The Art Of Giving (Without Burning Out)

Don’t grow up, it’s a trap!

I have an old, worn, favourite t-shirt with these words emblazoned across the front of it in block letters that, even after many years, defiantly stand out. Black on white. Loud, and slightly faded. When I bought this shirt, on a blisteringly hot summer’s day near the ocean in Manhattan Beach, California – I believed the sentiment.

After wearing the shirt 1,000 times, I live the sentiment. Growing up, or what the world tells us growing up entails, is a pretty raw deal a lot of the time. Adulthood quite often means we become a dulled down version of the bright-eyed, curious children we once were.

So, wearing my favourite faded tee, I’ve been doing some thinking. A lot of it, actually. I’ve been building in time to dive into my own psyche. To get back to the introspective, old soul that I am & always have been. And, in exploring the dusty, often-times closed off parts of my mind, I’ve come to a conclusion about myself.

I’ve actually come to a lot of conclusions – but one in particular stands out.

My best and worst qualities are one and the same.

Huh? This is sounding interesting – & even a little bit weird. The BEST & WORST of me are one & the same?

Yep. They are. Gnarly, right? When I think about my self-exploration, my WHY becomes clear. Simply put: I am a giver. I give 110% of myself to projects. I give my time (almost 100% of it) to friends, family, colleagues, community organisations, schools, sports, ad infinitum…

Why do I know that giving is the attribute which drives me to do everything I do in life? Easy. My proverbial batteries get a huge amount of charge from being able to help others. I buzz out doing simple tasks like setting up chairs & lending a hand (literally) when people need it. I also am filled with a sense of pride in teaching others – in seeing them work hard to become their own truest versions of themselves.

In the same way that giving charges my batteries, it can also drain them very quickly if I don’t keep myself in a constant state of check. When I get into a habit of saying “Yes! Of course!” all of the time, I end up stretched. I end up exhausted. And, I end up feeling adrift – without a North Star as it were.

Let’s talk about Giving.

Giving…
Of my time.
Of my possessions.
Of my empathy.
Of my money.
Of my expertise.
Of my trust in others.
Of my positive brain space.

I give it all away. All of it. But only to a point…

Because, while giving is truly far better than receiving, I can promise you one thing: if you spend all of your time and energy giving to others without taking a break to recharge or realign your own priorities – you’ll burn out. You’ll fall out. And you’ll want to break out of the reality you’re currently living in. Fast.

There’s a balancing game in the life of a born ‘giver.’ A kind of internal checking system of self-care when deciphering the wants and desires of others – and then trying to align them to your own morals, obligations, and dreams.

Balancing the wants and desires of others is typically a big job. A big, draining, complex, ongoing, rewarding, fulfilling, scary, and mine-field laden job. Especially when giving to others extends beyond family, friends, social causes, hobbies, and colleagues…and  wades into the deep waters of (SHOCK! HORROR!) giving even more of yourself to people you may not know at all.

Know the signs of giving-fatigue, & heed them

In fact, in a world where most people are looking out for Numero Uno, being a rare unicorn of collaboration and caring nature is mostly… well, exhausting. Fall-down-flat-on-your-face-once-you-cross-the-safe-threshold-of-home exhausting. And yep, I’m tired. But, tired in a beautiful way.

Hear me out… because I’m not complaining here. Nope, the opposite is at play. I love the exhausted state of giving and pushing beyond apathy and the glorification of busy to do just that little bit more to make someone else’s journey better. What can I say? While I’m no glutton for punishment (actually, I am sometimes.) To quote rock legend John Cougar Mellencamp giving simply ‘Hurts So Good’.

I think there’s something magical about giving – in all of its forms – particularly when you see just how much small moments of attention can mean in the greater story of a person’s life.

The spicy secret-sauce keeping me going at work, at home, and beyond are those moments. Magical milliseconds when someone’s eyes light up and I see true kindness and appreciation returned to me in an unspoken gesture of thanks over a shared experience. That’s the happy-tickle that gets me excited to wake up every day and head out into the wide world with a quirky little skip in my step, and a literal twinkle in my eye. We’re honestly all in this together.

And, let’s get real here folks: there are so many more people in this world who give much, much, much more than I could ever dream of. They’re the people that realize giving others their time and effort is a gift. They are also the ones who actually see everyone. Head up, looking everyone in the eyes. They’re my heroes.

They’re sometimes unsung, and other times chirp loudly a beautiful tune to get others on board to help a cause. But, what they all have in common is a desire to do better for our shared journey while we’re all here on this spinning rock not all too far from the sun.

We’re all in this together, & none of us are getting out of here alive

And how cool is that? Realizing that we’re all in it together. Coming to that point of realization takes some people longer to understand than others – but once you know it’s a fact, you live your life differently.

More wholly.
More happily.
More openly.
More truthfully.

So, while I might give more than I should sometimes to people who may not ever appreciate the time or effort exerted on them… that’s okay. I’ll keep doing it (and, when I need to, I’ll find a quiet place to recharge.)

Why?

Simply, because I can.

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