I lived for 12 years, while I was dancing and then coaching, in New York City.
At first I didn’t understand why anyone would want to wear all-black clothing, shoes with platforms, and never look anyone in the eye — which were de rigueur in Manhattan.
But finally I got it and loved it.
Badass boots with three inch soles lifted me off the dirty pavement that I was pounding, and gave height and heft to my meek little frame. All-black clothing told people to stay the F out of my personal space as I went full-force after my dreams. An averted gaze toughened my skin like weathered leather that neither slings nor arrows could pierce.
I felt street smart, savvy, and safe. Like I had superpowers.
Good, right? Yes. Mostly. Sort of.
I had developed some important (Masculine Genius) superpowers, but I was still missing one — perhaps the weirdest superpower ever.
I felt disconnected from people and honestly a little afraid of them. My newly developed street smarts confirmed that that the world was full of people who could potentially attack me, reject me, hurt me, or were otherwise out to get me.
I felt like I was holding my breath all the time, like I was waiting for my big break, for my life to begin, for someone to tap me with their magic wand and deem me worthy of love.
Around this time, I saw Amelie, a French film about a young woman learning to let herself love and be loved. Amelie is a reverse trickster — meaning, instead of playing pranks on people, she finds secret ways to bring magic, surprise, and meaning into their lives. I was enthralled with this woman who was a self-appointed blessing bestower.
There is a word for what Amelie was practicing: pronoia.
Pronoia, a term coined by Rob Brezny, is defined as a belief that the world and the people in it are conspiring to shower you with blessings.
Pronoia is the counterpart to paranoia, which is defined as a belief that the world and the people in it are conspiring to attack, reject, hurt, or are otherwise out to get you.
Enter, the strangest superpower ever: the ability to receive.
To receive is to take something in, actively and fully, in a way that enriches, strengthens, and nourishes.
I was queen of giving — and over-giving. Of doing — and over-doing. All my energy went out, poured onto someone else or something else. But receive? Take energy back into me? From a world and the people in it who were out to get me?
With that paranoid view of the world, of course I had learned to give the finger to receiving.
But looking at the world through the pronoia-shaped lenses that Amelie wore, receiving started to seem at first possible and then like a very good idea. And now a superpower.
Receiving is how a sponge takes in water. Or else it gets dried up.
Receiving is how a cell takes in nutrients. Or else it gets malnourished.
Receiving is how a radio antennae takes in signals. Or else it just gets static.
Receiving is how a host takes in invited, cherished guests. Or else no one comes to her party.
Receiving is how someone take in a gift. Or else she feels empty.
Receiving is how a creative takes in ideas. Or else she becomes a burned out robot.
Receiving is how anyone lets a partner impact her deeply. Or else she gives the finger to love and being loved.
I assumed, like you might assume, that receiving would make me weak, needy, unreliable, out of control, obligated, trapped, and self-absorbed.
I mean, we are strong, empowered, independent women, right? Women who take our proud place among the first few generations who don’t need support (from a man or otherwise) to make our way in the world, right?
Right. Yes. Mostly. Sort of.
We are about to burn ourselves out from over-giving and over-doing, and we need to balance out our Masculine Genius overdrive with the Feminine Genius ability to receive.
Without giving up any ability to say, “no, thank you” or “hell, no” to all the stuff we don’t want to receive — like catcalls when we pass a construction site, money with strings attached, a date with strings attached, a promotion with strings attached, or a third helping of mashed potatoes from gramma who tops her food with guilt — we also need the ability to say, “yes, thank you” and “hell, yes” to a world and to people in it who are conspiring to shower us with blessings.
Start with something easy like the sunshine, that self-appointed blessing bestower.
Let your skin soak in the warmth — drink it like jasmine tea, savor it like a slice of mango. Take it in actively and fully, in a way that enriches, strengthens, and nourishes you.
And then come join us in the discussion about the weirdest superpower ever, and let us know what is challenging for you — and what is good news — about receiving.
Receiving is how we get fed. How we get our intuitive nudges and creative ideas. How we feel full and fulfilled. How we love and be loved.
Receiving allows us to take in and ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE the good stuff we’ve been working our asses off for, all this time.
Take it in, my friend, take it in.
PS: Photo by Jan Sturman / Albino Crow Photography