You know, brother, you do so much for everyone but you don’t let anyone do things for you. And well, I think that’s selfish. If you really loved them, you’d also let them practice their love on you… too!
I was visiting a friend in Panama in the Peace Corps, and over a late night chat, hanging in the hammocks of the hut, overlooking the descent of the mountain atop which we sat, I listened to a sister kindly deliver truth to her younger brother.
It was intended for him.
But it was also… for me.
The idea that allowing others to love me might actually be loving them, had never crossed my mind.
I was young then, early twenties. I’m now early thirties and I STILL have so much struggle with this aspect of love, the receiving part of love.
My family. My friends. Gawd, they’ve been incredibly super amazing and loving me in my hardest of hard of life this year. And in talking with my counselor I shared this: Doc, I just. I feel so bad because I keep needing love. I keep needing grace. And my mom is just ALWAYS THERE. And Sis. And well, Amanda, and Tifanie. And I mean, I just want to have it all together. I want to deliver a put-together Kaylee. I just feel annoying. Like I’m just a heavy baggage of BLAH!
Well do you know that? Doc asked. Doc is super cute, by the way. He’s like seventy four or seventy five. He has steel blue eyes but they aren’t cold like steel usually is, they are so very warm and loving. There is a thing about his eyes that tells me he cares. He sits, usually with legs crossed. And he often closes his eyes and nods his head as he listens, like as if closing his eyes makes him tune in better. You know, like how when we lose one sense our other senses gets stronger. I think he closes his eyes so that his hearing sense gets better. Not just like the volume of hearing but like the real kind of HEARING. Where he knows what I’m saying, what my heart is communicating. (and the best part of Doc is that he FaceTimes. I mean, right? It's amazing. I just pop into a phone booth at work and he counsels my little heart; the most technologically savvy seventies-ish Doc I know.)
Do you know that? Do you know that they don’t want to be there for you? I mean, have you asked? Sounds to me like you’re carrying responsibility for them that isn’t yours to carry, he continued.
I swear I usually look like a confused puppy to Doc most sessions. I ramble and ramble on and on about all the whole big huge world that hurts and breaks me, that I can’t control, but that I want to love and engage with so deeply. It’s just real hard work to do that, you know. To let go. To just be. To love. I find all of it just so real hard. And so on and on I go about it all. And each time when I finally stop and give him space to speak his words stop me dead in my tracks and my head just looks up at him like a puppy looks up at his owner who has just held out a puppy treat. I swear puppies, in those moments, are saying: For me? Really?
That's exactly how I feel every time Doc gives me a life treat: For me? Really? [pausing first because I’m usuaully surprised there’s a treat for me, and just me. And then I think he watches my perplexted look go into a puppy drool. I'm so excited for the deliciousness of growth about to happen.]
And he's right. I have such a hard time accepting love.
I just assume I’m a burden. And I've come to find it's sort of an ugly feeling, to assume I'm too much, too broken. It feels icky to believe that about myself.
And not only do I internalize the fear that I’m too much, shaming myself for needing love and connection, But I do this.... I say thank you each time someone loves me.
Seems like the right thing to do, right? To say thank you, that is. But while I am incredibly grateful, what usually is happening is that I say thank you because I’m scared. Thank Yous are good and kind, I agree; a way to tell our friends we appreciate who THEY ARE. But here’s the deal. I often give selfish, insecure thank yous. Because I say them out of fear. Fear that if I don’t say thank you. If I don’t tell them just how deeply they impacted me, that they’ll leave me.
They bless me. They love me. They hold me. And instead of just accepting it, instead of receiving it, I really quickly throw it back at them. It feels like I’m in control that way. Because for some reason, MOST OF THE TIME LOVE MAKES ME FEEL OUT OF CONTROL. It makes me feel really uber vulnerable. And so I say thank you, to regain that control.
I’m working on leaning into the love, into the safe space my friends and family create for me. I’m trying really hard to sit and receive. To soak it all in. AND ONCE I'M DONE RECEIVING, then I think I might add a thank you. But only once I've first taken in all that they gave me.
As I continue my journey through advent, searching for my own meaning in the manger, I have to wonder about this precious art of giving and receiving love.
Baby Jesus was just there. No where else to be.
He was LOVE in a manger. A gift wrapped in swaddling clothes.
This advent, may I too, have no where else to be but surrounded and engulfed in love. And may I, too, be the kind of person that is endlessly intentional about gifting everyone I meet, everyone already in my life, with that same space, that same love.
The other day my friend called it an honor. To know me. She said it was an honor to know and carry my story. Amen, I say. (and thank you... No but I mean it!)
To know and be known. Just one present I've unwrapped this holiday season!
And it's delicious...