I am the person that people tend to come to. I give career advice, talk relationships, visit hospitals, drive to airports, rescue drunk friends, work often and late. I don't mind this. I rather like it, in fact: I like to serve. I like being an assistant, and helping to elevate those around me. But it's not easy, and when I get bogged down or I begin to lose myself, I say: give more. There is always an inch left to give, and that inch is worth it. Every returned phone call, every late-night email, every extra little project that you squeeze in because how can you not? -- these are the things that matter, despite the drain they sometimes cause.
Give more. It's a mantra that's not for everyone. It only works if you employ it with a great deal of self-awareness, for how can you give to others when you don't know or care for yourself? How do you know when you're about to give away the last bit of your identity?
It's happened to me before. I've put my life on hold for friends. I've neglected my own needs in service to others. It's not fun or easy, but it's worth it sometimes, to get outside of myself and realize that what may be my last inch could be the inch that pulls another back to safety. Giving is an exercise not of self-annihilation, but of love. To give of oneself is realize that oneself is worth giving; that we are valuable enough to be shared with others.
So before I learned to share, I spent a lot of time learning my own self. That's another daily challenge: to understand and appreciate your complexities. Only after I learned that my personality lent itself well to service did I begin to take it seriously. I needed to anchor my self before connecting with others.
I've been a coach, a career advisor, a meditation teacher, a spiritual guide, a sounding board, a manager. I get a lot of satisfaction simply from caring, from serving and appreciating others in ways they don't expect.
To those who have already given away too much: I hear you. I understand you. I know what it's like to be needed by absolutely everyone, and that can be torturous. Don't forget that giving more applies to yourself as well. When you have met your basic needs, give yourself more -- more time, attention, or nourishment. A broken servant is no good to those she tries to help.
A phrase attributed to Gandhi reads: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." We scare easily at the prospect of losing ourselves, and while that does tend to be the longer phase of this transaction, finding ourselves is worth it. I am not tired of giving, at least not at this moment, but I know that that will come as it always does. Give more, I will remind myself, and whether it is an inch or a mile, to others or to me, I know that it will lead to something good. That is all that love can do.