Often, to give is easy and effortless: offering that which can be afforded, will not cost, will not hurt, or will not be missed. Inconsequential, uncomplicated, simple gifts of routine, daily items or services, tap only our largesse, unfettered talent, or excess abundance.
Accepting thanks for simple gifts seems difficult. Thank yous are frequently dismissed. Gratitude is shrugged off, ignored, diminished, or brushed aside with a backwards hand wave. "It's nothing," is the avid protest, "think nothing of it, no problem."
Yet to the receiver, the gift can be helpful, nurturing, thoughtful, orienting, directing, an important impact, just the right thing at the right time, or life-sustaining.
The opposite positions of giving and receiving are such different experiences, foreign territories that interfere with each person's understanding of the other's perspective.
As a child, in response to being left too much on my own and being left in charge with insufficient guidance and support, I became pseudo independent. I anxiously decided to always do my share, be of assistance, and earn my keep.
When given so much, I sometimes experience confusion and anxiety about worthiness, equal participation, independence/dependance, laziness, deserving; sometimes, even diminishment, childlike uncertainty, and isolation.
For example, my injured left foot. The left side is often associated with receiving that which is offered. As expressed above, I am challenged to graciously receive. One of the consequences AND gifts of my painful heel is my being less self-sufficient: I am unable to rush; I should frequently apply ice to my foot; I cannot easily be as helpful as I would like to be. People offer to give me assistance, allow me time and space to rest my foot, and dissuade me from helping out.
My version of the El Camino is my being in Sweden. My loving, generous, and hospitable Swedish relatives offer me plenty of practice for my receiving from a response of accepting appreciation. Thank you for participating so naturally and actively in my experimental experience.
To authentically give and receive requires immediacy and presence. Achieved with congruent authenticity, both positions, giving and receiving, involve vulnerability and openness. Either position, done well, is humbling.
Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 25, 2013