someone goes to hand me a coke.
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