My New Year’s resolution has nothing to do with losing weight or dropping bad habits. Tried that, didn’t last, gave up.
Instead, it has to do with overcoming what I suspect is a genetic disorder — the chromosome regulating social behavior, apparently deficient in my personality.
Here’s the problem: I’m incapable of asking for help, and when someone gives me unsolicited help, I react with embarrassment. Gestures of kindness and even the simplest compliment make me miserably uncomfortable.
So, what’s wrong with me?
Not being able to afford a psychiatrist, I reclined on my own couch and examined my strange responses to perfectly nice people who only want to make my life easier.
I think I’ve figured it out.
For one thing, I’m fiercely independent with an “I-can-do-it-myself” attitude. Also, I’m naturally reclusive. I would do well living alone in a secluded mountain cabin or in a sphere at the bottom of the sea. When I used to attend parties with lots of people, many of whom I did not know, I was friendly, cordial, attentive to each polite conversation while working the room introducing myself and asking everyone about themselves. I was good at it, but it was unnatural for me. I had to fight the desire to find a corner, nurse my drink, and disengage from the scene. And when I taught high school, I appeared to be a stern, no-nonsense, in-control adult in a room full of hormonal teenagers. I hope they felt the love I had for them, but not the fear.
Because I am actually excruciatingly shy.
My biggest problem, and the one connected to my 2014 resolution, is that I don’t know how to receive kindness. Instead, I am a GIVER. I never feel so good as when I do someone a favor or surprise them with some serendipitous act of generosity. In slang terms, that’s how I get my “jollies.” Somehow, getting something in return diminishes my enjoyment in giving.
So, I’m pretty weird, huh?
In simple terms, my New Year’s resolve is to be a better RECEIVER of kindness.
Since my previous columns about being my husband’s caregiver, I’ve been overwhelmed by an outpouring of goodwill from both friends and strangers.
Having taught my students the importance of thank you notes, this is my thank you to those who have shown me compassion and generosity.
Thank you, Scott and Janice Roberts. After reading my column, you reached out to me with offers to stay with Frank and give me respite. Without even knowing us, you visited and brought Christmas treats and said, “You have our number; call if you need us.”
Thank you, Nancy Reynolds, for coming to the hospital, bringing me supper, good books, and your good company. Thank you, Pat Purdy, for bringing me a toothbrush and toothpaste, snacks, and the $30 to buy food at the hospital (the cafeteria only takes cash). Both of you knew I wouldn’t leave Frank to go home, and you didn’t try to argue with me like my kids did.
Thank you Jan and Bill Croysdale, Mary Mittler, James and Susan Calderazzo, dear people from my church who brought food and visited with Frank once I brought him home. And thank you, sweet Rachel, for the camellia bouquet you picked for me. They brightened Frank’s bed tray. Thank you, Betty “Boop” Horton and Helen Anderson for the visit and the Christmas cactus. Thank you, Beth Laird, for the homemade cake, poinsettia, and turkey, which made me think of the big surprise turkey Bob Cratchet’s family received on Christmas day. And thank you, Sue Regan, for grocery shopping for me, but you wouldn’t let me pay you! You are all angels of kindheartedness.
All of you must have been puzzled by my awkward response to your generosity. Please don’t discount the depth of my gratitude and forgive my weirdness.
Jesus said, “Ye have not because ye ask not” as well as “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” I did not ask. I did not seek. I did not knock. And yet others heard my heart when my words were silent.
I resolve to be a more gracious RECEIVER of kindness in 2014.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.