I have a really hard time accepting compliments. It’s not that I brush them off, or discourage them. My problem is that I get so excited about receiving a compliment, I sort of disassociate. I’m not really there to receive the kind words. I get this fleeting hit of goodness, but I can’t quite remember what was said, or by whom. It makes me wonder if the problem isn’t the compliment, but the act of receiving that is my problem. Receiving is tricky business for women. We are implicitly taught that our greatest good is always in giving. Give until it hurts. Give to show everyone that you are a good wife, mother, citizen of the world. Give without expectation. Give. Be agreeable. Say “yes.”
And while this all sounds very nice and holy and selfless, I’m now 41 years into this “give” mentality, and I gotta tell you, it’s exhausting. At this point, I have a hard time distinguishing between what I am joyfully interested in giving, and what I’m giving out of guilt or a desire to be liked. I’m too tired or busy executing the giving to really notice how I feel about the giving.
Just the word makes me feel uncomfortable. Receive? Gross. If I receive, then that means I’ll owe someone something. That means I’ll get trapped into even more GIVING. Receiving is so passive. It’s kinda wimpy.
But I also wondered, what kind of vibes am I sending if I’m closed to really receiving? It can't be good. What kind of life perks am I missing out on? Rather than just wonder about it, I decided to do an experiment. I decided to expect to receive good things from life, and to stay present and open when these good things show up. I was curious to see if it made any real difference.
Here’s what I learned:
My Brain the Unicorn Finder Within the first few days, I was bombarded by moments of receiving, both large and small. Just tuning my brain to seek out moments of receiving created the perception of an increase of blessings being showered upon me. It seems that there is evidence to suggest that this is a real phenomenon, but seeing it first hand was a shocker. On one hectic day, I had a client cancel, and realized it was the perfect pocket of time to take a walk and listen to Serial (my all time favorite thing). Then there was the batch of loquats (best fruit ever) that showed up via my in-laws. My dear friend Christina gave me a book on the secret history of Wonder Woman. Another friend (this time Kristina with a “k”) brought me a specially made batch of essential oils all the way from Seattle. BAM! BAM! BAM! One good thing after another. And those are only a few! There were many more. It was like an aperture in my brain opened up to perceive the receiving opportunities, and a fire hose worth of little, delicious blessings poured in.
I Was Asking for It I also found that articulating my need out loud was like waving a magic wand. I am ashamed to admit that I rely heavily on other people’s ability to read my mind. Especially my poor husband. If you're getting serious about receiving, there has to be an asking aspect right? All that "ask and ye shall receive" business? So for Mother’s Day this year, I decided to state clearly what my wishes were for my day. I wanted to feel loved and celebrated by my family, and then I wanted time in silence, in nature, and then some time to go shopping. My wish was Sal’s command. He and the kids each shared what they loved about me as we drove to Mass, and I forced myself to be present and take in what they were saying, and found myself crying some very happy tears. After Mass, I spent my morning wandering in the trees on a beautiful hike in Saratoga, and then quickly scurried through the sale rack at Calypso, snapping up an awesome dress for an upcoming trip. I came home to a husband wearing a man apron, making a whole mess of ribs for dinner. There is nothing sexier than a man making ribs for his woman. Lemme tell you.
Make the Request, But Lose the Attachment By far the most unexpected moment of receiving had to be what I consider the “U2 Debacle of 2015.” There are only two performers that I will see in a large stadium environment: Bruce Springsteen and U2. I just can’t take being in a closed environment with so many people. It drains me and makes me want to curl up in a fetal position. But U2 and the Boss are like going to church. There’s unity, love, and joy in that space. It feels nourishing rather than depleting. So of course when I heard U2 was coming to town, I was all in. Except that I never got my act together to buy tickets. I was so angry at myself, so full of self loathing over this. But once my experiment in receiving was underway, I decided to just turn it over to the Universe. If I’m meant to go, I’ll go. If not, I’ll do something else and all will be well. A few days later, Sal forwarded an email from a friend inviting us to the show. I laughed out loud when I saw it… Of course! I received that gift with open arms, and Sal and I rocked out and got lost in a Bono-induced nostalgia fest. Here's a snapshot.
Intuition as a Portkey Do you remember in the Harry Potter story how simply touching a portkey would transport any wizard to wherever he or she needed to go? This experiment taught me over and over again that intuition is like a portkey to receiving blessings. When that voice of intuition comes a callin’, get ready to take action, because good stuff lives on the other side. I was sitting in a client session with a very well known author. In fact, he authored one of my all time favorite works of fiction, and I could hardly believe he was asking me for on-stage storytelling support for a talk he would be giving. We had two fantastic sessions, and at the end of the second session, my intuition whispered in my ear… ask him what he’s working on… I decided to go for it. “So, if you don't mind my asking—are you working on anything new?” Not only did he tell me all about his newest novel and the agony and strife of writing it, he actually showed me a time lapse video of himself, white boarding some of the larger plot points and character elements. As a wanna-be writer myself, I have always dreamed of asking an author I admire to tell me how the process goes in inventing a world, a story, a character. I sat in awe and gratitude at the humble and generous way he shared the details of his own writing process. It left me speechless. And he sent me away with signed copies of two of his books, something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
As I sit here in this cafe, writing this, I’m noticing bubbles floating through the air, probably from a nearby toy shop. I’m reflecting that I’ve been noticing bubbles a lot lately in various places. A quick Google search revealed that many believe bubbles are a sign of everyday moments of magic. That’s what this experiment has taught me: life is practically throwing itself at us, begging to be noticed. It’s hoping we notice the colors on the hummingbird’s neck as it zooms past. It’s praying we allow our hearts to feel the magnitude of a child’s whisper of “I lub you, mommy.” As Walt Whitman said, “..the sidewalks are littered with postcards from God.”
If nothing else, my receiving experiment has taught me this: The blessings have been there all along, it’s been my opportunity to notice them. I now know that yes, it is wonderful to give, but it is absolutely sublime to receive.