Sharing is Caring

This is the third post in my series on personal values. If you missed the first two, you can read my posts about honesty here and kindness here. I'm really excited to talk about sharing. I originally thought of this concept as generosity or giving, but what I really believe in, above all, is sharing. Sharing connotes a certain level of value the sharer assigns to what is being shared. I think generosity (something I also really value) and giving can also include things that the giver may no longer need or assign value to. It can come from excess. Sharing has an elevated meaning to me. When I choose to share, I am offering a resource that I also need.
Let me share an example. I have two severe food intolerances. I have not gotten a chance yet to write about them and how life-altering it's been for me (and my family) to implement the necessary diet changes to keep me healthy and functioning. That being said, just about everything I eat has to be made from scratch. When this process began, I didn't particularly feel confident about my cooking abilities and the idea of cooking EVERY MEAL from scratch (as in, not even using pre-made ingredients) with a 4 month old baby, a traumatized kindergartner and a spouse recovering from a psychotic break felt pretty damn overwhelming. It was also the holiday season, so I missed a lot of the joy of food last year.
Back to the example. Because keeping myself fed requires what feels like hours a day in front of the stove, chopping vegetables and washing dishes, sharing my food is a big deal. If I choose not to share my food, it means I can eat out of that pot longer and I have more free time. And let's face it: most of the people in my life have a lot more food freedom, which means they can eat anything I want to share. When I choose to feed my friends at girls group, invite people over for dinner, give my children and my husband the specially-made food I've prepared, it's an act of love. I'm giving my food, yes, but I'm also giving my time, energy and heart (again, cooking feels vulnerable - have I mentioned I'm a perfectionist yet?!?!) Often my ingredients cost more so there is also a financial ramification (we have a very tight food budget). It means I may go a few days at the end of the month without that particular ingredient. 
One of the things I like about sharing is that I don't HAVE to do it. When I'm weary of cooking and my friends are hungry or I want to offer the people in my home something to eat but I'm not in the spirit of sharing, I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sharing with healthy boundaries means that I share when I feel compelled to do so. I am under no duty or obligation to share (though this is not what most adults teach their children - what would happen if we actually lived like we expect our children to?) It also means I don't need pats on the back for it. I don't necessarily want the people I love to feel the hours of work I'm giving them by feeding them, unless it feels like a compliment. Because the sharing is not obligatory, there is no guilt in receiving the gift! It's an actual gift! (I think this is more what the Bible intended when encouraging giving without the right hand knowing what your left hand is doing, etc.)
Growing up in church, we were told that we needed to give because we were Christians (ironic, since this is by no means exclusive to Christianity). We were supposed to put money in the giving tray because we needed to pay the light bill. Giving must be thought out, planned and budgeted. It was about self-discipline, duty and obligation. We were giving because there was a need to give, not necessarily a desire to. What we put in that tray was a measure of our faithfulness to God. I learned a lot about what we call "financial stewardship" in church and I think there is some merit to it, especially in our consumer society. Our financial priorities should come out of our budget first. And to me, being a believer in Jesus, does require some sort version of giving, however that may be interpreted. I was on the receiving end in a big way of this giving when I was a missionary for an entire year after college. Writing checks can be really important.
Perhaps the danger in writing a weekly budgeted check is that it makes us feel like we're done giving. When we give because we're supposed to, and not necessarily because we want to, it inhibits our generous spirit. It creates resentment. Sharing feels more personal to me. It can be spontaneous or  planned. It can include anything you want to share: money, food, clothing, books, coffee, time, childcare, flowers etc. Sharing requires relationship. When we live out of a spirit of sharing, we learn to share more. We find that our material possessions, whatever our resources, do not own us. We own them and have the freedom to do with them what we want. They don't control us. We learn to do without. We learn to listen to those around us. But here's the beautiful thing: we don't HAVE to share. We see needs and sometimes we feel compelled to share and sometimes we don't for whatever reason. I often find that my sharing spirit goes awry when I'm not taking care of myself. Such an important balance. You must give to yourself first.
One of the most amazing things I've learned from sharing is that things always seem to work out. I'm not in control of my life or my circumstances. Things could change at any time. But holding on to all of my resources doesn't change that at all. Not. One. Bit. Guess what, no matter how much you save, money will eventually run out. What doesn't run out when given love and care? Relationships. When you live in the spirit of sharing, it is also returned to you. It is in no way transaction-oriented. This is not tit for tat. Sometimes our community change as people move, divorce, die, etc. But when you have the back of people in your community, they will have yours as well. I get to share the things that others have shared with me. And it has made my life full. Instead of feeling resentful of "having" to give, I'm setting boundaries on sharing what I have and trusting that me and mine will be just fine. In fact, we might even be great.

