I had very negative (sometimes cruel) things to say to myself before I started “selfishly” giving to others.
The giving began shortly after I had my first panic attack. My son was 4 months old and I thought very little of my skills as a caregiver, had a sudden loss of love for myself, and a sense of unworthiness for all the beautiful drops of fortune in my life. The strength of the panic grew so intense I was put on medication.
The medication would help for a few hours, then I felt shame and guilt for having to take medication. I needed a pill that offered a paradigm shift.
My mom offered something better. She recommended I volunteer for a local organization that pairs trained volunteers with new mothers who have very little support and low income. It seemed crazy, seeing as how I was a new mother with little support and low income, but I was compelled to volunteer. I had to organize childcare for my baby during the training and volunteer sessions, but I knew I had to do this to become the mother my child deserved.
I fell in love with the work and the first family I was placed with. They had a peaceful energy and slow pace of living — I needed more of what they were having. In the beginning I would do laundry, dishes, clean the floors, dust, and do any other household chores the mom needed support with. I hated doing house work — until I did housework for someone else. The joy in offering the simple gift of time and service to someone else (even if the service was tinged with drudgery) opened me to the light around and within me, and soon I began to love myself again.
And then, the mother felt comfortable enough to allow me to go on walks with the baby. I would lay her in a sling around my chest and we would walk around their small orchard for hours — something I rarely did with my own baby, as there was always “so much to do.” My time walking with this baby, in a space where I needed to do nothing but be present, awakened the simple (yet personally profound) epiphany that many of the deepest pleasures in life are found in the moments when we connect with others — especially those who greatly need our loving hands and hearts.
This volunteer work took on a “selfish” nature when it became a catalyst for me to settle into my authentic self (who I actually liked), to learn to be grateful and present in life (especially as a mother), and to tune into a sense of what my purpose is.
I now volunteer for a lovely 19-year-old single mother with one of the happiest 2-month-old babies I’ve ever held. I’m with her once a week for two hours. I relish the time. The baby and I have a routine of walking through their small yard while I sing to him. Sometimes he falls asleep, but usually he’s holding constant eye contact with me (unless he’s considering a flower or trying to eat a leaf). The mother takes this time to nurture her home, or self.
My opportunity to give to others (but primarily my self) was expanded when the woman who began the Parent Care program opened a cancer resource center and recruited me to volunteer my Hypnotherapy services to her clients with, or recovering from, cancer. I sit with them for half an hour, listening to their challenges, fears, hopes, and epiphanies. I spend the last half hour guiding them within themselves to a sanctuary where they can be at peace, while resting in the love we’ve created in the room.
Some of the clients at the cancer resource center have passed away since I began, and the mix of these two types of volunteer work, new life and (sometimes) ending life, has enlightened my view of life, love, and our collective purpose of filling one another with love — often times through service.
Giving pieces of my time (which translates into giving pieces of my self) lifted the weights that used to press on my mind, body, and spirit. The people I’ve been honored to work with have infused my life with effortless love and a reminder that my grass becomes much greener when I help tend to someone else’s field.More On