Over the years, the more you give, the more you get.
You give of yourself and what you get in return are stories, lasting memories that are the stuff of a full life.
That sackful of memories is both a joy and a burden, like any other gift. You have moments that will last forever, and you have moments that inform your choices, often in a pragmatic, warning way.
Kids on Christmas may unwrap a host of new presents and parents may make a whole mess of new memories.
For older people, though, much of the festival is spent in honoring old memories. We may do this by recreating traditions we valued in order to share them with those we love, or we may just do this by lingering over a glass of spirits and going into a holiday reverie.
I am blessed — and cursed — with an enormous sleigh full of memories. Many of them are not particularly empowering or delightful. Does that make them less mine, less part of the fabric of my life? They were, for good or bad, the gifts that I was given. the gifts that make me who I am today.
The most powerful of these is, as it is for so many people, what was offered by those who claimed to love me, those who believed that they loved me, but were blinded by their own myopic vision of the world. They gave me what they believed I should like, what they liked for me, rather than gifts that acknowledged,valued and respected who I struggled like hell to show myself to be.
Learning to be gracious in the face of what feels like deliberate erasure and dismissal of our own gifts is never easy. Learning to do that over decades, though, is soul killing.
The gifts in my sack, well, they are what they are. I know that many people get very uncomfortable with my work because I even open the difficult gifts, the ones that reveal the challenges, rather than just those that keep us tickled and chuckling.
It’s lovely to think that the more you get the happier you are, but wisdom is the gift of a long life, not happiness. We learn to see ourselves in context, learn to adjust our expectations, modulate our desires.
I know the gifts that other people want to give me, and I know when those gifts are much more about them than they are about me. Those experiences are written on my memory, filling my sack of with so very much to carry with me.
It would have been lovely to get more effective mirroring, more presence in my presents, but that’s not the way it worked for me. My experience was different.
The moment we are born our flesh starts to die and our story starts to grow, until our flesh gives out and all we leave behind is the stories we have left inside other people.
I have a sackful of memories which I have worked hard to turn into story. They weigh me down and keep me going.
In the human gift exchange, though, it feels like what I put out doesn’t come back.
May your gifts be more elegantly received, and may they return to you with love and attention.
We all get a sackful. We just don’t all get what acknowledges, respects and honours us.