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

Tim and I have a long history with goodbyes. When I finally bit the bullet and locked that boy down in a committed relationship, it was 3 weeks before I moved to Ireland for 13 months. I was 21 and he was 23. We were virgins, if you can believe it! We were SO IN LOVE. Poetry, public sobbing, hours and hours of phone calls, hand-written love letters, clinging to each other in airports til the last possible minute - we were that young couple. 
We flew back and forth across the world to get a few days together every few months. I moved to Dublin in July. He came to visit in September. I flew home to San Diego for Christmas and he flew me up to the Northwest to meet his family. He came to Dublin and proposed in March. I flew home again in May to find wedding locations and attend our first date buddies (we doubled at Disney) wedding in Oklahoma. I was home for good in August. We got married in a huge church wedding in January and were off to Vancouver, WA in March. 
Yes, it was a whirlwind. We were only officially a couple and in the same room for 6 weeks before we were engaged. But for us, we knew this was IT on our very first date. We didn't get together right away (I had just committed to moving to Dublin - not the best timing ever) but our eventual coupling was absolutely inevitable. The momentum was building and we just hopped on for the ride of our lives. 
As you can imagine, almost 10 years of marriage, 2 kids, 6 years of ministry, and physical and mental health challenges later, a lot has changed. Sometimes being together is hard. Not because our relationship is hard but because life is hard. And any forever relationship will be subject to the difficulties of life, no matter how tightly you hold onto each other. 
Tim and I just said goodbye. He's going on a much-needed solo road trip to visit some friends now before his work life gets too busy. 
As the time drew to a close, we woke up the kids. I made him breakfast to go. We took pictures. We hugged and kissed again and again. We professed our love. Finally, he got in the car and drove away waving to me. And you know what? As much as life has changed, it really, really hasn't. My heart fit right back into that groove of loss without him. I shed a few tears. I hugged my kids. And I felt like I really needed to write this post, just to capture that feeling. That oh so familiar feeling. It feels like when you get on a boat and it takes a few minutes to get your sea legs. You're wobbly and disoriented. It's physically obvious to the people around you that you're off your game. Of course, you adjust and adapt to the movement of the boat. But you don't feel really right until you're on dry land again. 

Balance? Ha! I laugh in the face of balance.

