When I was a child my mother once said to me, exasperated, "You can't save the whole world, you know!" Oh, but I tried.
Like many creative types, I was a sensitive kid. I wanted to fix everything. I wanted to make everyone happy, to make them smile, to take away their pain.
As a young adult, I spent many hours volunteering with a number of organizations, and even took a course called "Volunteering in the Community." Upon graduation I became a VISTA Volunteer (think domestic Peace Corps) for not one year of service, but two. Later, as a middle school teacher I brought students to tutor disenfranchised youth and to serve food in soup kitchens. I had them dumpster dive to find materials for an Earth Day-inspired "trashion" show. Later still I rescued an abused dog and took up fostering for a time, had Christmas parties where I asked folks to bring donations to the local shelter.
Through it all I was the friend who would listen to your drama, the one you could call at any time with any problem. I gave advice. So much advice. I was always there to "help." I was the employee that would settle for less so my employers could have more. I was the artist that gave her work away because she felt uncomfortable taking money when other people had nothing. Over and over again I relinquished my time, money, and energy in the spirit of "giving."
Guess what? I could not save the world. Surprise, surprise!
Turns out there's a reason the phrase "bleeding heart" exists. After years of giving, giving, giving - much of it with misguided intent - my heart felt drained. (So did my adrenals and my bank account!)
In short, I was tapped out. Fried. Toast. I mean, I even went to the doctor to get tested for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It has taken YEARS of retreating, regrouping, and redefining myself to become rejuvenated again. I have learned the importance of balance and boundaries. I have learned that over-giving creates dependency and powerlessness. I have learned no one is going to value you and your time if you don't value it first. I have learned that money is an important and necessary tool.
Alas, old habits die hard it seems, because not long ago I felt the weight of a challenging situation in my life. I asked my Invisible Support Team (ie. guides, angels, dearly departed dog - you get the gist) to tell me one thing - just one! - that could change this situation in my life in a permanent and lasting way.
The answer was, "Let yourself receive."
In thinking about that nugget of inspiration I realized that many people confuse receiving with taking. Taking is greedy and selfish and comes from a place of fear. Receiving is natural, joyous, and comes from a place of empowerment. There can be no giving without receiving.
When we give without receiving we create imbalance.
With this in mind I have created a new online program that will allow me and a group of like-minded artists and "inner space explorers" to understand receiving in a deeper way, most especially in a way that shifts our thoughts and behaviors.
The Tao of Receiving program is a 40 day experiment that uses our own lives as Receiving Laboratories. It's designed to help you receive more - more love, more forgiveness, more money, more joy. You can find out all the details here.
If you can relate to my story about giving, giving, giving, I do hope you'll join me from May 24th to July 2nd, 2015 for this one-of-a-kind program.
In the end, when we give and receive equally and from a place of love, we are doing all of us a great service.
Photo Credit: Purple Rain/CC