What You Give

victorhugoThe best things in life spring from what you give, not what you have or what you get. Giving from your heart feels great. Keeping score is not what it’s about. If that’s how you’re doing your relationships and your life, focusing on whether you’re getting as much as you’re giving, wondering about whether you’re being “shorted”, or holding on to lists of past transgressions or disappointments, you’re probably not going to feel very happy.

Some of this has to do with your outlook in general. If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run, and six people stop to make sure you’re okay, to wait with you until the police arrive so they can give their accounts, too, if one of them runs to get you ice, or holds your hand or your head, who are you going to focus on after the fact? The person who hit you, or the people who helped you? I mean, of course you’re going to tell the story of what happened, but when you think about the world at large, are you going to say, “This person hit me in my car and took off, and people suck”? Or are you going to say, “This person hit me in my car and took off, but a half-dozen other people, total strangers, dropped everything and made sure I was okay, and people are really kind”? What’s your takeaway going to be? What are you holding onto in general? I mean, we all have stories; things we carry around, sometimes like a talisman, that explain who we are to ourselves, and sometimes to other people. “I’m this way because…” And some of these stories strengthen us, and some of them weaken us. If you carry too many weakening stories around, what you really end up with are excuses.

I know this might be a little confrontational, but sometimes it’s really good to consider the quality of our thinking. A lot of our suffering is created in our own minds. Not all of it, so bear with me. There are devastating things that happen in this life that can bring you to your knees, so I want to be clear about that. Sometimes we suffer because someone we love more than words is ripped from us. Grief is real, and appropriate and it’s a healthy response when we’ve lost someone we don’t know how to live without. Sometimes I hear people spout platitudes like, “There are no bad events, there’s just the way we’re relating to the things that are happening.” Tell that to a grieving parents who’ve lost their child in a violent act. There are events that are simply brutal, and they are real, and we will suffer, but short of those tragedies, a lot of our suffering is created by our thoughts.

If you always focus on what you don’t have, you’re going to be miserable. If you always focus on the ways your partner is blowing it, you’re going to feel lousy, and chances are, your partner will, too. It never feels good to be constantly criticized, rejected or ignored. If you throw an epic and ancient list of past mistakes into the mix every time your partner forgets to bring home apples, that’s probably going to weaken your bond, not strengthen it. If you’re giving with a motive, it’s not really giving, it’s giving to get. Am I saying you should never consider how you’re being treated or whether your partner is seeing you? Of course not. A healthy, happy relationship is one in which both people look out for each other. Each party wants the other to grow and expand and be more of themselves, not less, so if you’re in something with someone who’s mistreating you, you really have to look at that, and take some action.

I’m not talking about that, here. It never feels good when we’re small and petty and calculating. Manipulation is a poor use of your time and energy. Directing your thoughts to everything you do have makes you feel good; it makes you feel full, and like you’re coming from a place of abundance. Moving through the world focusing on what you don’t have is going to make you feel terrible, and you’ll be coming from a place of lack. That leads to greediness and hoarding, whether we’re talking about hoarding stuff, or other people’s time, attention and affection. Neediness is a poor foundation for a relationship of any kind; you can’t expect anyone else to solve your happiness issue, that’s your work. Culturally we’re trained to think that we need only meet our soul-mates, and everything will fall into place, we’ll be “complete” and happy. You are your soul-mate. I think we all need to get really clear about that, because it liberates us, and the people closest to us. We get to take ownership of our happiness issue. The Cliff Notes, if you want them, are that giving makes us happy. Be your own soul-mate, and check the catalog of stories you’re toting around, so you can be sure you aren’t focusing on the doom and gloom, instead of the love and light.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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