Balance is completely out the question for a perfectionist. It's all or nothing all the time. It's not a very practical way to live and frankly, it's really scary and difficult to navigate the world sometimes. I am often hoping to find a middle ground; in my thinking, habits, relationships. I'm so thankful to have a therapist who helps me sit in the tension of this challenge. It's so much easier to stay extreme or run away.
One of the things I'm working on in my life these days is fun. I know this sounds silly, but my second pregnancy and subsequent post-partum season required my world to be very small. I had problems with my joints in pregnancy, to the point that doing one errand would put me in bed the rest of the day. Before I got pregnant, I was running 3 miles a few times a week and feeling energized by it. 2 weeks after conception, I couldn't walk down the stairs. Needless to say, I didn't do much for those 9 months! It was a challenging season of life, for sure, but I learned the invaluable lesson (of which I had intended to pursue for some time) of doing less. On purpose. 
Friday night. We party hard.
After Penny was born last summer, we were hit with a major bout of post-partum depression. Each day was just about staying afloat. As we're coming out of that fog as a family, I'm really working to prioritize my individual needs. It's surprisingly difficult. There is always a reason to put myself last. Before it sounds like I'm either a saint or a martyr, this would be the point where it becomes painfully obvious that I have caretaking issues. Turns out, there's a series of behaviors called caretaking, where your choices in relationships cater to the thoughts, feelings, and perceived needs of the other person, sometimes to the detriment of your own needs. I've got this. I apply it in all relationships but especially with my immediate family, which is typical with any psychological issue. It doesn't help that the evangelical world praises such behavior as “having a servant's heart.” I remember being told that our priorities should be “God first. Others second. Self third.” While that might help someone else be altruistic, it encourages a compassionate perfectionist to have unhealthy boundaries and priorities. There's some sort of middle ground between being completely self-absorbed and having no gauge on your own needs and interests. Frighteningly enough, left unchecked, caretaking can lead to massive resentment. I believe resentment is one of the biggest threats to healthy, loving relationships and needs to be taken seriously. This makes having fun surprisingly important and difficult for me to pursue. 
Getting ready for adventure.
So, I'm working on figuring out what I like to do, what gives me energy and life. Some of these things I never lost touch with. These include reading, public speaking, having one-on-one conversations with friends, and spending time with children. That one's easy since I have my own now. Things I'm rediscovering include: writing (what,what), home design, being outside, exercise, listening to live music, painting and crafting.
As part of my pursuit of fun, I found a groupon for kayaking. I immediately texted my friend Danna to see if she'd go with me. As expected, she was totally up for it, so I bought it and we reserved our day. Well, Penny is teething. BAD.
I ended up at urgent care with her the day before to confirm nothing else was going on before the big 3 day weekend. She was deemed okay, though the doc thought she might have a virus as well. She was really unhappy Friday night and I am her favorite person thus far in her little life. Tim is definitely the next best thing but he also had a commitment in the middle of my kayaking reservation. We had already arranged for a sitter (who,encouragingly, has not been made to brush my teeth yet). As a mother, it's very difficult to leave your child in another person's care when you're pretty sure it's not fair to either of them. I didn't sleep well Friday night. I knew how much I needed to be on that water. I also could not reschedule it based on the company's policy. This had been on the calendar for at least a month. And maybe being on the river for 3 hours seems like it shouldn't be that hard to arrange. Sometimes it's not. And sometimes it feels like the hardest thing in the world.
Well, I woke up to a happier baby. Not her best, but a far cry from the night before. Her fever was way down and she wasn't as insanely cranky. Tim and I agreed that I could
reasonably go play (as a caretaker, I'm working on not needing his permission, but it is really helpful for me when I have it. It's hard for me to enjoy something if it is causing tension in my relationship.)
Hoping my arms will work.
So, I SPENT 3 HOURS IN A KAYAK! As I climbed into my kayak alongside Danna's, who had never been by the way, I have a deja vu from college. I spent my sophomore year at Pepperdine in Heidelberg, Germany. We traveled independently every weekend. One weekend, I went to Interlaken, Switzerland for a girls weekend. If you've never been, plan a trip. NOW. No, I'm not kidding. It's heaven on earth. Seriously gorgeous. We ended up finding a group of boys from our house having a guys trip at the same hostel. While the ladies planned a day of hiking, I was intrigued to find out the boys were planning on riding mopeds. I thought, huh, that sounds like fun. Granted, I don't know how to ride a bike. I know. It's actually super embarrassing for me to admit that. But, it's pertinent to the story. Not sure why I thought I could ride a moped by myself with a bunch of experienced boys on icy mountain roads in Switzerland. But I did. Needless to say, I crashed in the parking lot with the owner scowling at me.
Proof that we are exceedingly cool.
Good thing I had a helmet on because I definitely hit a tree. The owner of the bikes was an asshole, but that's beside the point. Perhaps being the child of two entrepreneurs makes me think if I will it in my mind, it will be so? My consolation prize was that I spent the day on the back of the most experienced boys bike and it was amazing! Mainly because I was forced, for my own safety, to hold onto his INSANELY NICE abs all day while taking in the view. Ah, that was a good day.
Back to kayaking. I climb in thinking, is this going to be another Alps experience? Is it possible that I killed myself working through psychological and logistical issues just to get here and capsize repeatedly? Or, if I'm really slow, will this “tour” not complete its route? Turns out, it was not an Alps experience. Danna and I killed it.
So happy!
There was a super slow person on the tour and he had to trade kayaks with the bad ass female instructor (who had a baby 6 months ago, natch) just to keep up. And though I'm sore today, I feel amazing! I love being outside! I love having coffee date-type conversation on the water. I love that I got home and Tim and I took the kids to the park. I love that my babysitter had a princess tea party with Macy while I was gone.
Best sitter ever.
Perhaps living a life of balance is an impossible goal, especially if we're talking about achieving that every day. But once in awhile, you get a day that is EXACTLY what you need. Maybe life isn't about feeling bad about all the days that don't measure up to impossible standards. Time to call that a wash, I say. We never “arrive”, which is a major bummer for us perfectionists. And frankly, I bet we'll keep trying.
Feeling a bit better
But, every so often, you will get a glimpse of what's possible with hard work, risk and a lot of luck.