It is just gone midnight and officially Sunday. I always think that Sunday is a good day for contemplation. That is probably because it was the day of restoration before school and sports and work began for the week.
Despite being sick, I have also been spending energy this week on performing favours for some friends. From childhood I have been one of the kindest and most generous people you would encounter. However, once I feel taken for granted, I stop.
It seems strange for someone who preaches service on a daily basis to say that. But there really is a difference between service and doing favours for someone. Getting the two confused can lead to resentment. A favour is something we do with the implicit expectation of reciprocity of some kind. The other is literally indebted to us. Service, on the other hand, is something we do because it is needed and our action is a gift. When we feel taken for granted, it is because we had an expectation. Even a thank you is reward and if we expect reward for service, we are setting ourselves up for resentment.
There is nothing wrong with transacting with others for reward. Getting by in an individualistic world, we must be able to exchange, in order to get our needs met. When what we do as service is something we otherwise do for reward, we must be very clear on our motivation for our actions. Legally, if we are engaging in a contract, both parties must understand and agree to the terms for it to be binding. If the receiver understands it as a service and the giver sees it as a favour, feelings of resentment are inevitable. If we are giving and not receiving, we become depleted – of funds, of time, of energy and of goodwill. And once depleted, we are no good to anyone.
When that happens, it is good to stop, reflect and take time out to restore ourselves.
There are ways to manage this giving burnout. Firstly, we must separate our personal and professional agreements and when we are serving, we must ensure we are not secretly transacting. We can do this by surrendering the outcome to the Divine Quantum, but if we don’t believe in any organising force, then we must find a practical means to give up the rewards of our actions. We can do this simply by making our acts of service anonymous, or, at the very least, by serving complete strangers until we have worked through our tendency towards expectation.
By doing this, we can restore our balance and use our transactional energy in exchanges which will result in reward so that we get our needs met. And, we can focus our service on where we are meeting a need, without regard for anything – even a thank you – in return.
I am grateful to my mother, whose birthday it would have been, this week, for that lesson on service and reward. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve strangers that present themselves every day, in a crowded city. And, I am grateful for people like T- who have helped me when I really needed it. One month, when I was out of work in NYC, T- helped me make my rent and he never asked for repayment nor did he let it stand between us. After my mother had died, T- reminded me how to serve without expectation.
It has been a joy this week to write excellent prose in a style I do not like and I have not practiced in many years. I achieved something and decided that this was not my passion. Even after my epiphany, I had work to complete, and lacking much passion, I admit to some pretty mediocre writing. And you know what? That’s okay. We all have sleepy days at work. There is joy in knowing that with effort, I can excel at that genre. There is also joy in feeling content about choosing not to take that path because I can excel at other genres that are more enjoyable.
Oneness has happened this week by being in flow. It was, for want of a better word, an agitated flow. Flow happens when we are so immersed in something we lose track of time. Yesterday, I didn’t eat or drink all day because I had lost track of time until 7 pm. Yet, it wasn’t a joyous flow. Wordpress was doing weird things yesterday on this site and restoring old versions of posts whilst I was editing them. Several times, I had inserted photos and made edits only to find the photos deleted and the former text restored once I hit the save button. What might have taken 4 hours took 7, instead. So, whilst I became one with my work, only some of that time was wonderful creative flow. The rest was dogged obsession with restoring my posts to their edited and completed state.
Service has been the main topic of today’s post. I have spent many many hours in service this week. However, my intentions were misguided and so I need to restore the software in my brain to a previous version as well.
As always, it remains only for me to ask: