The Secret To A Happier Life

Happy Heart








Article by Wendy McCance

I was at my mom’s the other night for dinner.  Besides my immediate family, there was also another family that joined us.  My mom put the whole dinner together and was happy to share a meal with all of us.  The other family came with a big bouquet of gorgeous flowers for my mom.  They wanted to say thank you for including them and wanted my mom to feel as special as she made them feel.

When it was just my mom and me in the kitchen, she whispered to me that the flowers were nice, but she had wished that the family hadn’t brought them.  I was taken aback.  My mom’s reasoning was that receiving flowers made her uncomfortable.  I said that the family was so happy to be included that they just wanted to show their appreciation.  My mom said she knew, but she didn’t want any recognition.  I said that she should just enjoy the flowers, that’s what they were intended for no more and no less.

A little background on my mom.  She likes to keep score and she likes to be ahead.  When I was growing up, if my mom did anything nice like drive me to a friend’s home, she would expect me to jump up and do any favor for her at any time.  If I didn’t, she would say, “you know Wendy, I did you a big favor by driving you to your friend’s home.  The least you could do was help me with (whatever it was she wanted help with).”

It didn’t take me long to find any way possible not to ask for anything no matter what.  This irritated my mom more than you could imagine, which was not my intention.  I just didn’t want there to be strings attached to any seemingly nice gesture.  I also wanted to be of assistance in the family structure not because I was (blackmailed to) but because my heart said it was a good thing to do.

My mom keeps track of every moment she does something she feels is kind.  She expects the kindness returned and is often disappointed when it is not returned in the manner she would like.  The kicker is, when someone performs a gesture such as the family that gave flowers to her at that dinner, it trumps in her head her kindness and she can’t deal with the feeling that now she might owe them.  The whole process is pretty exhausting, even to write about on this blog.

My point, and yes, I have one, is that she is looking at the dynamics of give and take in a way that will cause heartache and disappointment.  To give to others is to give openly because you want to.  It makes you feel good and that’s a good enough reason.  You aren’t giving with the thought in the back of your mind that now you can hold someone hostage because they owe you.  You aren’t giving because you are excited about what great things might come your way from your act (which I think most of us do to some extent).  Giving without looking past the act itself is the biggest gift you can give to others and to yourself.  It’s the secret to a happier life.

This brings me to the other side of the coin.  Receiving is probably the most difficult thing to learn to do.  We are taught in school to share, but no one ever teaches us how to receive.  It for whatever reason can be really uncomfortable.  My mom wasn’t able to receive the flowers comfortably.  Honestly it bugged her all night.  So many people are great at giving, but are so uncomfortable in the position to receive.

Receiving is letting go of power.  You are letting go of some of your control and allowing others to “take care” of you.  How do you allow this if you have always depended on yourself, had bad experiences with receiving or just like the feeling of having more control over your life?

When I first met my husband, I had come from a bad first marriage and well, you now know a little history about my early years with my mom.  This wonderful man wanted to spoil me.  He wanted to pamper me and show me his love.  I almost blew it, because I had so much trouble giving up control and allowing someone else to show their love for me.  It was the most uncomfortable process to let go, but I knew if I didn’t change my ways and actually allow someone to love me and be allowed to demonstrate it, I would be left without the love I desperately wanted in my life.  I wouldn’t be experiencing the happier life I so desperately wanted.

I don’t think you ever fully get good at the receiving end.  I think it’s important to be aware of what a gift it is and to never take it for granted.

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]

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6 thoughts on “The Secret To A Happier Life

  1. I find your mothers reaction and reasoning understandable. Not only due to her resemblance to my own mother, but also to a lot of women who were born in the 40’s - 60’s, having had exposure to various religious groups that weighed heavily on guilt to keep their congregations in line. She wasn’t born thinking this way, she was programmed - go reboot her!

    • Hi Crystal,
      If only it was that easy. To give you a quick example. Years ago, my mom did counselling with the family. The sessions were all about how to fix everyone but her. If anything was mentioned about her, she would not acknowledge it and instead turn it on someone else and work on what are problems were. She couldn’t see or acknowledge any problems within herself.

  2. Your mom must be related to my grandmother! There was always a string (read that chain) attached to everything she did and payback was expected. I, too, avoided asking for anything, fearing that I couldn’t meet the expected price.

    My pesonal practice is that I do for others because I want to and it makes me feel good. I really don’t look for a return. The only time this bites me, however, is when I give to habitual “takers” before I realize what they are.

    I learned to receive graciously from my first boss and best mentor - he said that there were times others would give me something and all that I really needed to do was sincerely say “Thank You” and be comfortable with their giving. His words have lived with me and been there for me when I needed them.

    • Exactly!!! That’s funny about the grandma.  Sounds like you and your mom were able to break that horrible way of giving and sharing.  I’m hoping to achieve the same with my kids.


  3. I think your mom and my mom might be twins separated at birth! I reacted the way you did, which was to learn to be self-sufficient and never ask for anything. Part of my growth over the past 5 years or so has been learning and putting into practice that expressing gratitude is all that I owe anyone who does something nice for me. It is still something that I’m working on, just like you. Being able to receive graciously without feeling the immediate need to reciprocate.

    • Hi Laura, I love hearing from you.  I agree about there being some connection.  I feel it every time I read your posts.  When I first read your comment, I couldn’t help but crack up.  I love when I am able to have a post that people can really relate to.  Saw you posted another article.  You’ll probably hear from me shortly. 🙂


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