The Will to Receive
Journal — January 8, 2017 — trust, love
The meeting with the wise woman hasn’t happened yet. Over the last few years I began to notice a pattern in my life, where it takes a very long time for people to fulfill their promises to me. Once I noticed it, I could start to understand how I create it. The next step is to change it.
This year, one of my four resolutionsI’ve actually never made resolutions for a year, before. I did it this year as part of my strategy to fulfill another resolution: cultivate the will to arrive! But that’s another article. is to cultivate “the will to receive”. This is a term I made up for a very specific psychological quality that I’ve always sorely lacked. I’ll try to paint a picture of what this quality is.
I remember being six years old, when I could not receive gratitude. It was terrible if anyone said “thank you” to me. I couldn’t deal with it.
I always had tremendous difficulty with receiving affection. It’s a recent development that I start to enjoy hugs.
Receiving pleasure is even harder. It took years of work for me to accept my own sexuality,I dreaded puberty. When it started, I consciously tried to prolong my asexuality as long as possible. I was intensely prudish until the age of sixteen, or so, and only became sex-positive as a result of reading a lot of philosophy. There was one blog written by a brilliant feminist kink advocate where it suddenly clicked for me. I said to myself: if you’re serious about improving the world, you have to love sex. and enjoying food is still beyond me.
Just this morning, I had a very emotionally disorienting ten seconds, where I abruptly found myself face-to-face with a woman I hadn’t seen for several months. I’m attracted to her, and we like each other. I gave her a hug, and welcomed her back to Tamera. I quickly resumed my escape from a crowded space, but as soon as I turned away from her, I was again abruptly face-to-face with another woman I’m attracted to who had been away for a couple months, and this one happened to be the one I mentioned in my last journal entry. In short: I like her a lot.
Part of me was in full panic, and my rational thinking went up in smoke. I sphexed out:
Sphex wasps are not known for their rich social lives. (source) I just repeated, verbatim, the exact same program I had completed a moment ago. Greet, hug, say “welcome back”, and get the hell out of there.
Each hug was very short. Not nearly enough time for a serious hug. And yet, the second hug, from the very first moment, was a mind-altering experience for me. Tension I wasn’t even aware of just fell out of my muscles. The time before and after seemed somehow fake; only the hug was real. I walked away smiling like I had just become experientially convinced that God exists and life is unconditionally, permanently good. It wasn’t quite that extreme – the hug might only have lasted a second or less – but I felt pretty all right.
These experiences belong to a category
It’s good to thoroughly categorize all your experiences. It makes them less scary! (source) that something deep in my psyche is absolutely terrified of, and wishes to avoid at all costs. I think I’m not alone in this. But these are the experiences that heal.
I’m cultivating the will to receive experiences like this. It isn’t always about someone giving something nice to you. The will to receive includes the will to receive people in their worst moments. If you have it, it isn’t only gratitude, affection and pleasure that comes to you. It’s everything.
I visualize it as if my life were a house: do I want visitors, or not? Is it a warm, welcoming, inviting place? Or is it a sterile spartan warehouse, half-derelict, designed with practicality in mind and nothing else?
You want to go there. (source)
If my house is inviting, then it’s inviting to everyone, more or less. I can’t really control that. All I can do is choose whom to let in, knowing that, for every visitor I turn away or ask to leave early, my house becomes a little bit less inviting.
Not there. (source)
If I would take “being a gracious host” as a spiritual path, I would commit to receive everyone who comes to me, unconditionally, with open arms. I would always have hot tea ready, and fresh, fluffy cushions to snuggle into. You come in cold and wet and despairing, and you leave warm, fed, and knowing you’re loved wherever you are. I would transform the world through hospitality, one guest at a time.
My unwillingness to receive is what I identify as the root cause for the pattern I mentioned at the beginning. If someone says, “Let’s meet tomorrow!”, I usually meet them months or years later. This is partly due to mysterious synchronistic effects, but I also notice very concrete situations where the effect is visible.
This morning I saw the wise woman who I want to talk with twice, and I didn’t engage with her either time. The second time we even said hello to each other, walking in opposite directions. I have a habit of being friendly only in a formally correct way.
Yes. That’s good. Maybe extend your arms a bit more, to be really sure it doesn’t become a hug. (source) I notice I do this quite regularly, with everyone, no matter whether I intend to talk to them or not: complete the interaction as quickly as possible, so as to return to solitude as soon as I can.
I like solitude. I rarely feel lonely. But it’s a bit challenging to work on cultural transformation without talking to anyone.
So, it’s time for a new habit.