Due Upon Receipt 2019

Reflection on the awkwardness of receiving during the holiday season from someone who grew up without the celebrations.

Photo by Kaluci on Unsplash.com

“You're welcome.”

I’ve been noticing I cringe when I see this now. Usually on Facebook following a bit of information that might be useful to someone:

Oreo-Dorito-Weighted Blanket-Gluten Free-Trigger Free-50% Off Today Only-Insider-Friends and Family-Hair Growing-Star Wars-Hair Removal-Cupcakes (there will be a picture of this unnecessary miracle and a link to wherever you can get it), and then…

“You’re welcome.”

I rarely hear the words now. At retail stores, I thank the cashier for ringing me up and handing me my package. They reply, “my pleasure,” “and thank you!”

All this is polite and appropriate and no complaints here. It is a marked shift tho. Almost like the fact that I spent money means any effort or human interaction around the transaction is the least that can be done and not worthy of being noticed. It’s strange to feel this way.

Or, I hear this (definitely in my head sometimes), after a lack of acknowledgement. Like when someone holds the door open for another person who then passes through with no eye contact or connection…

“Um…you’re welcome.”

One of the only images when searching "receiver." Photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash.com

It’s an interesting thing to me to note this marked move away from receiving gratitude from others. Receiving itself seems to have gone out of fashion - especially the language around it.

My one teacher, Melissa Joy, talks about the importance of receivership. We can intend and goal towards all the good in the world, but we also have to be open to receiving what we wish for. How often have we heard the phrase, “Can’t take a compliment.” Actually can’t take it as in maybe can’t stand to hear it, can’t believe it, can’t rest in the sweetness of being seen, can’t hear the words so at odd with our own experience. There is a perception of selfishness or pomposity around simple acceptance of someone else’s reflection of our goodness. It’s a strange, unfortunate, twisted version of humility. And in those cases, it devalues both the giver and the receiver.

We’ve made the holidays focused solely on giving (which is useful for marketing and sales…we’ll get in to that when the massive hole I wore out in my advertising soap box is repaired). We’ve made this season so very active. Very energetic - full of packed hours and hustle and motion and meeting obligations and year end targets. This is so counter to our environment here in the Northern Hemisphere where it’s darker and colder and things are in the process of hibernation and dormancy and death. It is a natural season of contraction. Of drawing in. Of rest. Of reception. It is not negative. It is a crucial cycle. It makes the Spring possible.

I did not grow up celebrating the holidays. This time of year has always confounded me and left me feeling disconnected and sad. I used to think this was because of the lack of sunshine, or the lack of cash flow to buy gifts for all my worthy friends, or the lack of childhood nostalgia around Christmas. Now I think it is just a feeling of being at odds with nature. How am I to prepare for the coming longer days of sunshine when I took no time to cozy slow in the blissful dark? The returning sun, the excitement of the promise of a New Year with all the green potential it heralds is buried under the immediacy of shopping and eating and spending and stressing. Now that I do observe the holidays in my reluctant way, my awareness of the last crisp weeks of fall and the first frosty days of winter is distracted. There is no ebb to the energy of living. There is no pause that makes the next sentence a statement instead of a run-on.

This is not the fault of the holidays. This is just an instance for me where I am out of synch with the seasons and rhythm of life.

The other photo that comes up when I search "receiver." Photo by Louis Hansel

One of the meanings of the verb receive is to experience something. And tho it is a verb, there is no mention of taking in receiving. It is more like being handed a gift that we only have to open. We get to be actively passive. Present and for the moment, at rest. There can be acceptance of thanks, of acknowledgement, of good deeds and simple tasks completed. Or of physical gifts and tangible things and our own efforts for others and for ourselves.

As one of the people who chokes on “You’re welcome,” like a dry piece of hard pretzel…I have struggled with accepting gratitude although I deeply crave validation and the safety of being seen and valued. For me, this comes from several things, not least the salt of not acknowledging my own worth.

This season is about a lot of things. I hope to receive the end of this year with grace. To make a place for it to come home to rest. And to find myself present in the gift of the moment, however it shows up, holding the door open for the New Year, and with no trace of sarcasm, smiling…

“You’re welcome.”

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