I’ve been getting lessons in receptivity. I didn’t sign up for them, at least not formally. Maybe my heart or soul did, an unofficial contract with the universe. Maybe after two years of riding the rapids of grief and feeling exhausted by anemia and lack of energy for regular interaction with other humans, as I’m rebuilding my iron stores, hope supply, and creative well, maybe I’m feeling more than ready to connect.
Wandering out onto the sidewalk in my bathrobe and blinking through the sleepy cement in the corners of my eyes. Flailing my arms and shouting with an alarming enthusiasm, “Hello human beings, I’m ready now. Let us play!” Hoping the humans don’t run away. And knowing that to play and connect is to say yes to the flow of giving and receiving.
I have big travel unfolding for this summer. The opportunity to spend a week in August in an Irish castle to write and create, and another week in Sicily to go on a pilgrimage and immerse myself in the food, culture, rituals and magic of my southern Italian ancestors. These are the trips of my dreams, the promise of major growth and transformation for me as a writer, teacher, mentor, and human. I’m sure I’ll be sharing some of my adventures here with you.
As these opportunities arose, I realized I couldn’t make them happen alone. Financially, emotionally, or logistically. So I chose connection as my theme for the summer. Which means I’ve been asking for help more times than has felt comfortable. Actually, every time has been uncomfortable. And every time, I’m learning something about receiving.
Over the last month or so, things I’ve been receiving include, but are not limited to: airline miles, money, work trades, new patrons on my Patreon site, educational opportunities, compliments, lodging, and messages from my dreams.
Yeah, I’m still taking all of that in.
As for those dream messages, the most powerful so far came last week. I woke one morning with this question: What am I willing to tear down so that I can build what I most want and need to build? I can’t tell you the context, as all I remembered from the dream was the question. The rest of it slipped away as I opened my eyes.
Still, those words that remained were potent, and a great writing prompt, if you’re into that sort of thing.
My own answer is in progress, and I know that at least part of it is this: I’m willing to tear down my limited ideas of what is possible in giving and receiving, so that I can help to build a new way of being in the world, one rich with connection, in tune with natural creative cycles, and fueled by joy.
That sounds pretty damn good.
Earlier this month, I put out a request to my community for airline miles. One dear friend and kindred spirit jumped in immediately and offered miles. Since then, a few others did the same. I didn’t have enough points to book travel, so last week, I asked again.
Over this past weekend, three different people contributed more miles, enough to make it possible for me to book my flight to Ireland in August, as well as my flight back home to Portland from Sicily in September. I spent much of the weekend thanking these people, crying, and saying wow as I stumbled in a gratitude daze around my apartment. No kidding, I actually bumped into walls a few times.
These last few days especially, I’ve been practicing expanding my receiving capacity by not saying, “I can’t believe this,” because I’m learning it’s another way of saying no. Of not receiving. Of saying, no that’s not happening, or no that didn’t happen. This applies in other important contexts. “I can’t believe this is happening” is a powerful way to erase what’s actually happening or has happened, a way to cling tightly to an understanding of the world that is or has become inaccurate.
So, I’m learning that part of receiving is being willing to believe I can. To clarify, I don’t mean at all that a person just has to believe to receive. Part of receiving is also having access to people who can help. Part of it is being able to ask. Part of it is being willing to ask.
Since I’m able, I’ve been working on the willingness to ask. It feels weird, and, as I said, uncomfortable. Old stories about the weakness of asking, the embarrassment of needing, the failure to be independently wealthy all pop up like antagonistic backup singers. Oooh, don’t do it. Oooh, she’s a loser. Snap, spin, step touch. Taunting me with their harmonies and sequined synchronized moves.
After the wow of miles offered over the weekend, I got into the actual booking of flights. Other fees emerged, fees I couldn’t get the airlines to waive. A friend suggested asking people to chip in. Me from a month ago probably wouldn’t have. But this current me, the one in receptivity school, took a deep breath, and wrote through the fear and embarrassment, the fluttering in my chest. I shushed the backup singers, and on social media, I wrote a post ending with, “Can you help? One way is to send me something at www.paypal.me/jenvioli. Anything helps!” Within one minute, one friend sent me money, and wrote: “Buon viaggio!”
I had to go stand at the open window in the hallway. Stick my head out and breathe. Resist the urge to say, “I can’t believe it!” Instead, I just said, “Wow. Thank you.”
Within half an hour, another friend chipped in. “Well, I love you and I want you to have a great trip,” they wrote. “And I have a little extra cash on hand so I wanted to share it.”
Within an hour, another friend said she’d help next week after she got paid. She said she’s making a commitment to tithing creators this year because it’s what the world needs. “Thank you for asking and being vulnerable,” she said.
Today, I’m delighted to report that with the help and support of a number of beautiful humans, my flights are booked on either end of this trip, and I’m now figuring out what I’ll be doing for the three weeks between Ireland and Sicily. More chances to ask, and to receive.
In receptivity school, I’m learning so much. Can you see why I’m a little stumbly? It’s kind of like being a new colt, figuring out how to stand up and use my legs. I’m learning a different way of moving through the world. To get quiet and take in generosity. To value myself and what I offer. I’m also learning I don’t have to perform to receive, that I can just ask. I’m learning that once I’ve jumped into the flow of giving and receiving, a request can be answered with dizzying speed.
In receptivity school, I’m learning that vulnerability is a gift, that people like to help, and that shame and asking don’t have to go together.
In receptivity school, I’m learning that my asking creates opportunities for others’ giving. Just as I love to chip in when friends have shared that something’s going down or something wonderful has come up—some struggle, some dream opportunity, some need. It feels good, connected, and exciting to support someone else. It feels good, connected, and exciting to be supported.
And listen, if you’re reading this, I have more travel expenses and logistical needs upcoming for this dream adventure of mine. Can you help? I welcome your support, and I believe I can receive it. Thank you, and wow.
I’m willing to tear down the idea that “I have to do it on my own,” the idolization of the self-made person, and the notion that being in need is shameful, or that it makes me weak or pitiable. What if my need and vulnerability is actually a gift? An opportunity? A sacred element of connection? I believe it is.
How about you? What are you willing to tear down to build whatever you most need and want to build? Feel free to share in the comments below. Or maybe there’s something you need that you want to practice asking for. It’s time to innovate how we understand giving and receiving and how we enter that flow, so who wants to experiment with me?