When you return a gift, it doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of it in the first place. It just might not be right.
I’m not rationalizing, but I am coming to terms with the past 2 weeks. The last 7 days in particular.
So I wrote last week about someone who wrote me a check for $3,500 to pursue yoga training after I volunteered my time for the benefit of Survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
I am registered. I am committed and I’m all in. Every dime of that check (and beyond some) will be spent on this endeavor, not to mention a total dietary turnaround. I will be participating in a mostly vegan (including dairy, so it’s still technically vegetarian) diet for 16 days. I’m not psyched about that; we humans have fangs for a reason. But I will submit because it’s part of the philosophy of this training regimen: compassion for all living creatures, and so I’m in.
Here’s what’s new: I returned the funds.
I am going to do this on my own steam.
I began to feel some really uncool familiar feelings in the midst of all this (that’s a good post if you’re at all wondering about why you have psychic vampires or codependent issues that you can’t seem to shake or resolve). My feelings don’t mean any of it is true, universally, but they do mean they’re true for me.
I am a studious person. I sat with those feelings, let them process, gave them a chair, a napkin and a cup of Earl Gray.
They did not really go away.
The feeling: chaos. That I was not in control of my own … hmm … my own person. That despite any statements to the contrary by any parties involved: I would owe someone something; I would be beholden. I could’ve signed a contract: “Molly will never owe me one thing ever, not ever, not even a smile or a good thought, if she takes this Gift and uses it to improve the lives of other people, including herself,” and it wouldn’t have been enough. In my paranoid, damaged and experienced brain: everything comes with a price, there is NO such thing as a free lunch, and any gift, especially a monetary one, comes with expectations, or it would be anonymous which would then create more chaos because I’d have to find the person to thank them and then feel beholden to.
I’m not right in the head. I know this. I hate blaming my childhood, but another inconvenient truth is this: 95% of any action we conduct is rooted in our experiences as children before the age of 5. IT JUST IS. So we must pay attention.
So if you’re normal and weren’t raised by wolves (whom I’ve come to discover are actually quite kind to their young), you would take this gift and be totalllllllly okay with it. But what if you’re me? You’re hosed. You need to change.
How do we change? We pay attention. So I dissected and gleaned and examined this whole thing, how it went down, what else was going on in the community when it happened, any commonalities and changes in our shared recent social experiences and I came up with more than a handful of subtle yet significant items.
Giving back the funds was only part of the equation. I wanted to understand two things: why I took them in the first place, and why I wanted to give them back.
I took the funds because it was a fantastic gesture and I’m not at all good about taking extravagant gifts from people.
I gave them back because I realized a couple things: what I really needed was the shot in the arm, the kick in the touchas, the cheer from the sidelines, that the funds represented, from an uninterested party (i.e., not my parents and not my spouse).
Keeping the funds, to me, meant a forced allegiance, a false loyalty, worse: a sense of obligation … and no one wants that. Especially with me. I would’ve second-guessed everything: from any enjoyment in the course “is this happy enough? Am I grateful enough?!” (I told you I’m damaged) to any fears or regrets, “gah! If I don’t like it I’m not fulfilling my end of the deal! If I am afraid I can’t do it, I’m not worthy of the endorsement!” All the way down to a sense of unending and misappropriated gratitude: that I would have to be forever grateful for the gift.
No, this had to be all me. This sponsor did not want my anxieties and potential resentment on top of any sense of obligation. I did that person a favor…
So how do I model healthy detachment for my children? I take the gift, I say thank you for the gift, I deposit the gift, I follow through on the commitment the gift is supporting and then I return the gift and do it on my own. Wanna take it one step better? How do I model health self-esteem for my kids? I do it on my own from the start. I just say, “Honey,
I shrank the kids I am going to be certified to teach yoga” and as long as it’s a healthy decision, then we’re good to go.
So I dropped off the check this morning and we are taking care of this training on our own steam, and I couldn’t be happier about it.