Before you get all grateful…

November 20, 2018

NorthNodeClinic (20 of 24)Yes, sure. Gratitude is the attitude. But let’s talk about something off-theme, instead.

This time of year, there is such a focus on giving–homemade treats, time to each other, service in the form of hanging lights or shoveling snow or rearranging furniture, and, of course, gifts. We all know the notion that it’s the thought that counts, and I want to present another framework: it’s the feeling that counts.

Generosity is generative: whatever is behind the offering is what will come of it.

A case in point: I hate to bake. I know some of you out there will hear me when I say I hate flour. It gets everywhere. It’s impossible to “mix” without creating a shitstorm. Yet I love pie, so I have to make a choice: do I

  • relinquish the (imaginary) vision of myself competently and peacefully measuring flour

  • deliver a (poorly-constructed) pie filled with resentment and disgust?

I have made multiple pies in my life–probably in the dozens. For too long, around this time of year, I psyched myself up, read recipes and tips, got started before anyone else in the house woke…I did everything I could to change my experience of crust creation.

It did not work.

Practice, though, does make progress. In recent years, I’ve progressed to accepting crusts from an expert baker and adding my own fillings, and that makes my pies downright delicious.

I’d say the trick is that the resentment and disgust are replaced with ease.

Sometimes the animosity embedded in attempts at generosity is about the reaction we crave, even expect. To generate love, generosity has to be unconditional: if we offer a workshop with a suggested donation, we are grateful if your donation is a book for our library, the offer for a barter, or your presence. If I bring you eggnog, which I love to drink and to make, I have to be prepared for you to say, “I’m avoiding dairy.” The power of the giving is in my intention, not in how you receive it.

The emotion is going to carry the offering every time.

To make space for my generosity, I have to say no to whatever I can’t quite swing. This requires determining preferences and priorities. (What do I want? How bad do I want it?) In order to:

  • devote loving energy to my homemade eggnog, I have to opt out of pies
  • offer my love instead of my repulsion, I have to call people on their racist and classist “jokes”
  • donate to the gofundme account helping Jemel Roberson’s bereaved family cover burial costs and legal fees, I need to say no to a holiday celebration that will cost $50 for drinks and appetizers.

It can be hard to say no to something you enjoy or are good at; doing so skillfully requires foresight and the willingness to play around with possible outcomes. If you get to, “I’ll be so annoyed,” or “They’ll probably all drink beer instead of my cranberry elixir, and I’ll feel unloved,” those are brilliant nuggets of wisdom that lead you to remembering, “Just because I’m good at it doesn’t mean I ought to do it,” and, “Just because I want them to like it doesn’t mean they will.”

This week, pay attention to what you are generating with your giving. What are you offering that you don’t actually want to give? What expectations are linked to your offerings?

In our own reflections, Kellen and I are so thankful for all the giving and receiving that has gone into North Node Clinic these past seven (!!) months. As we evaluated our (wonderful) workshop on Saturday, Kellen said, “I can’t believe this is our work. I feel like I am bursting with joy. I’m probably going to cry.” That about sums up how overwhelmed we are with the wisdom, courage, and humor that you bring to our lives.

P.S. Mark your calendars for the solstice: on December 21, from 3:00-5:00 we will host an open house-style ritual to honor this precipice between darkness and light. There may or may not be cranberry elixir.

P.P.S. Every Saturday (in fact, every day) is Small Business Saturday at North Node Clinic 🙂 Reply to this email to purchase a gift certificate, a Self-Love Series, or an Out-With-the Old solstice special.

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