“He told us to eat cookies?”
Candice — a founding member of Jumble & Flow’s board, then my boss — had just come out of a meeting with our CEO. She was furious. The company was having trouble raising another round of funding, which we needed to bring our product to market.
“There’s a freeze on the marketing budget,” Candice told me. “When I tried to share the campaigns we’ve been planning, he told me to put it all on hold. When I asked him what we should be doing…” She paused. “He said, ‘I don’t know… why don’t you eat cookies or something?’”
Candice and I were both furious. We are ambitious professionals who’ve dedicated our working lives to building marketing excellence for startups. How dare some white man tell two patriarchy-smashing women to… go eat cookies?!
While Candice was recounting her conversation with the CEO to me all those years ago, Peggy Bundy from the TV sitcom Married with Children came to mind. Lazy. Complaining. Sitting in front of her TV with nothing to do but smoke a cigarette and eat bonbons all day. As a proud feminist, I had busted my ass my whole life to prove wrong this stereotype of the freeloading, helpless woman.
As Candice was talking, I could feel the anger welling up in me, but at the time I didn’t realize it was an old anger. My mother had always believed that the best I could do was be a housewife. Never would I be successful in business, as a leader. The CEO had it right, according to my mother. I’d always end up a powerless woman eating cookies on the couch while men did the real work.
The CEO had it right, according to my mother. I’d always end up a powerless woman eating cookies on the couch while men did the real work.
Raging with this old anger, I conspired with Candice. We’d leave the company in retaliation! We’d give the HR Director a piece of our minds. In the appointment with the HR Director (a woman), she felt the CEO had made a poor choice of words, but ultimately he wanted us around. She suggested we “slow down and chill” until the additional funding came through.
Slow down and… chill? This was a hard directive to swallow. Having gone fast and hard my entire life, I didn’t know how to chill. In fact, I’d actively rejected any opportunity to chill in order to get ahead while I could.
That next week, Candice and I set out to experiment with chilling. We started to treat ourselves to sit-down lunches near the office, instead of our quick at-desk salads. After testing the waters, we ventured further out, visiting our favorite joints around the city. Eventually, extended two-hour lunches became our norm, often followed by an afternoon beer, martini, or bloody mary.
On super slow days, we would do some work in the morning, then, go on an adventure shopping for the perfect pair of white jeans, or showing each other spots unknown to most San Franciscans. I loved spending this time with Candice, who I had always considered a mentor.
Looking back now, I am so grateful for this time period and all I was able to receive. I almost missed out on so many gifts because I had a rigid idea of what I needed to be doing during this time. When I let myself stop doing and start receiving, I was able to accept these gifts:
The gift of space to get my life together
In contrast to the ease I was finding at work, my personal life was falling apart. I was in the throes of ending a toxic on-and-off three-year relationship; my ex didn’t want to let me go, and I was afraid and anxious. Some days, I would run into the office’s meditation room to cry, trying to get myself together. Every day, a new drama seemed to surface between the two of us, taking my attention away from everything else I was doing.
I had to get out of that relationship. If work had been a major stressor during this time, I might never have had the wherewithal to extract myself from those harmful patterns. With the space gifted to me, I had the strength to hold my ground and end the relationship.
The gift of connection
My now 15-year friendship with Candice is a gift straight out of this time. Without the pressures of our professional lives to uphold, I was able to open up to Candice about what was really going on in my life. Up to this point, I had been hesitant to let others in on what was going on in my relationship, fearing judgement for falling in love with such a volatile person. As we spent time together, I shared with Candice parts of myself that were scary to reveal — the vulnerable, innocent parts of me. Candice listened, cheered me on, and helped me to successfully de-couple from my toxic partner. Candice and I laid a foundation for our friendship that’s only grown over time; we continue to celebrate and uplift each other in our personal, professional, and spiritual lives.
