Receiving: A Holiday and Year Round Endeavor

Well, here I am. I had set my goal at making one blog post a month and I really made my way through December before I got here. It’s been a little crazy around here, not just holiday-wise but that too. My husband is a carpenter and he spent most of the month trying to protect his work from the rain which meant 10 to 12 hour days, 6 days a week. So you can imagine how I wasn’t dying to spend a couple hours by myself writing to you, but I made a goal and I still want to achieve it. So here we go, you’re welcome 😉

I’ve been thinking about receiving lately because of the upcoming and now passed holidays. Even though Christmas lights make me feel warm and fuzzy and I cry during Christmas carols *regularly* I do have to admit that Christmas is rife with potential for conflict and disappointment, especially for us women folk. We work our buns off making holiday magic, picking out the best gifts, wrapping them in the cutest paper, having them ready weeks sometimes months in advance. And all we want is a thoughtful gift from the guys we love. And year after year, we often don’t get it. I can smell the cesspool of resentment growing from here. I used to keep one in my house too. Yuck. There is a couple of ways I try to tackle this.

Keeping my expectations in check. What gift someone wants to give me is their business. I don’t give gifts to get gifts in return. I give gifts because I love the process of selection, packaging, delivering, it’s fun for me and that’s not the case for everyone. What someone gives me is exactly that. It’s not a reflection of anything, other than (usually) that they care about me enough to consider me as a recipient for a gift. I’m not entitled to any gift even from my husband on Christmas. Would I be sad if I didn’t get one? Yes, of course, and those would be my emotions that I’d have to figure out what to do with, but it doesn’t help to get preemptively entitled or disappointed. Having emotions in preparation for an upcoming disappointment has served to close openings for new beginnings for me in the past. I want to keep all my windows and doors open for new opportunities in the future, so it’s best for me to stay with the flow of things and enjoy moment by moment as much as possible which leads me to my next point.

Self-care. Always a good standby, especially during busy times! Having good self-care hygiene makes me smell better in all kinds of ways. I’m happier, friendlier, more patient, more loving, and WAY less concerned about what my husband will buy for me at a gas station on Christmas Eve. (Okay that’s not fair; he did go to actual stores on Christmas Eve.) This year I put off buying some little things that would be good stocking stuffers, and dropped some “I would loves….” about them, but I promised myself that if they didn’t come, then I’d go get them myself. And guess what. I did. Bam, object obtained. Happy Bonnie fully intact.

Receiving what I’m given graciously. So what if I’m not given what I wanted and am instead given something else that I don’t particularly fancy? Let me tell you a little story or ten. Early on in our relationship, my then-boyfriend-now-husband got me a gift for my birthday. We had virtually no money and sparse possessions and he got me a sparkling white, Northface vest. I had never worn a vest for warmth in my life; they made no sense to me. And WHITE? Ugh don’t you know anything about me! I’m a stain magnet; I thought to my terrible-receiver self. I think I managed to choke out a hesitant thank you and probably made a comment about how I’m afraid it will get dirty. And guess what? It did get dirty, because I lived in that thing. I absolutely loved it. I still absolutely love it. Now this was roughly 10 year, 2 kids, and 30 lbs ago, so I was joking with him that he got it for me in a size small, why didn’t he think of the future? I teased. He cunningly replied with, “I think that might have been a bit presumptuous and may not have gone over well.” He’s a smart man, and completely correct. It was pretty funny imagining what my past self would have done if he would have bought me a WHITE VEST in a size LARGE. I probably would have launched it into space.

Other great gifts my husband has given me that I wasn’t excited about but learned to absolutely love include but are not limited to: a garment steamer, a pink robe that looked like something the mom from the Brady Bunch would wear, several sweaters, my favorite hair crème, and a pair of wireless headphones. Notice that they are all thoughtful gifts and they show that he knows what I want or he thinks I would like even if I don’t initially agree. What a guy.

