Learning to receive is critical to discovering self-worth.
How this applies to cubicleMonks:
“Society is giving to us right now” was a message sent to the managers at work. This stuck with me all week.
The gifts are overflowing for me and my family during COVID. Yes, this pandemic is devastating and the future is unknown and scary. The universal suffering and fear on our planet are unprecedented. Taking all of this in every day is exhausting and heartbreaking.
But today my life is quite amazing.
Just a few ways:
- No commute
- Can do productive work that helps the medical community and I get paid for it
- Much easier to have a daily structure because every day is the same
- More control of my own time with fewer activities outside of work
- More coffee dates with my wife
- Daily outdoor exercise with my son
- More family games
- Meeting new friends in online communities
- Discovering new trails in my neighborhood
- A new dog!
Now here comes the challenge. How can I enjoy and fully appreciate this overflowing bounty when people are dying, grieving, losing jobs, scared, putting their own lives at risk? This is hard. Really hard. Painful.
Is it fair for me to be taking hikes while people are dying in hospital beds?
Is it fair that I’m writing while nurses are putting their lives on the line?
Is it fair my family is buying treats for our new dog while so many people are losing their jobs? None of this is fair!
How do I deal with this?
A crisis of this magnitude allows me to dive deeper into the pain. Intellectually, I know it is my responsibility to stay isolated and to be calm and not panic. Everyone doing this prevents suffering. This is easy. I still hurt.
I have done enough volunteering and donating in my life to know these acts, while they are needed and also feel good, will not solve this pain of me thriving while others are suffering.
COVID is allowing me to explore:
- I feel bad about all of the suffering but my life is pretty darn good.
- Why do I feel this?
- I feel guilt. I feel like I don’t deserve good things when others are suffering.
- Does this make sense?
- Not really as I didn’t choose the situation. I doubt anyone with COVID wants me sick or everyone who lost their job wants me to be unemployed.
- So do I deserve good things?
- This is the hard one: Yes I am a beautiful person that deserves good things. It is even hard to type. This is where I find learning and growth happens.
- Can I do anything?
- Absolutely! And it turns out because I have opened myself up to receiving it is even easier to find ways to give.
My friend Rose and I were talking about the struggle of guilt during COVID. She had a great analogy of how it is like a door. When we truly open our hearts in a crisis, then generosity flows both directions. But when we close ourselves and still try to give, then there is suffering and it gets messy. We must fully open up our hearts for giving and receiving to work properly.
The gift of Covid-19 is that I am learning that I am worthy to receive. When my heart is open to receive, it is very easy to see even more ways to give. But this isn’t easy.
Receiving is a constant struggle for me but I know it is opening me up to my self-worth.
The best part of my day during the pandemic is when I open my door at lunchtime and walk down the hall smelling delicious food.
I take off the headset after 5 hours of mostly video calls. I grab my water bottle and follow my nose and stomach to lunch and a visit with the family.
One afternoon, I opened the door to the smell of grilled scallops and grilled asparagus. My mouth was watering before even making it out of the room.
I was greeted with a huge smile and a gourmet plate. Turns out this was a critical point of the pandemic. My initial instinct was why did my wife make such a fancy lunch when she has so much more she wants to do? But this was fleeting. We have been over it a million times, she enjoys preparing yummy food for the people she loves. She knows I also like to cook and I’m satisfied with simple food, but she enjoys cooking yummy food for me. So I graciously accepted the plate of goodness.
I took the first bite. OMG, it tasted better than it smelled. The bite brought me back to my Grandmother’s kitchen as scallops with asparagus was one of her dishes.
Then a blow to my gut almost happened. Do I deserve such fancy food when so many people are suffering? It is just a quick lunch break. What a waste. I don’t deserve this.
As the blow was about to hit, the light went off how ridiculous these feelings were. Why would I destroy an amazing meal over feelings of smallness or self-doubt? I am a beautiful human being. Of course, I deserve delicious things. The waste would happen if I allowed self-deprecation to sour this delicious food.
Then I started unraveling the story in my head thinking about how my life would have changed if I had not allowed myself to enjoy this meal. What if I would have made a critical comment to the cook? What a blow! She worked hard to make me something tasty because she knows how hard I’m working and wanted me to have some pleasure. I would have turned a moment of pleasure for both of us into pain. A date destroyed by a fight.
Then my heart started to open up and feel the pain of history. Thinking of all of the times my wife has given me love in the form of gifts like food and I responded with critical judgment. As I moved through this thought journey, I realized this wasn’t at all about my relationship with my wife. This was about my relationship with me. I don’t feel worthy of good things. I’m not a good enough partner or husband to deserve such generosity. I realized how many of her gifts made me feel bad about myself. Like I didn’t deserve it.
This hurt but it was freeing. Giving just an ounce of self-compassion allowed me to enjoy the gift.
I still had a scallop and asparagus left to eat. I was able to look at her in the eyes before the last bite and say thank you. This moment of gift and gratitude made both our days and has turned into a treasured memory during these times.
Of course, my mind won’t stop. Especially in the middle of a workday. I saw the connection with the COVID virus. I realized that I had a moral obligation to enjoy the gifts that I am receiving from the pandemic. Tomorrow, anyone of us could get the virus. Tomorrow, I could easily be out of a job. If this were to happen and I didn’t appreciate today, what a tragedy.
If in the future, I look back at this moment and history and see that I didn’t fully appreciate all of the gifts and blessings, that would be true suffering. By opening up to these gifts, I am more free to give to others who are suffering.
The next time someone offers you something, receive it, and fully appreciate what the gift does for you. Ponder the work and love that went into creating this gift. Notice how much better this feels than feeling guilty or unworthy.