"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Mahatma Gandhi
One of the things I love is serving people. It's why, to a large degree, I love working in customer service. There's a great joy to be found in helping someone find the right solution, answer, or product. You don't do it for gratitude, you do it because the pleasure the other person gets is enough. To serve well is its own reward.
It's taken a while for me to fully realise how much doing things for others is a core part of who I am. Oh I have my selfish times, but if I'm feeling down, there's little that can cheer me as quickly as looking after someone else in some way - they don't even have to know it was me behind it - when I'm happy and doing this, it's a delight.
While I love and am grateful for the times when someone does something nice for me, I don't cope with it well. This possibly comes down to my own poor self image. One of the reasons I'm uncomfortable with people doing nice things for me is that I don't believe myself to be worthy of their kindness. It's not that I think I'm a bad person, merely that I haven't done anything worthy of any great level of generosity. The people I trust can usually do things for me with little argument. Though what I mostly really want from them is time and/or hours of cuddles.
I'm simply much more comfortable being the giver than the receiver.
I should make it clear at this point that this doesn't make me subserviant or anyone's bitch. If someone is pushing for me to do things for them that I'm not already predisposed to do, it's a pretty good way to make sure I either won't, or will, but once only. I don't need them to do anything for me (though a 'thank you' never hurts, of course) but if they are folks that never seem to think of others, or expect to be served, they are unlikely to get much from me.
The Santa work is one example of serving. Yes I get paid for it most of the time, but then there are the times I have headed to beaches and my local shopping precinct and handed out leftover lollies to people in my own time. I love bringing that joy to people. I sometimes drive from a Santa gig in full costume for the same reason - to a certain generation of Australians, seeing Father Christmas driving a 1970 Holden is a special treat. I have heard one or two folks loudly proclaim "Santa drives a Kingswood!"
I enjoy showing affection to people, always have. I tend to hold back an awful lot more than people realise (see below), but there are many good and wonderful people out there that don't seem to realise it. So I say nice things to them, or offer them help, or hugs, or someone to talk to. Most importantly, I don't lie. It's not a kindness to tell someone you think they are beautiful or smart when you don't, it does no good to tell someone they have talent in something that you actually think they're crap at.
What I do is look for the things about them that I like and enjoy, and try to tell them. Some folks don't believe me, or they do the self-depreciating 'no I'm not' thing. I've had one person say, after a compliment, "But you think everyone is cool." That's not true, there are lots of folks I think are a blot on the landscape, but when someone does something I think rocks, I tell them. And I know a lot of people that I think are talented, sexy, clever, cool, or all four.
One of the main things I do is I greet an awful lot of people with "G'day gorgeous!" "Hello spunky!" and other variations. Now, while some of the people I welcome in this way are, in fact, pants-distortingly sexy, it's true to say not all of them are. But I don't mean it only on the physical level, for me it can equally relate to a personality-type I respond well to, or someone who has a range of knowledge that I admire, or they are simply a person who is gorgeous or spunky to me because having them in my world makes things that much better.
My joy at seeing them is genuine, the enthusiasm is real, the wording accurate in a particular sense. I don't greet everyone this way, just the worthwhile folks. It's rare I don't get a smile, and if for one moment that person felt liked, loved, appreciated, flattered, or attractive, then it's worth doing. My service to them is to let them know how much I enjoy them.
My little online business selling Doctor Who toys (95%) and other stuff (5%) is a service that I give. I wanted the toys, I knew other people wanted them too, so I started selling them. I still remember sitting on my couch talking with drjon when he mentioned that he was still hoping to get one of the Cyber-Controller toys, and the look on his face when I brought one out for him. I loved the email I got from a child's mother after managing to get a remote control dalek off in time for the boy's birthday. The kid will never know or care that I had anything to do with it, but he was delighted to receive the toy and that's what makes me feel happy.
I have to be careful actually. My business has to work as a business, otherwise it won't be around very long. I fight a constant battle with my gut reaction of "Give them something free or cheap," by reminding myself that these customers are not my friends or regulars, they are getting what they paid for and that will do. As for the people who are actually my friends, they want me to succeed, are happy to get the toys, and know that I will give them the best sensible price for what I'm selling.
