Life Lessons in My First 50 Years
Well, then. I am onto the next big chapter of my life, and only have a few scars, an assortment of horror stories, a couple moments of, “what in the hell was I thinking?” and a whole host of learned lessons.
Through the past 3 months, I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions, and have gotten to know myself in an entirely new light. I have done a lot of self-reflection, some deep soul searching, and even some research on why I have made the decisions in the past that I have.
After walking away from a long term relationship, beginning a new, deep and very intense relationship, and beginning my life from scratch again, it occurred to me that there is one common denominator in all of my past relationships.
I have spent my life “giving too much”.
There May Be Only Two Types of People in the World?
I won’t turn this into some kind of cliche’, but I have come to realize that in my world, there seem to be only TWO types of people.
There are GIVERS
There are TAKERS
I won’t waste your time with a description of each type of person, because it seems to be self-explanatory. I will, however, explain why I believe this statement to be true.
“Hello, my name is Christina, and I am a chronic giver. It has been 16 hours since I gave something of mine to someone.”
Why Giving Isn’t Always the Answer
Throughout my entire life, at least for as long as I can remember, I have given every ounce of myself to others. To a fault.
I was taught at a very young age to never be selfish, and always be selfless. I can’t recall who taught me this lesson, but I wish they never would have. It has caused me more grief than happiness, and it was a bogus philosophy to teach a child.
I learned from this lesson that everyone else was “allowed” to take what they wanted from me. I was an abused child, a tortured and violated teenager, and when I was finally married at the age of 19, I gave my new husband EVERYTHING I had.
My obsession was to make people happy. It didn’t matter if I made sacrifices of myself, as long as “someone” else smiled, because of what I did for them, or offered them. It never seemed to be enough. At least, not to me.
During my 23-year-long-marriage, I became the “do-er”. I did EVERYTHING for everyone. I worked hard at my job, came home and was the one who made suppers, and cleaned, and did laundry, and hosted dinner parties and made birthday cakes. I was the go-to person for everything because I made everyone believe that I enjoyed it all. I learned very quickly that I could make people smile, and make them adore me for what I would do for them. I had the reputation of being kind and reliable.
Once I became a mom, the same held true. I busted my ass to be a super mom, making sure my daughter had cloth diapers and was breastfed until she could walk. I wanted to be her best friend, her role model, her confidant, and the cool mom. I wanted to be everything for everyone, all the freaking time.
And I did.
Until, one day, I got tired. I was so damn tired of always being the ONE. The Giver. I walked out of a marriage because my giving had become “the norm”. It had grown into an expectation of everyone in my life. Once it had changed from my obsession of fulfilling everyone else’s needs to an expectation, something had to, ermm, give. So, I walked away.
It was my own damn fault, for being a chronic giver.
Life Number 2
I wasn’t single long. I met someone who I believed loved me. It was a fast-growing relationship, and without even realizing it, I resorted back to my “old ways”. I felt the only real way to keep him in my life was to GIVE, GIVE and GIVE some more. He seemed to be a guy who required 100% commitment and 100% attention. So, that’s what I gave him.
He TOOK, TOOK and TOOK everything I offered, without gratitude. In fact, I never gave him enough, so he looked to other women to give him more.
Within the first few years of our relationship, I saw this strange pattern. I would give him gifts, and he would become angry with me, saying things like, “Why would you waste your money on this? I already have one.” I had spent time, money, and emotions on choosing a beautiful watch for him, and that was his response.
Then, it became worse. I realized that if I wasn’t able to BUY him gifts, I would give him more of me. I gave him my heart. I gave him my time. I gave him my body, and I went above and beyond every comfort zone I had, to appease his needs and wants. I even made physical changes to my body, in order to make him proud of me. He was happy, for a while, yet it never felt like it was “enough”. He never stopped looking elsewhere to fulfill his desires. It became a challenge for me to finally give enough to him, that he would be content.
Over time, it still wasn’t enough. He still didn’t seem happy with me, as his partner, so I gave some more. I sacrificed myself and succumbed to a world and a lifestyle that he wanted for us, even though it wasn’t what I wanted. But, the need to be “the best” and the longing to make myself happy by making him happy, drove me to compromise myself. I literally sacrificed my principals and my self-esteem, in an effort to win him over.
Looking back now, it makes me feel sick, to know that I had this relentless need to create happiness for someone else, while I lost my own sanity, and even lost myself. That woman, the one he wanted me to be, makes me physically ill now. Who the hell was that person, and why did I want to be her?
What in the hell was I thinking?
Let me tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking that in order to make myself feel fulfilled, it ONLY came from fulfilling others. It was never about making myself feel good. It was always focused on him. I wanted a life with him, and selfishly, I allowed myself to be selfless and just GIVE. I saw a glimmer of hope of happiness, somewhere down a long, dark tunnel, and I spent 9 years chasing that light.
