Give and Take
Fair warning: this is going to read like a diary.
I’ve been in a bit of a bind these days – weeks really – where I want to give but I feel like everyone is taking. And I know that doesn’t necessarily make sense, so I’ll try (but inevitably fail) to explain.
I like giving. I like giving my time in the sense that I want to listen to my friends and participate in events that benefit others. I like giving food in that I *love* cooking for other people (way more than just cooking for myself). I like giving people books to read, or presents for no reason; sending notes or flowers to just remind them they’re appreciated. I like giving smiles and hugs to people when they’re feeling down or just passing me on the street.
I know that I live a blessed life – I’m truly not wanting for anything. I have a job I love and I live in a beautiful city and I’ve got tons of friends and I am incredibly lucky that I can afford pretty much anything I want. (Obviously, I’m not drowning in wealth – I can’t buy a yacht or some nonsense like that, but I have enough money in the bank that I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, if some disaster befell me or I needed to fly home tomorrow, I could manage.)
And I know that I like sharing my life with people. I like giving where I can and what I can and I don’t expect anything in return. At least part of giving is that it feels nice to share, and I’m not ashamed to say that I like giving because I feel better afterwards.
But I feel like many of my friends have become complacent. They expect things from me. What was once give has now become take. I feel like I’m no longer giving, rather that they are taking.
I want to be the rock for my friends – someone they can always talk to. But there are only so many times that I can give my time to hear the same sob story before I feel like they’re just taking that time away from me. I’m happy to give my advice, but when it goes unheeded, I wonder if it was worth it at all.
I want to offer dinner to them, but when they come by every night and never even offer to help cook or clean or shop for ingredients, it begins to feel like a chore. They’re taking my food, my time, and even my enjoyment of cooking for guests.
I love sharing my library with friends, giving book suggestions and letting them borrow from my shelves. But when I come home, excited to start a book that has been constantly pushed down my list by school work and work work, to find that it has been taken by a friend on vacation without so much as a note, I feel like they’ve violated my trust.
I’m happy to share my dishes and appliances, and I know accidents happen. But when things of mine get broken and no one bothers to tell me until I ask, I wonder if I matter to them at all.
And all these thoughts lead me to wonder: from whom do I take? Are there people who I inadvertently take advantage of – because I know my friends aren’t taking from me on purpose. In reality, they aren’t taking from me at all. They’re leaning on me in times of support, they’re spending quality time with close friends and good food, they’re reading my favorite books and talking to me about them. Yet I often feel frustrated by their actions and annoyed by what I perceive as callousness.
I want to give, and I know I take. They’re two sides of the same coin, and neither exists without the other. But the thing is: we all know when we give but we rarely notice when we take. I try to notice, and I’ve been trying especially hard recently as I’ve been especially frustrated. And I’ve simultaneously trying to notice and let go of the feeling that I’ve been taken from. But again, who do I forget to thank? And how I do I know I’ve forgotten?
So if you are someone I’ve been accidentally taking from, recently or for years, thank you. Please know I appreciate everything you are giving.