Blog, courage

The Art of Receiving

Day 208

I remember growing up believing that their were two types of people in the world — the givers and the takers. It seemed to be a lesson in the idea that giving was a construct of good and taking was somehow bad. What was absent in that life lesson was the art of receiving which is quite different than taking.

These thoughts have been running through my mind for several days now. Last Friday I watched a video posted by my friend Kim Halsey. Kim recently retired from Corporate America and is now living her heart’s desires and teaching others to do the same through her business Leading With Heart.

Toward the end of her video, Kim talks about the vulnerability and courage it sometimes takes to just simply receive. After watching the video I had a bit of a flashback to a very similar moment in my life, when just feeling humble enough to receive with no expectation of repayment hit me hard.

Relationships can change you. Especially bad relationships. They can alter your way of thinking and behaving. Expectations you have of yourself can be altered in dramatic ways.

I remember three very distinct moments in my life which distorted and then reshaped my views on giving and receiving.

There was a time in my life I was in a particularly bad marriage. I will not go through all the trauma associated with this time in my life because it is not important any longer. What is important are the continued lessons that come out of that time

  • It was December and we planned a trip across country for the holiday. Because of the expense we agreed we would not buy presents for each other. The tree was decorated, the kids presents tucked underneath the tree awaiting our return home. When we came back, I discovered a gift under the tree for me – a present containing a VERY expensive piece of jewelry we simply could not afford. I, of course, had not purchased a gift – I kept my word. I felt horrible trying to receive this gift because it was one-sided and a violation of the promise we had made.
  • Fast forward years later to my 12th wedding anniversary. Things were falling apart in the marriage at a very rapid rate. I had come off a week of intense arguments and extreme levels of stress in the relationship. At work the receptionist phoned and said there was a delivery for me on its way to my office. We worked in an open cubicle environment where everyone could see you at all times. I was caught off guard when a florist arrived with 12 dozen long stemmed roses. Another over-the-top gift. Again, something we could not afford. The ruckus in the office was a full barrage of adoration and comments like “you are so lucky”, and “I wish someone loved me like that” and “does he have a brother” and on and on. I felt sick to my stomach knowing there was a price associated with this gift. Meanwhile, at home, my now-ex was so sure of himself and asked my daughter if she thought I could stay mad at him now? Trust me, I learned that gifts are not always from the heart and often the act of receiving had a huge cost – it was manipulation.
  • Fast forward to the day of my eventual divorce. Believe me, I was mouthy about it. I took the day off work and told everyone I was going to go get drunk to celebrate. Of course, I was not going to celebrate the demise of my marriage. It was a failure after all. My failure. I left the courthouse and came home and decided to mow my overgrown lawn. I had an old used lawnmower that choked out on me all the time. The blades were dull and the grass was high. I would get about 15 yards and the machine would die. I was sitting on the floor in the garage taking the lawnmower apart trying to fix it when my son came home from school. As he stepped off the bus, our elderly neighbor called for him to stop at her house. Moments later I looked up to see my son pushing her brand new lawnmower across the street toward our house. My son said, “Mrs. D wants you to use her mower.” I looked up, covered in grass clippings and motor oil and just started to bawl. “Why are you crying, mom? This is a good thing, isn’t it?” Indeed it was.

That day mowing my lawn was a turning point. I realized how powerful it is to simply receive with grace and gratitude. I had spent 15 years determined to do everything on my own and not to ask anything of anyone. In the receiving of this gift, I was brought to my knees. I was humbled. Gifts could be given full of heart and good intention without expectations of anything in return.

I still struggle with receiving, but I am better at it now than ever before. I resist the feeling that I need to reciprocate in some way. The beauty of receiving is to acknowledge that you are seen and you are loved and the gift is quite simply just a gift from the heart.

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32 thoughts on “The Art of Receiving”

  1. I echo so many of your thoughts and comments. My ex always bought me flowers for wrong doings. We could not afford them and they did not mean anything but pain for me. I told my husband (new) to never buy me flowers for a transgression as it meant a trigger for sadness. I also still have difficulty receiving. I am a work in progress.

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  2. Aw, Maggie, such a touching post about struggles many of us have – I wish we all, me included could receive gifts easier. It is nice to read you’re getting better at it. Thank you for being open to sharing your words of wisdom.

