Thursday, April 22, 2010

Briefly, on giving

Yesterday was Spangles' birthday. As I was preparing a few things to make the day special for him, I was reminded of how fun and rewarding it is to do things for people you love.

In How We Choose To Be Happy, one of my favorite happiness tomes, one of those choices is Giving. Giving can be tricky, because I think there are ways of doing it that can make you less happy (the embittered, put-upon "I give, and I give, and I give..."). If you give of yourself indiscriminately, you could end up with nothing left of yourself for...yourself. "Burnout," as they say in the helping fields. You can't get water from an empty well, and so on.

One of the things I've been trying to learn this year is that being happy is not a selfish act. Her Wiseness Aunt Jane once said something along the lines of "One of the best things you can do for others is live well and be happy."

That's if it's real happy, not putting on a cheery face for the sake of appearances happy. And same with giving... it's good if it adds something to your life, bad if it feels like it's taking something away.

It is possible to give too much. One of the many messages that people, and I think women in particular, get, is that you should be a martyr, always put other people's needs first, take your lumps and be quiet about it, don't ask for what you want. Giving because you feel like you should is the kind that empties your pockets and wears down your goodwill toward man. Giving because you want to, because you can't help yourself, your cup runneth over and you want to find someone to share with - that's where it's at.

You have to fill yourself up first - see to it that you have enough energy, time, sanity to cover your own withdrawals. Once you care for yourself, once you've filled yourself up, then it can naturally, easily spill over onto the people around you.

1 comment:

Oscar said...

Amen to every word. And Happy Birthday to Spangles!
HWAJ : )