My latest Triangle column (http://trianglelgbt.com/pdfs/webmarch2012.pdf):
Dearest Reluctant Receivers,
I have a chronic heart condition. It’s not something I like to talk about often because I don’t find it healthy or useful to focus on illness. It also doesn’t define who I am. It may affect my everyday life, sometimes in small, other times in big, ways; but even on the worst days, it’s a minute portion of what is inside me. Being a giver, however, is a big part of who I am. And learning to live with a heart condition has dramatically expanded what that means to me.
Since moving to Durham, I’ve found myself surrounded by a community of folks who also live with ongoing health issues. All of them quite different — ranging from mental to physical and, often times, the two overlap. My health is pretty darn manageable these days (greatly opposed to times in my life where the ER and hospital were my second, or even primary, home) and so (because my body — in order to stay healthy — no longer tolerates me working traditional jobs and hours), I have more free time on my hands than ever before in my life. And so I like to help folks. I’m there to lend an ear or shoulder when needed, I take folks to doctor appointments, and I’m dedicated to helping heal loved ones and/or manifest what my friends need (through meditation or other favored forms of woo).
Sometimes these folks feel guilt (or some similarly useless emotion) around receiving my assistance. I try to explain what my mother told me shortly after I first got sick: Allowing others to give to you is the greatest gift imaginable. Giving makes us all feel good. Being able to help someone else lifts us up. But beyond that, what my friends sometimes don’t understand is that it doesn’t matter if they can’t give back to me. We’re all part of this greater cycle — the universe, really — and this is what I find challenging to put words to.
At one time, when I was my most unwell, I had to depend upon others for just about everything — from my meals to getting bathed. I received and received and just when I thought I couldn’t take it, I received some more. I’ve never been able to fully “repay” those folks who helped me so generously and selflessly at the time. But that doesn’t matter. Now is a time when I can give. And it doesn’t matter to whom I give because we’re all part of this magnificent universe together, part of something bigger. So it doesn’t matter whether I’m helping a person or a small woodland creature or even the earth in general by picking up plastic on my walk. It’s all the same, really. It’s all part of a beautiful cycle.
For many of us queers, we are blessed because we face less pressure around conforming to societal norms. Some of us experience a distancing from our families of origin. Which in and of itself can also be a gift. Because it means we get to choose new families. And (hopefully, if we select wisely) they tend to be much more accepting of who we are. It brings joy to their hearts to be able to give to us and these chosen loved ones can be better at listening to and respecting our needs. So when I ask for help, I’m able to be just as specific about what I need as I am about what I don’t want. As in, “Yes, please, to soup and snuggles, but I’d rather you not organize a get well party.”
Throughout my years of adapting to life with a heart condition, I’ve learned to receive graciously. In doing this, I come to expect that miracles will occur, that everything will be taken care of, that it’s all part of the abundant flow of the Universe. By receiving with grace and gratitude, I’m giving a gift in return. So the next time you find yourself in the position of needing to depend upon others, try to adjust how you see it. Consider the possibility that you are enriching their lives, making them happier, and being generous in allowing them to give. Give the gift of receiving (with as much grace and gratitude as possible).
Two of my favorite words: Thank you.
In lust, love, and all things woo,