For two years after college I was a restaurant hostess. And every night, at ten o clock, I would walk down the delivery hall, swipe my punch card, put on a pair of sweat pants over my tights and few minutes later fall into a bus seat for a ride over the bridge and into my north side neighborhood. A smile of acknowledgment to the bus driver was the last sputtering of any niceness I had left---god help any poor soul who asked for change or stranger who wanted to chat while sharing the seat. Nope. Nu-huh. I was done---fresh out of politeness or civility (and genuine care? I ran out of that a few hours ago.) More than once I feared coming into contact with a disguised sorceress on public transportation who would "see that there was no love in my heart" and hex me into a Beauty and the Beast situation.
At the end of days like that I didn't even recognize myself. I'm a total bleeding-heart type and usually unfailingly pleasant, to a fault. If I learned anything from those soulless nights it's that emotional energy is limited. Despite our best efforts, it's possible to get to a point where there isn't anything left to give. I think back to times when I've cried myself out: heaving sobs eventually subsiding into a wave of calm. Or, when a breathless announcement falls into its own kind of script: "yes, I'm just so excited!"
A few months ago, I misread a line in some self-helpy thing that left a question that's stuck with me. Who do you give your joy?
I think most of us have a mental speed-dial list of people we turn to in a crisis. It's a small handful of people who understand our worries and validate our fears and even in our most hysterical moments respond with "oh yeah, that's totally reasonable." I trust these friends in the deepest way possible. I give them the parts of myself that I'm not proud of and that only show up with my heart-of-darkness at 10pm on Trimet.
But, the list of those who receive my for joy is different. I give a little of it, all over (and sadly, perhaps the least of it to those who take my tearful phone calls.) I so value my relationships with emotional intimacy---the rare moments when I can truly turn in off and just let it all out---that I forget about the good stuff. I give the most of my joy to those in that "middle area" of friendship, relationships full of love and admiration but also the secret desire to keep myself together to keep them around.
This is compounded by the fact that many of those we are closest to in our hearts are actually a few thousand miles away. It's easy to lose sight of the daily lightness, because we need them so much for the weight of things unresolved in our hearts and we only have so much phone time during a lunch break.
All of this is to say, I want to allocate myself differently---to share the easy joy of newspaper articles and nailpolish colors and to make more calls beginning with "remember that time . . ." and ending in a giggle fit. I want to be better at giving the best of me to those who love all of me, regardless.