The Gift of Receiving

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For some of us, receiving is really hard to do. It makes us squirmy and uncomfortable and sometimes even fearful. 


I learned my biggest lessons about receiving during the Christmas holidays and it wasn’t because gifts were under the tree…not a single one had even been bought. I had a four month old son and was in a postpartum funk the evening it happened.


My then-husband came home from work to find his wife exhausted as most mothers are in those “Sleepless in (Your  City Here)________” days of early parenthood. Slipping on his running shoes, he was about to head out the door only to hear what must have sounded like the Wicked Witch of the East screech, “Hold on Mister! I am going for the run.” Despite the fact that dark was approaching and I can’t see squat after dusk, Little Miss Stubborn darted out the door headed for anywhere but childcare. Did I mention we lived in rural Maine and that a White Christmas was already on the roads?


The next thing I knew, I was laying in a pothole bleeding and unable to walk. Leave it to me…angry and feeling indigestion from the crow I was now eating, I hobbled home on what I was later to learn was a broken foot.


They applied a cast up to the knee, gave me a pair of crutches and failed to provide the personal shopper and the nanny I needed. Did they not know I had to shop and take care of a four-month old baby?! Maybe they didn’t get it. I had to do it all. 


It was the best Christmas gift ever as I look back through the retrospectroscope. For the first time I could ever remember, I was down for the count, unable to pull off my Martha Stewart Christmas. In fact, I couldn’t even carry my baby upstairs by myself. I had to ask for help.


What makes it so difficult for some of us to receive, and even to believe that it is OK to need? Some would say for men it is a sign of weakness to even ask for directions. Women really don’t want to be seen as needy and helpless. Self-sufficiency is highly valued in the US, but these things are only part of it.


When we are vulnerable (sick, sad, lonely, afraid), many of us are afraid to ask another to listen, come over, go to the store for some chicken soup for us, much less hold us tightly. Our past experience with asking for love and comfort may have left us distrustful or feeling unworthy because the people we asked were unable or unwilling to meet our needs. We all have different stories, but the results are the same.


All of us need one another. We all feel the joy of giving to those we love. We have all been hurt. It is part and parcel of  being alive. Putting ourselves out there whether it is looking for a life partner, a job or a friend with whom to share the holidays can feel risky. The risk is well worth taking because the gift of receiving is amazing. It is why we are here…to give and to receive in equal measure. 


This holiday, practice the art and joy of receiving. When someone gives you a gift, tells you you are special, that they love you… feel the resistance, take a deep breath, open your heart just a wee bit at first and just say “Thank you!”. Then feel that heart open more and more each time you let love in. 

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