This whole birthday thing left me feeling all grumpy and out-of-sorts last week – the anticipation of something you dread is always worse than the thing itself – but yesterday, on my actual birthday, I decided something.
One of the tried and true methods to improve your mood is by reaching out to others. Really, it’s been proven again and again that people who give of themselves, who give their time, their talent and their “treasure” are happier than those who do not.
I think I may be suffering a generosity deficit.
There are a couple of reasons why I believe I have fallen into this trap.
For what seemed like eons I had small children – my four plus many, many more that I cared for in my in-home, state-licensed daycare for so many years – scurrying around my ankles. Like Velcro, once kids are stuck to you they’re pretty hard to peel off. During this time I had absolutely no free time. None. Although I am prone to exaggeration to make a point, I am not exaggerating in this case.
When I made the decision to lose weight, I had to stake a claim on time for myself. I did so with the zeal of an anarchist.
In the seven years that have passed since then I have guarded my freedom with the deft skill of secret agent. (Cue “Mission Impossible” theme music.)
My workout time is sacrosanct; my interests all revolve around healthy living pursuits. But all work and no play have made me kind of “one-note,” if you will.
The second reason I’m suffering a dearth of generosity is just my disposition. I’m an introvert by nature, so I tend to be pensive anyway. But lately I’ve felt more withdrawn than purely introspective.
Making human connections, however small, is valuable on every level.
I’m currently reading (actually, listening to the audiobook) Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, and when he was discussing “connectors” as the kind of people who draw people together through simple interactions – introducing two people who you think might enjoy one another, recommending someone for a job, even just smiling at a stranger – he said that you create a kind of “bond” with that person.
It’s a generosity of spirit, I guess you could say.
I was so enthralled with Gladwell’s description I nearly ran a red light, but the take-away is that everyone benefits from these types of encounters, even if they seem fleeting or minor.
My dear husband does this naturally, so I have a wonderful, live-in example of how it’s done. Rob is quick to help someone who needs an introduction, or visit someone who’s sick, or even remember a birthday. These small points of contact that we make with each other are cumulative.
My theory is that by doing more of this relationship-building I’ll find more joy and balance in my life.
So, this being the day after my birthday, I’ve decided to make a “New Year’s” resolution, of sorts. I plan to spend the coming year cultivating generosity.
I am so curious to find out where this leads. Will it impact my health? I don’t know. But it can’t hurt, right? And truthfully, I think it will make me happier.
One year from yesterday I’m gonna have another one of those birthday things, and maybe – just maybe, mind you – if I cultivate generosity, I will be a little less grumpy the next time I turn 29.