Little did I know at the time, it was a Gaslight.
Since coming out of the fog, and staying out of the Gaslighting glow, I have learned a very hard and crucial life lesson.
It feels good to make someone else happy, yes? But what about your own happiness?
Getting back to the two types of people in the world, the givers and the takers, it appears as though I have spent the first half century of my life encircled by takers.
Perhaps Givers attract Takers, I don’t know. I am no expert on attraction.
However, the lesson here is that if we GIVE all the time, it becomes our identity. We become THE ONE. The one who always gives, and never expects anything in return. We become doormats for takers to wipe their feet on, as they enter our lives.
Not all people, who “take” are necessarily evil humans. In fact, many takers are successful as hell, because they collect and never feel the need to give back. It doesn’t make them cruel, or vengeful, it is just who they are. It was most likely the way they were raised.
Then there are the other takers, who take and make us givers feel unworthy. Those are the ones who make other takers appear evil. These takers, are the ones who make us feel as though we simply cannot GIVE enough. It doesn’t matter what we offer up, it’s mocked or frowned upon, so we give something else. Gifts don’t matter, doing favors for them are meaningless, and catering to them becomes the expected behavior. They suck us dry, until we collapse, with nothing more to give. They are the parasites who live off of us, in hopes of feeling fulfilled. They simply know that in order to survive we NEED to provide “something” to them, in order to feel joy. Eventually the giver, gives up, knowing that nothing will ever be good enough to make the taker happy, leaving the giver feeling unhappy. It becomes a vortex to hell in a Giver/Taker relationship.
So, What Have I Learned?
With the help of good friends and a new love, I have learned that GIVING all the time is toxic. In fact, it is so toxic, that it drains the very life from your veins and your heart.
You have to be able to take from others, once in a while, to stay “human”. It is not wrong to allow others to do for you. In fact, it is refreshing as hell.
I am not a martyr, because I give and “do” for people. In fact, I have been the exact opposite. I have blurred my own lines of what a healthy relationship, and what true love actually means. I have never had a balance of “give and take”. I have never learned the value of what it means to accept help, gratitude, joy, or love from people who are willing to give it to me. This is very humbling. I have disallowed those around me to feel the joy that I crave.
When you are willing to sacrifice your body, heart, soul, self-worth, self-esteem, and joy for someone else, in order to make them happy, you are NOT doing anyone any good. In fact, you are evoking chaos in your own world. You NEED to learn to accept help, gifts, and kindness from others to be happy. That was a hard pill to swallow.
Think of Christmas morning. What brings you the most joy? Is it watching the face of others as they unwrap the gifts you have carefully, thoughtfully, chosen for them? Or, is it the brightly wrapped package on your lap that someone has thoughtfully picked out for you?
I have ALWAYS enjoyed giving others joy. In fact, I used to obsess for months over the gifts I would give, and fantasize about the other person’s smile, as they unwrapped it. I felt guilty, however, as I unwrapped my own presents.
That is twisted and wrong.
It makes me wonder if this is some kind of odd narcissistic behavior that was instilled in me, from childhood.
But, I am working on this. It has been so strange, being in a relationship with another “giver”. Kindness makes me cry. Compliments make me feel awkward. Warmth and thoughtfulness from someone I care about makes me weak in the knees. There are continual tears in my eyes, as I enter this new world of “taking”, and I am unsure of how to handle it.
I still give. I still enjoy giving whatever I can and make others happy but not chronically so. I am not willing to sacrifice or sell my soul to another human being again, and there is nothing wrong with that. I just have to keep reminding myself of this new rule, as old habits are hard to break.
Being in a relationship, and learning how to enjoy what he has to offer me, is one of the hugest milestones in my life, thus far. He gives me the gift of his heart, his time, his love, and his gratefulness, and every single time, I have to pinch myself to make sure this is REAL. It is like exploring a new country where I feel like I don’t speak the language yet, but am slowly learning a few phrases, as we journey together.
Giving and giving to make someone else’s life fulfilled, while yours crumbles, is never a healthy choice. I have taken the time to learn this to be true. Now, I get to spend the next 50 years learning how to find that balance of give and take. It is like new air is in my lungs, and a new love for myself has started a seed in my heart.
I will always give my all in my career. I will always give my all in relationships. But I will never give anyone everything I have, without learning how to accept what they give back, ever again. I now realize that it is more toxic to be a chronic giver, than to be the continual taker.
No one is worth sacrificing yourself for. In order for you to have a happy life, you NEED to accept from others. You need to share the joy of giving, and the grace of taking.
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