When you return a gift, it doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of it in the first place. It just might not be right.

I’m not rationalizing, but I am coming to terms with the past 2 weeks. The last 7 days in particular.

So I wrote last week about someone who wrote me a check for $3,500 to pursue yoga training after I volunteered my time for the benefit of Survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

I am registered. I am committed and I’m all in. Every dime of that check (and beyond some) will be spent on this endeavor, not to mention a total dietary turnaround. I will be participating in a mostly vegan (including dairy, so it’s still technically vegetarian) diet for 16 days. I’m not psyched about that; we humans have fangs for a reason. But I will submit because it’s part of the philosophy of this training regimen: compassion for all living creatures, and so I’m in.

Here’s what’s new: I returned the funds.

I am going to do this on my own steam.

I began to feel some really uncool familiar feelings in the midst of all this (that’s a good post if you’re at all wondering about why you have psychic vampires or codependent issues that you can’t seem to shake or resolve). My feelings don’t mean any of it is true, universally, but they do mean they’re true for me.

I am a studious person. I sat with those feelings, let them process, gave them a chair, a napkin and a cup of Earl Gray.

They did not really go away.

The feeling: chaos. That I was not in control of my own … hmm … my own person. That despite any statements to the contrary by any parties involved: I would owe someone something; I would be beholden. I could’ve signed a contract: “Molly will never owe me one thing ever, not ever, not even a smile or a good thought, if she takes this Gift and uses it to improve the lives of other people, including herself,” and it wouldn’t have been enough. In my paranoid, damaged and experienced brain: everything comes with a price, there is NO such thing as a free lunch, and any gift, especially a monetary one, comes with expectations, or it would be anonymous which would then create more chaos because I’d have to find the person to thank them and then feel beholden to.

I’m not right in the head. I know this. I hate blaming my childhood, but another inconvenient truth is this: 95% of any action we conduct is rooted in our experiences as children before the age of 5. IT JUST IS. So we must pay attention.

So if you’re normal and weren’t raised by wolves (whom I’ve come to discover are actually quite kind to their young), you would take this gift and be totalllllllly okay with it. But what if you’re me? You’re hosed. You need to change.

How do we change? We pay attention. So I dissected and gleaned and examined this whole thing, how it went down, what else was going on in the community when it happened, any commonalities and changes in our shared recent social experiences and I came up with more than a handful of subtle yet significant items.

Giving back the funds was only part of the equation. I wanted to understand two things: why I took them in the first place, and why I wanted to give them back.

I took the funds because it was a fantastic gesture and I’m not at all good about taking extravagant gifts from people.

I gave them back because I realized a couple things: what I really needed was the shot in the arm, the kick in the touchas, the cheer from the sidelines, that the funds represented, from an uninterested party (i.e., not my parents and not my spouse).

Keeping the funds, to me, meant a forced allegiance, a false loyalty, worse: a sense of obligation … and no one wants that. Especially with me. I would’ve second-guessed everything: from any enjoyment in the course “is this happy enough? Am I grateful enough?!” (I told you I’m damaged) to any fears or regrets, “gah! If I don’t like it I’m not fulfilling my end of the deal! If I am afraid I can’t do it, I’m not worthy of the endorsement!” All the way down to a sense of unending and misappropriated gratitude: that I would have to be forever grateful for the gift.

No, this had to be all me. This sponsor did not want my anxieties and potential resentment on top of any sense of obligation. I did that person a favor…

So how do I model healthy detachment for my children? I take the gift, I say thank you for the gift, I deposit the gift, I follow through on the commitment the gift is supporting and then I return the gift and do it on my own. Wanna take it one step better? How do I model health self-esteem for my kids? I do it on my own from the start. I just say, “Honey, I shrank the kids I am going to be certified to teach yoga” and as long as it’s a healthy decision, then we’re good to go.

So I dropped off the check this morning and we are taking care of this training on our own steam, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Thank you.

13 responses »

  1. Good for you Molly!

    If it makes you feel any better I would have probably done the same, for the same reasons!

    I am proud of you for forging ahead…………..on your own steam.

    Have a great day………..and keep smiling 😉


    • Thanks, AC. It means a lot. I feel free. Free to work hard for me, free to eff up if I might, free to enjoy it for myself and not second-guess my interests. It’s really impossible to do any of that with someone else writing the checks. Xo

  2. We are more similar than I knew. When I first read your post about the gift I was overwhelmed not with the gift but with your ability to receive it. I, too, am broken in this way. I really like the way you have framed this. You are returning the check and keeping the Gift, Molly.

    • Kelly, It must be something the water. Right. Water. Anyhoo, yes. I too was overwhelmed with the ability to accept it; but I can not remain broken that way. We must allow nice things to be done for us, but *i think* that means we have to be able to do then for ourselves first. Sounds hokey, I’m afraid, but it’s the truth. The older I get, the less hokey shit like that sounds. “To thine own self be true” and all that jazz. We can do this. But yes, going on my own steam is critically important to me. If be second-guessing everything. I know that much about myself. Giving the check back was hard, I felt like Bernadette Peters in “The Jerk” when she said, “But what about all this stuff?” But as the day grew on and I became more resolute in my decision and there was no going back, I felt freaking awesome. That, was another Gift. Xo

      • You did not just quote Bernadette?! Sigh. “I’m picking out a thermos for you!!! Not an ordinary thermos for youuuu!” That is my favorite movie if all time.

        That settles it. Ready my room. I’m coming home. And I’m living with you.

  3. Hmmm, I am disturbed by the use of the word damaged, since I don’t know that someone who is damaged would invite her thoughts for tea. Long Island Iced Tea, maybe. When I think about how my childhood has shaped me, I look at how I have passed that on to my kids. I know that there are some things I did horribly wrong, and I am working to change the behavior (theirs and my own), but I don’t think I am damaged. I think I just have big areas on which I can improve. A lot. I am a huge fan of introspection, of taking what someone says or something that happens and evaluating – honestly – for any truth, and deciding if there is anything I can take from it that will help make me a better person. But damaged is a negative word. It has no business in our world, where we are trying to be silver-lining enthusiasts. I could go on and on (and did – you should see what I deleted!), but I’m feeling preachy, and that’s a yucky feeling.

    • I like it when you preach. I am damaged, but not forlorn and not renewable. To me, the “damage” is a way to make me stronger and mended. I agree with you though, it’s a matter of semantics to me. I don’t mean to say that I’m not worthy of reconditioning or of rehabilitation. Plenty of things are damaged, but are still fantastic. I see it as stretch marks; badges of honor, that kind of stuff. If I didn’t know I was “damaged” I wouldn’t be on such a quest to repair myself.

      Yes, undoing what we’ve done. That’s second-most important to me after forgiving ourselves in the first place.

      And we are forgivable. Eminently. 🙂

  4. That was a huge chunk of change to just take without a second thought, so I can’t say I blame you for returning it. It’s still such a great gift since it propelled you to do something so exciting. Yay for you!

  5. I think the spirit of the gift still lives. You are doing it! That is all your friend wanted. She knew if you could see your value from her eyes that you would actually see your true value. Good for you going all in with the diet. I have a feeling this experience will be transformative in more way than one.

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