“Get up and go do something for someone,” my mother said to me, exasperated by my endless deluge of breakup tears. “Getting out of yourself is the only thing that’s going to pull you out of this!” I was 23 then, and, come to think of it, giving remains my mother’s solution not only to seasons of sadness but to a life well lived. And so I have tried to make it my code---although by no means consistently or gracefully so...
The truth is, nothing gets you out of yourself like giving to another: listening, opening a door, smiling at a downcast face. Sure, giving tied-up-with-a-bow presents is lovely, but I’m talking about soul-to-soul generosity, reaching out to a stranger in a manner that communicates “I see you, and there’s no need to hide.” But this kind of giving is the most expensive because to see someone else means that we must be willing to be seen ourselves, warts, hypocrisies, and all. And that requires a continual practice of recycling our shame into forgiveness of self and others so that we can stay free, open to seeing and being seen, ready to give and receive love.
Riddle me this: What if you had no voice? Would the way you live your life narrate a story of generosity? If your answer is yes, good on you. If your answer is no, start with baby steps: ask after another’s health, look for someone who looks like they could use a kind word, knock on the door of a heart that might like some company. It takes big courage to offer yourself as a gift, but we know you have in you to do the hard stuff.
As you dip your toe into the practice of detox bathing, of sleeping better, and beginning to trust yourself to make better choices, your peace increases. And more peace leads to an open heart, ready to give, and ready to accept the risks that embracing a generous spirit brings.