And why the gift of love is a two-way street.
This winter, I got the flu. I was sick, miserable and physically could not do even a fraction of what I usually am able to do.
At first I thought, “This is going to be awful.” Normally I would hit the couch and ride it out, but the day that I felt at my worst, we were hosting a special 20-person celebration dinner. I was not sure I would even make it through my afternoon to-do list, let alone through our dinner party, I felt so ill.
Then it dawned on me… I did not have to figure out how to function at the capacity I normally do. Instead, I looked at the members of our seven-person household and thought, “I can let them help.”
Little did I know at the time that receiving help was one of greatest gifts of love I could ever give my family — and myself. But it was a lesson I soon learned.
Over the years, I have asked for help here and there with chores and other tasks when planning celebrations, but I really saw it as my job to create a warm and loving experience while executing an efficiently run event. In fact, I naively thought that I derived the most joy in creating my perfect idea of a celebration dinner, with guest enjoying themselves and me working.
However, this time, I admitted to my family how awful I felt and that I really needed their help to pull this dinner off.
But in order to truly receive the benefit of their assistance, I had to let go of perfection — and my desire to “do it all” on my own. I had to let them own their tasks, rather than explaining how I wanted things done.
This is one of the excuses people often use to deflect help — I don’t want to have to explain it all. It’s easier if I do it myself.
Well guess what? If you let your family help, they figure out what needs to be done and how to do it, eliminating the need for you to explain or do it yourself.
Following the example of my husband, who, incidentally, is great at asking people to do things around the house, I began giving the kids assignments. And as we moved through the evening, I noticed that they were seeing little things that needed to be done here and there and were asking me if I would like them to handle them.
It was truly wonderful. Not only was I getting help, but I was able to switch gears a bit and focus on being present with my family, rather than focusing on making things perfect.
I was able to cut myself some slack and enjoy the process a bit more. I was able to enjoy the gift of receiving.
When my sister-in-law and friend arrived to dinner a bit early, I let them help me by taking the appetizers out of the oven, plating and serving them.
I stepped back as my husband got all the food on the buffet table, while I relaxed with a cup of tea until he announced that dinner was served, allowing me to spend time with our guests — rather than being stuck in the kitchen alone all evening.
Then, when everyone left, the kids all helped put the food away. My oldest even told me he would get up early and help me finish things up the next morning — and he proceeded to stay awake until he saw me go to bed, just to make sure I didn’t do it myself. That brought tears to my eyes.
And true to his word, he was up early to help. I felt so cared for.
Later that day, I gave my husband a big hug, because I knew he was the ringleader, and told my kids how much their help meant to me.
At dinner, I told them that, despite feeling physically lousy, this was one of my happiest days ever because off all the love they gave to me by helping.
It truly was such a gift to be able to receive from them, to feel taken care of and to see their capacity for giving.
What I learned is that allowing yourself to receive love is not only a wonderful gift for you, but the giver gets something out of this exchange, too.
My family had the opportunity to give. I could see how they hadn’t complained, but instead enjoyed the experience of creating a beautiful dinner experience. I could see the pride on their faces when someone would say, “This is delicious. Who made this?” or “This table setting looks beautiful. Who arranged this?”
It became clear to me that I had previously been denying my family of this experience by not allowing myself to receive their help.
This is where the big lesson of receiving and giving shines through: In not being able to receive, we deny others the joy of giving. By not receiving, we block the flow of love and positive energy.
This experience has made me rethink the way I respond when someone offers to help me or gives a gift, be it big or small.
I thought about all the times someone has offered to help me by opening a door or carrying something to my car. In the past, my knee jerk reaction has always been, “No thanks, I’ve got it.” I thought about the times someone has given me a gift, and I have said, “You shouldn’t have.” I hadn’t truly understood the impact of my “no”and how that reaction blocked the flow of energy coming from the person offering.
While it’s true that we can often handle things on our own or don’t really need another’s assistance, why refuse help or diminish the intention of a gift when someone is there who is wanting to give?
So now, as you go through your day, try to start looking for opportunities to receive. The next time you’re offered help, be sure to stop and take in the person offering and then consciously surrender to receiving.
Only then can you fully appreciate and feel all the beautiful energy flow.