So those are some things that help me stay upbeat and in the moment around Christmas time. It’s a lovely time for ‘I would loves…” but as usual, they have to be delivered cleanly, without expectation. I know that my husband wants me to be happy and will totally support me buying what will make me happy in January when the sales are best anyway. All’s well that ends well. Let’s talk a little bit about the *skill* of receiving in a more year round context:

Ah receiving. It’s probably my favorite skill. It’s definitely the easiest for me. I LOVE receiving. When I first read the chapter on receiving in The Empowered Wife I’m pretty sure my eyes were huge and my mouth was gaping. I can’t believe all the stupid little stuff that I had been doing that had been hurting my relationship! My husband would offer me a glass of water… oh no thanks, I’ll get it myself. He’d say he’d take out the trash, but I’d beat him to it. He’d offer to stop at my favorite store and I’d tell him we should get home. Rejection, rejection, rejection. No wonder he wasn’t feeling super cuddly. I was hurting his feelings all the time and I didn’t even know it. So I changed. I changed all of it. I started accepting every offer I possibly could and if I couldn’t, I would consider the weight and responsibility of rejecting a gift.

When someone offers me a gift of any kind, including apologies and compliments, I try my best to just say: thank you.

I know it’s strange and unfamiliar, but it really does work wonders.

It’s not just for my relationship either. When someone opens the door for me, I walk through it, and I say thank you! Someone says they like my bag, thank you! My kid apologizes for being rude? EXTRA BIG THANK YOU. (I actually get those a lot and yes, it is amazing.)

Once I knew the secret (accepting and saying thank you, that’s literally all there is), it was mostly easy to follow through with. At first I did stumble a little bit with apologies. I was so used to saying “it’s ok” which effectively dismisses the apology instead of accepting it. Once I started to think of apologies as gifts, it was much easier. I practiced a lot with my kids. My oldest is five and he apologizes regularly, like I do and my husband does. (Turns out being in a respectful relationship kinda requires a big helping of apologies and humility, who would have thought.) When I first started receiving apologies from my little guy I would say, “Thank you for your apology” It sounded more natural and like a real mom thing to say. After a few months it started to feel better and I started to notice when my apologies were either dismissed (it’s ok or no biggie) or accepted (thank you) and gosh it felt WAY better to have them accepted. I was actually starting to get a little haughty about it when my apologies were ignored or dismissed, and I had to check my expectations there.

Sometimes I do have to reject a gift, like when my husband offers me a beer but I’m about to go for a drive, so now I’ll say a little something like, “Oh thank you for the offer, that’s so thoughtful, and I would like one, but I’m about to head out.” I try to keep these to an absolute minimum and focus on how I can fit whatever is given into my life. I make room for gifts and I get more and more of them.

I recently accidentally missed an opportunity to receive and I’m still kicking myself for being silly and narrow minded about it. I was running low on these little sticky pouches to put international shipping documents in and I knew they were free from FedEx, but I didn’t know which one was the right one based on the website descriptions. So later that day when I went to drop off a package I asked the guy working there if he knew which one was the right one. He pulled a big stack out from under the desk and told me I could have the whole stack. Intensely focused on my goal, I told him I only needed one because it had the item number on it and then I could figure out which to order. (UGH HOW SILLY IS THAT.) I walked right out of there, playing the situation over in my head and then it hit me, doh! I should have just grabbed the stack and said thank you. Instead, I rejected this guy’s offer (kind of a jerk move, do I owe him a really weird apology now?), made way more work for myself, AND get to wait a few extra weeks because they don’t ship out free supplies during the holidays. What was I thinking? Not about receiving, that’s for dang sure. Whatever. It’s fine. As you can see, I have very, very insignificant problems for the most part nowadays and I really, really like it that way. All I’ve got to do is just say those two little words that we practiced last month: Thank you! 

Practicing good receiving has opened up all kinds of doors for me and presented me with interesting and unique opportunities that I never would have experienced if I had continued to carry on being preoccupied with appearing modest or strong or self-sufficient. There’s a magic to it that I can’t quite name or put my finger on. The world just started to provide more abundance for me when I started receiving what I was given and appreciating it for what it is. And guess what? I am still strong and self-sufficient, maybe even more so that I feel so supported in so many aspects of my life.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are having a peaceful and restorative holiday season. And if by chance you aren’t, send me an email or a text. I would absolutely love some new clients for the new year (see what I did there? 😉 ) Anyway, Happy New Year!

Published by Bonnie Stewart

Mama, wifey, relationship coach, writer, community builder, OG Flourishing Lady

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