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  3. I love this, Maggie. I have been through a couple of bad marriages too, and am so happy today as a senior to have found a love that is true and stable, and calm, and that all the drama of trying to live with someone who does not share the same life values is gone. It is truly hard to accept help for everyday things now because I am so used to trying to manage to “fix” or “take care of” everything myself. I am reading a wonderful book now in a series by Judith Duerk , and the series is in the Circle of Stones books. I am not sure she is still alive and the books I have are paperback and thin enough to read in one or a couple of sittings. I am glad that I came across them because I think a lot of us women give up a lot of who we are, and at taking good inner care of ourselves because we are pushed into other more active, more aggressive or “successful” roles and responsibilities to where we have little left of our own selves. So this doesn’t necessarily give any advice to you from me, but just sharing myself and what books I am reading to help myself. It has always been difficult for me to ask others for help because I have always been “the adult,” the one who takes care of everyone else. So I needed to realize that I too need care, and to take the time and the energy to give to my own self. Thanks for this good post.

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    1. Anne, your post rings SO very true for me. I am a retired nurse, mom of two, etc etc. I am REALLY trying to learn the lesson of receiving. I appreciate the mention of these books and will look into them!

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      1. Thank you so much. I have a feeling you can get them online really cheap. I so wanted to be a nurse when I was young too, but mother told me (remember I am almost 78, so that was back in the day when we were raised that way) that I was supposed to get a job as a secretary and find a man and get married and have children. That was what life was all about. May you and Maggie and I can all finish reading the books – they are a very fast read, and then work through them as a wonderful group of women, adding other women if it rings true for all of us. I know I would really enjoy that. I have always worked (once that first disaster was over) in trying to get in touch with the feminine in me and coming to terms with the spiritual being I am. These things are more meaningful day by day as I am going through these very special years of my own life within myself. I hope for all of you too. We all need and deserve that. Thank you again.

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    2. Anne, I am glad you have found peace in your life. I have not heard of Judith Durkin, but I will look her up. We all deserve (men and women alike) to receive as much as we give.

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      1. I could not agree more. Yes, we are as females, givers by nature, but that leaves us in an unbalanced state. We need to come together as females, and not necessarily expect others to give to us , but to learn to give to and care for ourselves. And that is not to say that a relationship should ever be unbalanced for it should not be so, but we have first and foremost to be true to who we are as women and acknowledge our feminine, which is more than just being in good shape, etc. It is about our identity inside. I love this coming together between some women who are ready to open their lives to possibilities.

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  4. Maggie……thank you for sharing such important life lessons. So many of us women have lived our lives serving others and not taking care of ourselves. Your lessons inspire me to get to work on myself for sure!! πŸ’œ thank you for being so open.

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    1. Nancy, in reading your comment, I don’t think I necessarily lived a life serving others. What I did was lose myself in a very caustic relationship. I lost what it meant to receive that which is given with no expectation of anything in return. Working on ourselves is something we should all do as a gift to ourselves. We all deserve that.

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      1. That is the voice of wisdom. No one else can really do it for us. And it is good that we are all (or most of us are) women, for there is so much shared in our feminine aspect of our lives. And feminine isn’t meant to convey what some people might take it to be. It is that ever-present yin/yang, and a matter for positive balance.

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      1. One of the things I do is to mediate for say even half an hour each day, generally in the early morning. I can do it when I take a walk in my neighborhood, or I can sit and do it, or if I don’t feel too well, I will lie down on the bed with the door closed so my little animals won’t all try to crawl in bed with me, and perhaps just close my eyes and meditate for 15 minutes to half an hour. That may be just lying there and thinking about whatever comes up for me. I never try to force my meditations. What comes up is in my mind at least what is of top importance to me. It may be something spiritual, something related to physical health, and then it might even be about whether or not to sell our only car that is not (or barely) running – pros and cons. Meditation doesn’t have to be anything specific. It just needs to be something that reflects on you, or as you put it, self reflection. If it is uncomfortable to stay in there for even a short time, there may be something on your mind that is painful and you don’t feel able to deal with. Allow yourself that too. Let yourself know that it is not important to resolve anything – just allow those things that are there to come up and “float by.”

        I have a lifetime of things I need to work through and if I try to push it, I am unable totally to do it, but if I just allow them to come and go in my mind, sooner or later I can face whatever it is without so much pain.

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