Oops, I missed yesterday (womp, womp). Oh well, life is busy sometimes and my mornings have been a little off this week.
My first reading today, from “Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On” struck a chord with me because it seemed to relate to something I was pondering yesterday. It all feels very serendiptious but I don’t think there is some magic force or fate that brings things to our attention when we need it. I think we humans are good at finding patterns and noticing things consciously that we ignore when they don’t serve our purposes. We filter things in that were always there and we also interpret the meaning of things in a way that makes sense to us. So, this passage likely would get a different response from others.
Today, I will accept abundance in my life. The more I recognize abundance being meant for me, the more it will be for me. An unconscious attitude of limitations and scarcity will find its way into my life if I allow it… I will think positively about other people’s prosperity, knowing that I what I believe to be true for someone else I also believe to be true for me. In fact, any thought that I think about another person I first create and accept within my own mind as a possibility and a truth. (emphasis mine)
So, I’m going to break this down a bit. The first emphasized sentence relates to an issue that I was thinking about yesterday: receiving gifts. I am often very uncomfortable with receiving gifts. One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is “Gift Giving” and it is the one I struggle with the most, I don’t mind giving gifts (I love it, but am pretty bad at it) but something about receiving something for nothing feels weird to me. I have not thought about it too much but I think it comes from my Christian background where all worldly gifts are ‘bad’, being raised in a somewhat poor environment, and a little too much right economic libertarianism that views most things as a monetary exchange. I struggle with receiving gifts or accepting help when offered, though I’m getting better. In no small part because of Burning Man and the video embedded below.
Recently, I bought myself a bottle of scotch for my birthday. I was resistant to give myself this gift. My house is tore up because of the storm and we still aren’t exactly sure where the money is going to come from to recover. The damage estimates may be in the $20,000 range and we really don’t have that kind of money easily accessible without taking out loans. So spending $100 on a bottle of scotch is pretty wasteful, but I decided to give myself that. I don’t often buy myself things that aren’t “practical” and it was my birthday.
Then, when I got home. The bottle of scotch broke all over my kitchen floor. Liquid gold flowed through shattered glass before my eyes. I wasn’t mad or upset, my Stoicism kicked in pretty quickly and my first thought was “the teacup is already broken” (see below). There was certainly disappointment and a small voice in the back of my head that said “This is what you get for trying to have something for yourself. Stop being selfish.”
I shared the broken bottle on Instagram (like I do with many things in life) and almost immediately received offers to replace it from friends. As soon as I saw the offer I felt anxiety bottle up inside me. I felt unworthy of this friendship and support. I felt guilty for wanting to take them up on it. After a day or two I finally decided to accept the gifts. I had to realize (as Halcyon says above) that a gift is not a one-way transaction, the giver receives something too. In fact, by denying someone the opportunity to give a gift they wish to give I am actually hurting them and making their experience on this planet a little worse… which is the opposite of what I want.
I have had this same experience with the storm damage. I had a dear friend offer to set up a GoFundMe to help with some of the financial burdens. But I said no. Inside I was desperately screaming “YES, I need help and I don’t know what I’m going to do… I’m terrified right now and I don’t want to feel alone” but instead, I said “No, there are other people worse off. We will be fine.” We will be fine, but I seem hell-bent on suffering more than I need to. I seem to almost desire to be alone on some subconscious level, or maybe I have some toxic masculinity and philosophies ingrained in my head from decades of negative influences. I wish I would have said yes to this offer, and all the other gifts of labor and financial support that has been offered. I get physically uncomfortable receiving gifts from others, and even myself, and that is pretty fucked up. I need to talk to my therapist about that.
<Writes note in “Therapy” notebook>
Which brings me to the second emphasized sentence. I have this fracture between how I view others and how I view myself. I am always happy (well, usually) when I see friends get the things they want in life and I do what I can to support them. I’ve probably sent out thousands of dollars in the last couple of years to friends who needed help with rent or food (what a messed up world we live in… but that is another blog post) or to start an entrepreneurial venture or had art to sell. When someone posts (usually on a private group) that they need help I send it to them whenever possible. It is so easy for me to see my life and think “Hey, they need this more than I do.”
So I see helping and gifting as possible and a truth for others, but not for me. I really need to reflect on this a bit. I wonder what kind of guilt and pain I will uncover. Like all things with mental health, things are deeper than they seem and I have some work cut out for me.
Oh, the teacup story. This is sometimes attributed to Buddha but it probably came from somewhere else. It has a very Buddhist and Stoic feel to it though, and in the end the source of the wisdom means nothing compared to the actual wisdom.
The Buddha told his student, ‘Every morning I drink from my favorite tea cup. I enjoy morning in this way. But, in my mind the teacup is already broken. Do you see this glass? It is beautiful and does its job well, but it is already broken. Someday, the wind will knock this glass off the shelf or my elbow will bump my favorite teacup. It will fall to the stone and shatter. When that happens I will think, ‘of course’. In this way I will value every minute I have with my teacup and worry not about the future.’
I love that. Everything will be broken someday. My computer will fail. My muscles will weaken. My dog will die. My partner will breathe her last breath. We are stardust and to stardust we shall return, that is literally true but it also a beautiful, comforting, and poetic thought to me. So, instead of being attached to the bottle of scotch I should have been better at appreciating it while I had it. It was a beautiful bottle and the color reflected the light in a beautiful amber tint.
Side note: I looked up the Bible verse I paraphrased above (Ecclesiastes 3:20, “We are dust and to dust we shall return”) and I realized I had never read that whole chapter, so I did. The first half of the chapter is pretty well known and often-quoted “Time for peace, time for war, time for harvest, time for planting, etc.” but the paragraph with the “dust” quote is an interesting one and (again) reminds me of how universal certain philosophies are throughout the human experience. It is giving me a bit to think about on this crisp Wednesday morning.
I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely, the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath* ; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into earth?”
* the Hebrew word actually means spirit as well, which gives this a new level. If Solomon is willing to ponder the existence of animal’s spirits and admit his own ignorance, I think there is value in doing the same. If you knew that the animals you ate or pets you kept had God-given souls and will live eternally, would you treat them differently? Would you try to assure they were not mistreated on earth? Of course, we can never really know the answer to that question, but doesn’t ignorance mean we should err on the side of caution and treat all living creatures with kindness, including those whose flesh we devour?
<Gets off vegan soapbox>
Anyway, I’m almost late for the gym so I won’t be writing about my other morning readings. Maybe tomorrow y’all will get a double dose of some things.
Much love and happy hump day!
Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!
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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”