Gifts.

With apologies to B.W.


I have as a friend one of those people who has such great reserves of inner peace and patience that it drives the rest of us crazy. She's the sort who, when you wander over to her house unexpectedly in the middle of the day, always has interesting tea to serve, is baking something marvelous, and who arranges flowers for fun. She dresses impeccably, is gorgeous and slender at sixty (and looks a good twenty years younger than she is), and never gets angry or upset.

In short, she's the sort of person you love, envy, and resent all at once.

We were talking the other day, and I asked her about New Year's resolutions, She didn't strike me as the sort of person who made them, and I was right in that suspicion. "Resolutions?" she laughed, as we sat over a pot of green tea with paper-thin slices of lemon floating in it, "I never make resolutions. I have something different that I do."

"What's that?" I asked.

She leaned across the table and said: "I give gifts to myself."

That hit me like the proverbial thunderbolt.

When she quit smoking, she did it at the New Year, but she made it a gift to herself, as in, "I will give myself the gift of clean hair and clean lungs this year, starting now."

When she decided to save money to buy a house, she decided to give herself the gift of enough savings to make a substantial down payment so that she'd have a warm, comforting place in which to entertain her friends and live her life.

Think about it: We all make New Year's resolutions, and we mostly make them about things we'd like to accomplish but think will be at least slightly unpleasant to do--like losing weight, running a mile in under eight minutes, or finally keeping the car clean. The word itself, resolution, implies that what we're undertaking will be difficult or fraught with setbacks. It's a flinty and stalwart word that makes you straighten your spine and set your teeth. My pal doesn't roll that way.

Instead, she looks at the end result and calls it a gift. To herself. Which blows my mind.

If you look at your goal as a gift, the process of reaching it suddenly becomes much less complicated. The guilt over bobbles on the road to getting there disappears, the goal is cast in a much more positive light. Rather than being a resolution, or something you have to do, it becomes, well, a gift: something you give yourself because you love yourself.

Again, think about it: we all give gifts to other people, all year long. Some of them are material, like the birthday present that you know will interest and excite the person you give it to. Some are non-material, like the shoulder to lean on or the listening ear. You give these gifts, material or not, because you love the person who's getting them and you want to make them happy, or share something that you like with them, or show them how special they are to you.

Yet when it comes to *us*, to that amazing creature that lives in this skin, we set down a list of must-dos, should-dos, and can't-dos. Instead of loving ourselves as much as we love our best friend (or even our not-so-close friends), we treat ourselves like recalcitrant six-year-olds who need a daily checklist and reminder chart of how to behave.

Screw that, I say. This year, I hereby resolve to treat my goals as gifts to myself. If I don't achieve all of them, what's the difference? The beauty of looking at a big goal and saying "This is my gorgeously-wrapped, priceless present for *me*" is that that present is made up of other tiny, precious presents--smaller gifts inside one big box. Even if I don't get the big box, as it were, I'll be getting the stocking stuffers--and those stocking stuffers can be just as valuable as the big present under the tree, to push a metaphor to the breaking point.

I'm off to work up a list of gifts. What's on your want list?

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