Sharing is Caring – for Ourselves

I’ve been trying to put my finger, as they say, on exactly what it is I have been missing during the pandemic. What am I really in need of? After all, I have quite wonderful shelter, more than enough food, and — since September — consistent sunshine. But I was sitting in my living room the other night, admiring my Christmas tree lights and realized that what I — and I think maybe a whole bunch of us — have been missing is sharing. It sounds kind of obvious, but it took me a while to come up with just the right word. So I’d like to expand, if I might.

As a single person I often get that look that says, “wouldn’t you really rather share your life with someone?” You know the look. You may have even given the look. I am not so sure that I want to share my life, turn over pieces of my living days to someone else. Or, at the least, I have yet to come across that person of late. But… I would like to share my living room for a night, or the orange-rind liquor I just made, or my backyard firepit and string lights. See, I’ve only had opportunity to share just a little bit. Sparingly. I really miss copious sharing.

So here comes the etymology: the Old English word scearu has to do with dividing something. This is related to the Dutch schare and German Schar which mean among other things, to shear. This verb apparently dates back to the late 16th century, so you can see that sharing is pretty much hardwired –for most of us anyway.* Of course, there have been times when some of us have felt pretty shared out. Divided up. As if we had been shredded into little pieces and everyone and everything was just helping themselves. We felt practically non-existent we had shared so much! (Did you notice, by the way, that shred is just shared with an “a”)?! So that state of being is obviously a result of too much sharing. But these days, because so many of us have not been able to share much of anything, we’ve acquired a stockpile: from stories to stress to string cheese.

In the spiritual — or supernatural — realm we often talk of sharing our gifts. For some of us it feels like a downright commandment. Or, it might take on the the shape of a calling, or a drive, or a deep desire to share what it is we have been given.

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;  the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

– Romans 12:6-8

We all have different gifts — sometimes more than just one — and for the most part we feel compelled to use them. Otherwise we’re just leaving them up on the shelf to gather dust. And when we use our gifts, then we are sharing our selves. It satisfies both the giver and the receiver. That’s part of what I miss.

But I also want to share experiences. Even going to the grocery store, ornery as I can be sometimes, there was usually an opportunity for a friendly hello or a knowing glance. Now I feel much like a squirrel, scurrying into the store as fast as I can to collect my little pouch of nuts, bent on using time efficiently, head down, on a mission. Nothing close to sharing going on in there! Every squirrel for herself.

And for those of us who enjoy sharing a few drinks at a bar, this has all been downright painful! It’s not just the communing that occurs between you and your invited friends, but there is community with all who sip around you, too. It’s a collective kind of thing, sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers (will that ever happen again?), overhearing snippets of conversation here and there, commenting on someone’s beautifully wrought cocktail or dazzling plate of french fries. I miss that, too.

One more thing I’m thinking about is electronic sharing versus in-person sharing. Many of us have commented on how it feels very different to meet up with friends online, as opposed to in person. I think it’s because we can’t share our energy. Instead it just hits the screen with a splat and slides right down, like a plate of spaghetti thrown against the wall. No energy exchange whatsoever. It may feel good, or at least better, to see someone’s face after so much isolation, but it can still leave us flat. Literally. One dimensional. How do you shear something off a one-dimensional entity?

So, I feel better now, thanks for letting me share. For us Word People, when we can’t quite find the right one we’re like a person who has lost her keys. We look in pockets, under dish towels and behind the bathroom sink. We tear up the house assuming those keys are in a very complicated place. But often they are actually hiding in plain sight and we have simply looked right past them. Words are my keys, I can’t go very far without them. That’s why I needed to find the word to describe what I am missing.

Merry Christmas to those who will be celebrating this week. So many of us will be missing the people we usually share the winter holidays with. They will be absent for a myriad of reasons, and that is sad. Because we like sharing. So I’d say, share whenever you get the chance right now — a dollar with someone in need; a smile with someone working hard; a laugh with someone who is laughing; and compassion with someone who is feeling unloved. And when “this” is all over, then we can go back to monitoring our sharing more carefully. Although, I for one feel like I might just have such a surplus of shareables by then that I might never have to worry about over-dividing myself again!

*Definitions from Oxford Languages

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