The Gift of Not Giving

I had a sick day today.

My ear really hurt. I suffered through the night, and was up early and suffered through the morning while my housemate slept in, and I waited for the natural  health food store to open so I could go get my garlic ear drops.

So anyway, I was feeling sorry for myself. I think I had a low-grade fever which makes me whiny and weepy. I wanted my best friend to wake up and pay attention to me and clean the kitchen for me so I didn’t have to do it on this terrible awful day of pain.

All that said, I got a chance to focus on me, and let others do for me. (Because he did wake up, and he did load the dishwasher, and he made me a cup of tea and scrambled eggs and offered care and concern for me, and I didn’t even have to ask him to!) And the rest of the day was all about me. I do this well when I am sick. Its easy, when I am sick, to let others take care of me. I struggle when I am healthy and others have needs.

For example, Monday night I was feeling really sad…my housemate was too and I wanted a hug but felt he deserved one more than I did, he had a bigger heartache than mine. I refrained from offering him a hug though, because I am practicing not giving too much and I know he likes space when he’s upset. I also knew I needed to get my own needs met elsewhere. So I stayed quiet.

And it was hard.

My heart hurt from holding back.  I actually felt pain. I wasn’t sure I could do this holding back and not giving thing. Maybe I was wrong and I have to just let my heart GIVE. But then I realized something. What was really going on here? It wasn’t so much that I needed to give as much as I needed.

I needed.

It was slowly dawning on me, as I sat on the couch quietly, saying and doing nothing, that I give when I want to get something. That when I feel I cannot ask for what I need or want, instead I give it, hoping that I will get something in return. Wow. So I took this little gem and held it for a while. It became easier to sit and not give of myself. It became more clear that I needed support myself  because this pain wasn’t about not giving…this pain was mine and giving was going to mask it. I needed support for me and I needed to get it with someone other than my best friend in this moment. I was able to, in that moment, tease apart the tangled knots of my pattern of giving and sort them out. This one is mine, that one is yours.

Later, chatting with a friend, I was comparing this episode to past relationships where I’ve given and given and once in a while felt given to, but more often than not, I felt lack. I mentioned a fellow I know who is a massive giver and said, “Too bad I’m not with him. He gives as much as I do. Give give give. Sounds good right now…But I think it would drive me nuts in reality!” We laughed that yeah, sometimes that kind of giving makes us run and hide. Then it hit me…that’s how it may have felt for my past guys! I have smothered them with my generosity!


And they would create space from me, which is exactly what I didn’t want, so I would give some more and my brain was spinning with this seemingly obvious pattern. Didn’t I learn this 20 years ago in therapy? Didn’t I learn it again 6 years ago in the middle of a toxic relationship?  Well, I am learning it again, it seems.  

The awareness came at a good time. A time when I need to focus on me, and I think not having a relationship this time make the information more useful. I think I am really grokking it this time. And I got through the night with my heart open, feeling how hard it was, and I didn’t close up and I didn’t mask it with giving.

Sometimes NOT giving to someone else is the gift. For both of us.

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  1. Ahh! That Giving Thing. A tricky one for sure. Probably every moment, every instance needs its own creative response? I don’t know. I know it best by how giving feels in my body, in my heart. It’s often a tangled knot. It can unravel one way before giving, and another way afterwards. The best I seem to be able to do is muddle through with a bias towards an open heart.

  2. I agree…but since I am learning how my heart seems to give at times when the receiver is not interested in receiving, I know really, its not for them, but for me and I get to look at that one a bit closer. What do I need right now? Is it really to give or to receive something myself?

    Muddling through is essential!

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