Continuum is about serving the fannish community, rather than running big important cons. 100 Days of Love and Hate is about me not censoring myself, but has become a place where I can get people talking openly about things they may not have. Being a sperm donor is about serving other people and giving them the chance of something special, with no personal gain.
The worse I feel, the stronger the urge gets, because if I can't feel good, then I may as well see if I can make someone else feel happier.
It's one of the things I actually like about myself.
"If in serving one is served and in being served one also serves, are these not folds of the same garment?" - Master Kan, Kung Fu
This is a problem I've had for a very long time. It's one that I'm getting better at dealing with but, as one of my guides told me in a visualisation this morning, I have a long way to go. You see I hate people, but I like individuals. And because I like them, even if I don't know them, I try to protect them.
But sometimes people don't need protection. In fact, sometimes protecting someone is the worst thing you can do for them, and yourself.
On the larger level, there's going to great lengths avoiding germs, not letting kids out to play, locking yourself inside your home. People who are around low-level germs more are sometimes healthier than those in a 'clean environment, their bodies having learned to fight a broader range of things. Not letting kids out to play because of what may happen to them means they stay indoors, get no sun or exercise, and aren't necessarily prepared for the dangers out there because they never see them. Keeping the doors locked makes you a prisoner in your own home, and in the event of a fire it can be lethal.
Where I tend to protect people from me is variable. I often won't ask for help, not out of pride, but because I don't want to be a nuisance. If I asked for help and it was refused, in many cases I wouldn't be too worried, but instead I protect the people from having to help me by not asking. I don't want to put them in an awkward position.
If I think a girl looks nice, I'll say something. If I think a girl looks amazingly beautiful, I'm less likely to. I overthink the situation, convince myself that she's going to think I'm hitting on her, or perving on her, and then spare her the awfulness of that idea, by sparing her the compliment as well. In recent months I've made a real effort to break this with one particular woman. I was tending to compliment her mind almost exclusively, partially because I found her so amazing gorgeous, I'd instinctivley overthink it and not want her to think I only liked her for her body and looks. So I protected her from that, and because moderation is not a word that exists in the Bumper Danny Oz Dictionary, overdid it to the point where she actually commented and that it sounded like the only thing I liked about her was her brain.
In protecting women I'm in love with from having to worry that I may become overly serious about them, I have failed to tell them that I'd fallen for them. Now some people would say that it's good, you don't want to risk the friendship. What I have both learned and decided is, fuck it, these are adult women, many of whom have known me for a while. If they can't handle the fact that someone is in love with them, but is perfectly happy for things to remain exactly as they have, then tough.
For those that are reading this and saying "But if you're happy with it just being friends, you don't need to tell them," I say this - wait until you've lost a couple of people whom you'd wished you'd told you loved them, and now will never have that chance,and then tell me you dont need to say anything.
Also, I've had the situation where I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that a particular lady had no interest in me as anything other than a friend, so I protected her from the knowledge that I was madly in love with her. A decade later I discovered that no, she had been madly in love with me too, but figured I wasn't interested, so she didn't pursue it.
We both did a great job of protecting the friendship and each other on that one!
Along the same lines, there are friends, who are only friends, that I would love to shower with love and attention, just because they rock. Give them hugs, stroke their skin (massaging someone these days is likely to leave me brutally exhausted), bathe them, hold them through the night, make them feel special. If I asked and they said no, it'd be no more upsetting to me than if they had said no to an offer of a glass of water or a bite to eat. But I don't offer because, well, they wouldn't want that sort of attention from me, so why put them in the awkward position of having to say no in the first place?
There are many friends I don't contact because I don't want to be a bother. With one guy I've practically made it an artform - one of my most trusted and loved friends and I rarely talk to him because I don't want to ring at a bad time, ignoring the fact that if he said he was busy, I'd be fine with it. Ignoring the fact that when we do talk, we talk easily and for hours.
What I've realised since the loss of Tracy is the arrogance and stupidity of my whole attitude in this regard. The arrogance, is obvious enough - I'm not letting them make the decision. I'm not letting them decide if they want to catch up, help me out, find my affection uneasy or wonderful, spend time cuddling. It's almost as if they aren't grown up enough to cope, but I am.
And the stupidity is simply that by doing this I only ensure that we definitely both miss out.