The gift of (almost) free money
I know I might lose some of y’all here. Accepting and receiving gifts “we don’t deserve” feels uncomfortable for a lot of us. We’ve been taught to work hard for the money. So, who are we if we gladly accept money we didn’t earn? The housewife eating bonbons on the couch, again?
For so long, women were denied the opportunity for gainful employment (and the agency and power that provides). Now, we feel extra pressure to work hard and grab hold of the opportunities in front of you for fear they may disappear at any time. The Feminist Movement pried open the doors to new opportunity for women, but we still carry the fear that those doors may shut at any moment.
The Feminist Movement pried open the doors to new opportunity for women, but we still carry the fear that those doors may shut at any moment.
When the CEO did not want to see our plans, I flew into fear — a door was closing. What I was not able to see was that we had already proven ourselves, which was why the CEO was willing to keep us on and pay us, even if it meant us sitting around eating cookies all day. He didn’t want to risk losing us. We were too valuable.
As I look back on my life, I see many more examples of how I built a wall around me to prevent myself from receiving. When I graduated college, I made a promise to myself to be completely self-sufficient, never leaning on parents or anyone financially ever again. Although independence is an admirable (and totally age-appropriate) goal for a young adult, my inflexibility as I got older meant I was always saying “no” to more than just financial help. I rarely asked anyone for anything.
In my vow of independence, I shut myself off from connecting with others, from emotional support. I couldn’t ask others for their help solving problems, or even participate in honest collaboration. I opted out of the necessary communal cycle of giving and receiving where others could give to me and, in return, feel joy, show their love, and experience their own humanity.
Receiving as part of the universal cycle of giving sounds alright in theory, but in practice, receiving can often feel like we’ve failed, like we’re weak. For those of us who struggle to receive, we likely developed this resistance for good reason: to protect ourselves from criticism and maintain control over our lives. Once a healthy adaptive strategy, our vow of independence eventually cuts us off from the magic of life. It’s only when we allow ourselves to open to others that we experience their humanity. We have to let people love us in order to feel their love.
Today, more than 10 years since that CEO flippantly suggested we “go eat cookies”, I can look back on that period of my life as when I started learning how to receive. I caught myself just before my judgement, outdated values, and pure stubbornness could block me from receiving what the Universe had to give me.
Here’s what I learned from my experiments in receiving:
Takeaway #1: Look at your life as full of gifts. The Universe likes to give to those who accept gracefully. The next time you sit down to your journal, think back on your life, and ask, “What unexpected gifts have I received in the past? How did they come about? What experiences have I had that I once may have considered unsavory, but now would consider a gift?”
Takeaway #2: Check in on your vow of independence. Is it still serving you? Is it not? I love my sense of independence, but I have to admit I’ve built walls that prevent me from connecting with others, all in the name of my independence. Again, journal about it: “How has my commitment to my own independence affected my relationships? Where has it helped or hurt my relationships? Have I been able to give and receive more or less with this independent identity?”
Takeaway #3: Receiving is a habit like anything else. A lot of times, I’ve found myself saying “no” not because I didn’t want the help offered, but because it was the more familiar option. I recommend trying out a 30-day Say Yes to Receiving Challenge. For 30 days, consider saying yes every time someone offers you help. Say yes as often as you can. This change in routine will bring you new awareness about how you respond to offers to help, as well as a commitment to openness.
Receiving, from yourself or from others, is a kind of self-love. When we receive, we’re really telling ourselves that we are worthy of love just as we are. We don’t need to do in order to be loved. By committing to receiving, we align ourselves with the ultimate divine receptivity: true acceptance and unconditional love for ourselves and others.
Rev. Bonnie Ho is a spiritual counselor, energy reader, and author of the Living in the Third Eye column for Jumble & Flow. After spending most of her adult life trying to prove her own worth through an analytical career, Bonnie found a spiritual path that led her back to herself and her own heart. Now, Bonnie aims to help others heal their wounds, find their joy, and embrace their intuition and true desires, in a grounded, balanced way.
Bonnie is available for spiritual guidance and energy readings. Visit bonniehoinsights.com to learn more.
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