Whenever I get a gift, especially one I’ve wanted and will treasure, the critical voices in my head work overtime to ensure I don’t overdose on joy. While some people flaunt their gifts or humbly receive them, my first reaction is to hide. And withhold.
I recently received two gifts (actually three, but I’m withholding information on one) and learned first-hand the corrosive nature of hiding and withholding on my relationships, especially the one I have with myself.
Last week, my husband surprised me with a gorgeous sapphire and diamond anniversary band to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Our anniversary was in June, so I was especially surprised when he got down on one knee and asked me to spend exactly ten more years with him. He’s romantic that way.
I love the ring; wanted it for months, but was reluctant to spend the money on such a luxury. Or so I told myself. Apparently, I also did not want to feel the uncomfortable feelings nestling alongside the bling in the small blue box.
For several days last week, I didn’t tell anyone about this gift. Not my friends. Not my family members. I wore the ring, sure. I’m not a masochist. But inside I hid. The message screaming in my head was “With all the people struggling in the world, who am I to get a new ring? I don’t deserve it.” (I’m sparing you the nasty name calling involved in the actual message. You can thank me later.)
The second gift of the week nearly did me in. On Saturday, my husband took our daughters to Michigan for an overnight visit with his family. I had a solid, blissful 24 hours to do whatever I wanted. Or I would have, had I not chosen to dabble in mishegosh.
I wanted to fill my free day with “me” time: writing, exercising, pampering, napping, reading and de-cluttering. Again, instead of sharing the good news with my friends, I withheld. Afraid my friends would feel jealous of my time off or hurt that I didn’t make plans with them, I hid out in secret. And felt shame as the mean voices in my head let loose: “You don’t deserve this time to yourself. You have it too easy. A good mother would want to spend the day with her kids. Who do you think you are?”
Later in the day, I took myself to get a manicure to go with my new ring, the one I wasn’t going to tell anybody about. At the salon, I ran into one of my best friends; someone I ostensibly share everything with. My excitement at our chance meeting was dimmed by the fear and shame I felt keeping these secrets from her.
I considered jamming my freshly-polished fingers under the manicure table, but I wasn’t willing to smudge the wet gloss. My friend immediately spotted the sparkly band on my finger and gushed at my good fortune. I squirmed. When she asked what my family was doing that evening, I lied, “Nothing much. Family movie night.” I stewed, shame covering me like a sticky, old blanket.
A few moments later I turned to her and apologized. “I don’t know why I’m so uncomfortable, but I lied to you. I’m sorry.” As I explained the story and expressed my discomfort, slowly the shame started to lift. By the time I left, I felt connected and grateful for my gifts and our friendship.
While I don’t always realize in the moment that I’m hiding or withholding, I’m clear today that I’m the one hurt when I deny myself the chance to share my gifts. Withholding good news or bad stunts my ability to connect and feel intimate with another human being. My friend had her own feelings about the distance I created in our relationship. She related to my discomfort and celebrated with me. I feel closer to her and feel a willingness to share more of my gifts with the world.
I told this story to a group of friends yesterday at breakfast. I showed them the ring and regaled them with the tale of my nail salon antics. While I was talking, several of my friends were nodding their heads. After I finished, three friends said they also had been withholding. They went on to share their news, some happy, some difficult. I’d like to think we will all be a little closer because of it. At least I know I’m not alone.
Linking up with the talented writers at Yeah Write. Truly a gifted group. Check them out and come join us!