November 27, 2018
I think I used to be a giver. You know what I mean: someone who is there for everyone all the time, who puts others’ needs before their own, and who smiles through it. Until the smiling gives way to the resentment and loneliness: Why does everyone expect me to do everything? Why doesn’t anyone notice what I need? Or even ask?
I never really identified as a giver, though. In fact, as a feminist pedagogue, part of my work was to teach young people the power of no. Imagine my surprise and horror when a colleague “complimented” me, saying, “You never say no.” I knew I needed to change my ways.
Here’s the thing, though: saying no isn’t always the most direct route to taking what we need and want.
The flip side of checking your generosity for animosity is receiving others’ generosity. Which means saying yes.
In 2012, I visited family I hadn’t seen in almost a decade. It was a sweet reunion, and a big part of it for me was to demonstrate how competent and adult I was. At one point, my uncle drove me to a shop so I could buy some warmer gloves, and I ended up finding great deals on a bunch of winter gear. At the register, he offered to pay, and I refused. It was one of those “No, really,” “No, I insist,” exchanges where the cashier was like, “Get it together you two; someone owes me some money.”
Ultimately, I paid for my own clothes and we got back in the car. I started to thank him for the offer, and he cut me off, saying, “You know, people feel good if you accept what they offer. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”
I was stunned to silence (#rare). Over six years later, those words repeat in my mind all the time. Sometimes I hear them and feel guilty, like I failed at letting him care for me. Sometimes I hear them and feel thankful, like I was so lucky to hear that wisdom after demonstrating such forceful, prideful “independence.”
Opportunities to say yes abound: yes to an extra fifteen minutes at the office potluck where you can enjoy someone else’s offerings even though you brought napkins, yes to your friend’s suggestion that the two of you put your names on a gift they already bought, yes to the barista’s offer to remake your drink because they forgot to use the milk you requested. Say yes to our invitation to join us on 12.21 for our first open house! You can say yes to using a gift certificate (lookin at you, workshop attendees who have a voucher burning a hole in your pocket), buying a treat that is on sale at the grocery, or riding the Hop for free.
Saying yes is about flexing your taker muscles.
This week, look for ways to say yes to gifts for the taking.
- What is on offer that could help you out?
- What can you take even though no one has offered it? (Hint: ten minutes singing along to something in the car or the shower is available.)
And perhaps most instructive:
- What do you hesitate to take? Why are you hesitant? (Hesitation can be wise; tell your gut you trust it as you ask it to reveal its motives.)
Advanced practice: after you say yes, say thank you. Try to figure out where to best direct your gratitude, whether it is an individual, the universe, or your own smart soul guiding you towards comfort and abundance.
As always, we would love to hear about your practice with yes. We promise to write back if you reply to this email with your insight!
And finally: don’t you agree that the sloth above appears to represent the best possible version of a taker? What great boundaries this sloth has. And what fulfillment they enjoy. #lifegoals
P.S. If you are celebrating Giving Tuesday, consider donating even $10 to the community health center where Kellen and I met. Our beloved Third Root is low on funds, and we suspect it’s mostly because we can’t go there for services anymore…