I love giving gifts and help (and my kids say that I love giving advice or at least offer a lot of it). If only they knew how often I don’t comment and advice is not part of what I’m writing about today!
However, over the last 6 months or so, I have discovered how uncomfortable I am with receiving what I am so willing to give. We have some great friends who have been supportive emotionally and financially during rough spots. It’s hard to just say thank you.
I find myself trying to explain that the situation is just temporary and that things will be back to normal before we know it. But truthfully, what was “normal” probably won’t ever be again. What is now is our new normal and will probably change again before we know it. It is one of my “myths” to believe that life is stable and reliable and normal. Change unnerves me. It makes me feel vulnerable. I like to know what’s coming around the bend and that I am prepared. I’m coming to understand that this belief system contributes to the fear and anxiety that I deal with daily. It’s more than worry about what might happen: it’s a desperate need to hold on to the present and have things stay the same.
There’s a saying that is frequently repeated during a retreat program that I used to be involved in: “Don’t anticipate, participate.” I’ve never really been able to comprehend and apply that little gem. It means having a mindset that allows you to be in the moment and be fully involved in it without giving undue attention to what might be or change or happen next. I know that this a simplification of how life must be lived. We need to make plans and preparations for the future. But that awareness of what that future might be isn’t the same as being fearful and anxious about it. You can’t plan for any and every eventuality. We can’t see our future and that is a good thing.
I titled this Keeping score, because that’s what I do. When someone “gives” me something, I make a little mental tally mark. I now owe something back. I keep track of the giving and don’t like it when things become unbalanced…when I owe someone. I forget that, in true friendship, giving comes without expectation of return. We also don’t need to exchange like for like. The friendship wouldn’t continue if everyone involved wasn’t benefitting and being enriched by the relationship. But still I keep score.
If something good happens, I “record” the happening and “know” that something bad will happen next. This is basically the same system that I use for keeping track of giving. To live a normal and stable life, there must be balance in all things (or so my faulty beliefs tell me). Bad must follow good. Therefore, I live anxiously awaiting the next disaster and miss a lot of happiness and joy along the way.
When I first started this journey of mine last January, I mentally titled it “The year of no fear.” I had no idea what I was getting myself into: New and risky adventures like this blog, an art journaling group, and a public art project.
I didn’t anticipate the amount of emotional work I would need to do. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that I would be intentionally creating the frightening and anxiety-provoking situations that I would then need to face. I had no idea how much I could accomplish in such a short time. The fear and anxiety is still there to some extent, but each time I overcome it, I’m giving myself a tally mark in the win column.
I’m learning a new way to keep score!