I used to give my whole check in the offering plate at church. I was a teenager and had little financial responsibilities except myself and my car. I was taught that if you gave money, God would give you more money, and if you gave more money, God would give you even MORE money. So many times, I gave it all. I hated it, but if that’s how God worked, who was I to question it?
Around the same time, I volunteered in my church’s youth department. I think I had the same mentality about my time that I had about my money. I gave away all my free time to help others. Don’t get me wrong. In some ways, it was a beautiful time. I met some of my best friends there. I learned a ton, and I think that was where I really figured out what I was good at. The main problem was that I just felt off emotionally. At one point, I “served” so much I couldn’t remember when was the last time I sat down and listened to a sermon for myself. I felt drained, but in some ways, I felt proud of myself, thinking, “I’m a real Christian. I’m doing this to help my church.” I was unhappy, but I was proud. If I wasn’t suffering a little bit, I wasn’t doing it right.
This is how I grew up. When my mom was alive, she was the most loving person I knew, but she was also the most exhausted person I knew. My fondest memory of her was after her cancer diagnosis. She had to quit her job to work on her health, so she was forced to rest. She picked up complex puzzles at the dollar store and spent hours putting them together at home. She’d listen to sermons, eat snacks and just do something she enjoyed. Sometimes I joined her. Sometimes I didn’t. It was boring to me, but to her it was relaxing. It made her smile. In the years after her passing, I’ve gotten better about taking care of myself, in part because of her story, but it’s been a slow process overall . . . until last year.
Last year I made a decision that changed everything. I stopped saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no.” I don’t know what made me make the switch. I probably read something that inspired me, or heard something on a podcast. Who knows, but the point is that I tried it. At first, I felt SUPER guilty when I could do something but said no because I didn’t want to do it. I felt selfish, but I said “no” anyway. Over time, it’s gotten easier.
About a week ago, I looked up and realized I was doing a ton for myself. I've been emotionally and physically recovering from the last acting job. I've been prioritizing self-care. I even went to a small beach town for a couple days to celebrate my hard work. I’ve come a long way. In my new normal, I feel full. And for the first time in a while, I’ve had the urge to do something for someone else, just because.
The other day, I took my husband to the grocery store and told him to pick out magazines about stuff that inspired him.
The husband: "How many do I get?"
Me: "It's not a matter of quantity. It's a matter of quality. What do you really want? What speaks to you?"
The husband loves surprises, so this experience was particularly fun for him.
The son: “"I meed (need) to get the cars!"
My son was asking us to buy him more toys, but he doesn't need more toys. He has plenty.
Me: “Today’s activity is about daddy. We aren’t getting any toys right now. You can play with your toys when you get home.”
Even at three, I want him to be comfortable with the idea of supporting someone else’s moment.
We bought magazines, glue and snacks, and when we got home, we had a vision board party just for my husband. It was all about his thing. We ate snacks, freestyle rapped to some low-key beats, cut and pasted images of his dream. I didn’t do it out of duty. I didn’t do it hoping he would do something spontaneously fun for me in return. I did it because I wanted to, and it was a blast!
In this next season of life, I hope to be more like this person: the woman who does loving stuff for others because she wants to, not because she has to. I want to be generous but not depleted. I want to be both energized and giving. I believe it’s possible if I keep checking my motives, following those generous instincts and saying “no” when I need to say yes to something else.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.