The Gift

When a pair of Underoos was unwrapped at my friend’s 10th birthday celebration, she stormed away from the partygoers, red-faced and humiliated, leaving the gift-giver in shock and embarrassment.  The poor misguided giver thought her friend would enjoy wearing the fun new fashion, and had purchased it with the best of intentions.  She would have expected gratitude and hoped for joy from the recipient.  Instead, she was met with a reaction that was devastatingly hurtful.

We’re taught that it’s the thought that counts, not the actual gift.  Thus, we should muster our manners, no matter the offering, and express appreciation.  But what if we don’t recognize that we’re being gifted?  What if we think that a gift is an insult or a punishment as my young friend did?

During a difficult time, I dreamt that I was sitting with God who asked me, “So, did you like it?”

“Did I like what?” I wondered and saw God’s face fall with disappointment.

“Life,” he replied.

“Oh,” I croaked.  That was a gift?”

As images of my life flashed before me, I recognized the many times that I had failed to be thankful – namely for things that were deemed negative or worthless – illnesses and injuries, losses and unmet desires, struggles and failures – all of them cataloged and placed on a shelf below the experiences that I valued. 

Upon closer examination, I saw how each of these experiences contained other gifts within them, layers of potential stacked inside like a set of MatryoshkaI nesting dolls.  Immediately contrite, I began to understand that I had cheated myself by failing to uncover the hidden treasures. 

In every instance, bar none, there was a gem nestled into the chaos – kindness offered, love unearthed, clarity exposed, potential awakened…So many opportunities to receive and to rise up.  So many chances to bring forth a better me.  I hadn’t recognized it in the moment, having shut my eyes tightly like a frightened toddler covering her face to ward off the boogie man.

An acquaintance had lost an obvious amount of weight in a short amount of time and I wondered if he was ill.  He explained that he was going through a divorce and was quick to point out that he couldn’t be anything but grateful.  “After all, my marriage brought me many blessings over many years.  It was a success while it lasted.”  Divorce wasn’t his plan, but he intended to focus on what the relationship had given him instead of what it was now taking.

Being a good receiver is equally as important as being a good giver.  But applying gratitude in the midst of personal challenges feels inaccurate, as if we’re welcoming an enemy into our home.  What kind of lunatic says ‘thank you’ when they get a cancer diagnosis or when a loved one dies?

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect gratitude to arise in the moment.  But if history is a good predictor of the future, we might be able to acknowledge that Life has a plan beyond our immediate understanding.  And that the plan often brings us more than we knew to ask for.

This past year was my most challenging one yet, filled with curveballs that never could have been predicted.  Each one required me to dig deep for faith and fortitude and to summon skills that had as yet been under-appreciated.

Who knew how useful it would be to possess organizational prowess during a crisis – a gift that had been woven into my childhood by my mother.  How could I have known that I needed a catastrophe of epic proportions in order to activate a self-confidence, self-advocacy, and self-love bigger than what was previously possible?

Life doesn’t stick to a wish list when it bestows gifts.  It gives freely, constantly, and wisely.  If we endeavor to live fully, we must embrace all that it offers and avoid the temptation to curse the very things that were chosen for us with love and good intention. Only when we accept the full experience will we find the joy that we seek in this, the biggest gift of all, called Life.

Where Change Begins

I hear your criticism, Dear One, and I get it. You want your grievance to solve something in the world, but it won’t.  Its only power is to inform you. It speaks about you, TO you, but you’re not listening.  You think the fault belongs to another.  

This intolerance you feel toward the person, the practice, the system…sit with it before you try to give it away.  Let it show you where you feel inadequate, unworthy, victimized, powerless, impatient, confused. 

The blame that passes through you is the voice of all these misunderstandings in yourself.  It seeps from your wounds and invades the air that you breathe.  It colors your voice and clouds your thoughts.

Turn inward, you.  Be not afraid to see the pain.  Address it with respect and patience.  Be open to its message.  Allow yourself to forgive everyone and everything that unveils its part in the drama.

Only then will Clarity, previously uninvited, appear at your doorstep.  Step aside and allow it entry.  Once acquainted, you can’t help but fall in love.  Fear will fade, anger will be replaced by understanding and compassion, and Peace will become your steady companion, your muse, and your power.

This is where true change begins.

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