What Are You Holding Back?

“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.” (The Dalai Lama) 

Wikimedia CommonsMy talent as a cook is about equal to my interest in cooking—random and fleeting, sporadic at best. Fortunately for me and our friends, my husband is a good cook, and a venturesome one. He does the lion’s share of the meal prep in our household.

Many years ago, he decided he wanted to master potato salad. He tried several recipes, but never found one that excited him. His stepmother made an exceptionally good potato salad and that’s what he was aiming for. So he asked step-mom for her recipe. She refused.

For whatever reason, she didn’t want anyone else to have her recipe. I wish I could say I was surprised, but she was one of those people who held tightly to everything she had. She had neither open hands nor an open heart. A few years later she died, taking with her the secret to her great potato salad. Sadly, the loss of the salad was probably mourned more than the loss of the woman.

Bill did finally find a great potato salad recipe, shared by TV personality Joan Lunden. We appreciate her generosity every time we enjoy the salad and make it for friends.

As previously noted, my own cooking is generally mediocre and uninspired, but on those rare occasions when someone asks for one of my recipes, I am elated and eager to comply. I have even been known to inflict unrequested recipes on my dinner victims guests. And, fortunately, my friends—who are all fabulous cooks—are always generous in sharing their recipes.

I’ve never understood people who are unwilling to share their recipes. What is it they’re holding on to? Does it give them a sense of superiority to know that no one else will ever be able to replicate their Chicken Marsala or Cherry Chocolate Walnut Cream-Cheese Pie? How much better it would be to know there are people preparing our recipes and thinking of us fondly as they do.

Refusing to share a recipe is just one example of how we sometimes senselessly withhold things in our lives—from recipes, to compliments, to knowledge, to assistance.

In my professional life, I occasionally saw this behavior exhibited by colleagues who somehow felt that holding information close to their vest gave them an advantage. I would see them strategically spring their information in a board or committee meeting, often blindsiding other colleagues who would have welcomed the knowledge earlier. Sometimes this resulted in needless scrambling to adapt to new information that should have been provided sooner. While the individual who withheld the information may have been perceived as smart or powerful, they were acting in their own interest rather than the group’s or organization’s.

Writer Annie Dillard has addressed this more eloquently than anyone I know:

“The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

How many of us are guilty of saving things for special occasions, realizing only much later that we never actually enjoyed having them. Maybe it’s a piece of clothing, or a delicate china tea-cup, or a journal so beautiful we hesitate to write in it. Often those special occasions never come, and we die with our treasures neatly tucked away, wrapped in tissue paper.

A story to illustrate this made the rounds of cyberspace many years ago. The author writes about how she and her brother-in-law found an exquisite and expensive silk and lace slip among her sister’s things after she died. It had never been worn—she had been saving it for years for just the right “special occasion.” They had her buried in it.

As writers, we are sometimes guilty of holding onto our ideas, saving them for just the right time, waiting for the ideal place to share them, or the perfect time to tell our story. We delay so long that sometime those stories never get told—and we were the only one who could have told it in just that way. What were we waiting for?

What we love and treasure is not meant to be hoarded or held back, but to be used, shared, enjoyed, and savored. More will come, it always does. Likewise, what we have or know and can give to others is meant to be offered.

Is there anything in your life that you’re holding back—either not sharing with others or not allowing yourself to enjoy? What are you waiting for?

“Don’t die with your best song still unsung.” (Anonymous)

27 thoughts on “What Are You Holding Back?

  1. Donna, This is your best blog ever! I loved it and maybe that was because I have a personal and emotional understanding of a part of it. You will know that that may be. Have a great day my friend. Much love, S.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sandy. I’m so glad you liked it. I did ask Bill’s permission before commenting on you-know-who. There are always some people in our lives whom we can thank for showing us how not to live!


  2. I love this, especially the last few paragraphs. In sorting through my late wife’s things to prepare for the sale of those which I didn’t need or want, I found a good many pages of her writing. Some of it was intended to be part of a novel that she and her sister were writing before health issues sidetracked both of them. Some of it was fragments of other pieces. While I may find some inspiration from them (and they are another way for me to continue to interact with her, so I’m glad I found them), how much better would it have been for her and others had she finished the novel or these other pieces!

    Of course, every writer I know has notebooks full of fragments. I certainly do, both actual and virtual. So, that’s just part of how we operate. Even so, the more of them that we actually write and publish so others can read them, the more impact we have in the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing this, Tim. It really is one of the blessings of blogging that we can share our thoughts, fragments, and ideas-in-progress with this community. Often the responses we get can help us expand our ideas, refine our words, and explore further. Such a wonderful gift!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you so much, Donna!! This is so timely, as I’m debating about doing the A to Z Challenge again next month. Holy cow, it’s been a year already?!? I met with a friend today, who was challenging and encouraging me to ‘bring forth what lies within,’ basically. It resonates with your message here–not only to not hold back, but also to overcome fear. I recently came across a quote that said something like, “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever could.”
        So I resolve, regardless of whether or not I do A to Z, to step over my fears and bring forth what lies within! Thanks for the encouragement! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, wife of mine, I appreciate the compliment on my, Joan’s, potato salad. But for the record, the recipe you give is not the recipe I make. It is apparently an adaptation or possibly an improvement. If you want mine I will give it to you, let’s face it, after this post what other choice to I have.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Husband, you are, as always, right. I see that the Joan Lunden potato salad link is an updated “low-fat” version. I should have noticed that right away, when I saw that much of the mayo has been replaced by yogurt, which I don’t believe you have ever touched, let alone cooked with. I don’t see her earlier, higher-fat version anywhere online, but thank you for your offer to share if anyone would like it. What a guy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As always…wonderful to read…these are the kinds of things that stay with you…reflect upon often..thanks…

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a way to start the day – reading this blog! Thank you, Donna. It touches so many places in me, especially the secretive self that I have been and that I am slowly trying to reform into a more generous one. This generosity applies to writing, but to so many other areas of life too. Thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderful post! Nothing gives more pleasure than the compliment of someone asking for a recipe and the sharing of it! Not sure what recipe your hubby finally used but in my experience 🙂 making potato salad using small red potatoes, skin on, chunky sea salt and stone ground mustard, parsley. Just yum! Here is to generosity!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Peta, your potato salad sounds wonderful. I think Bill uses russet or Yukon Golds, but I do love red potato salad, too. You really can’t go wrong! I so agree that it’s a lovely compliment to be asked for a recipe, and an easy pleasure to share it. Thank you!


  7. What a great post. It started me thinking and I remember an aunt who would not part with a recipe I loved from my grandmother. She too took it to her grave. I, on the other hand, have this habit of giving – I actually did a cookbook in my children’s school and asked parents for their favorite recipe, including many of mine. Actually I am sort of the opposite. I recently had a tote bag that I hardly use and a friend wanted to know where I got it – she loved it – so I gave it to her! I am sure she will use it much more than I would.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so interesting, isn’t it? Some people (like you!) seem to have generous spirits and others, somehow, never experience the joy of giving. Maybe it’s the result of scarcity messages they got long ago. It saddens me to think what they are missing. Thank you for your lovely comment and generous heart … and for reading and following.

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