Christmas is a season with conflicted values – spiritual butting up against the material. Many of us (and I’m including myself) struggle with trying to find the balance between the commercial and the intent. Perhaps we can find a place where both can reside.
I looked back at my favorite gifts that I have received over the past few years. Some have monetary value. Some do not. All have meaning and have enriched my life well beyond the space under the tree.
Gift: Kitchen Floor
Significance: When I was hit with the tsunami divorce, my friend Sarah immediately offered me safe harbor in her home for a year. I gratefully accepted, renting the guest bedroom and a corner of the bonus room. Her home, with her husband and new baby, was a very special place. It was filled with the sounds of life and it was a space where I felt safe and protected. During that year, we spent untold hours in the kitchen, me on the floor (often with the baby) while Sarah was cooking (an art I had not yet mastered). Those kitchen sessions were filled with conversations about everything and nothing. We laughed and cried, often at the same time. That floor was the gift of listening.
Gift: Running clothes
Giver: My ex (before he was the ex)
Significance: I didn’t start running until I turned 30. It quickly became a passion of mine and my mileage began to creep up. At that time, I had been used to working out in our home gym. I didn’t own much in the way of exercise clothing, yet I was too cheap to invest in any, especially items that could handle the Georgia heat. My ex surprised me with three pairs of Underarmor running shorts and a few tech fabric shirts. Those items allowed me to run more comfortably and on a more frequent basis. I still wear them all the time. Those clothes are the gift that remind me that, at one time, my ex cared.
Gift: Bamboo cutting board
Giver: Carissa, a friend
Significance: This was given to me at the time I was moving from Sarah’s house into my own apartment. In my previous life, I never did much cooking. It seemed like a waste of time to me. Carissa and Sarah both showed me the healing power of food and the pleasure that can be found through preparing a nourishing meal for myself and others. I am still no hostess, but I now prepare meals on a frequent basis and share my food and knowledge with others. This was a gift of nourishment.
Gift: Action Potential Wellness sign
Giver: my dad
Significance: Change spurs more change. After I survived the tsunami, I decided I wanted to move into wellness coaching. I spent a year doing the certifications and other preparation. Finally, it was time to decide on a name and a logo. I emailed the JPEG to my dad and, much to surprise and delight, he had it made into a fabric banner. This sign has practical uses but, more than anything, it was a message that my dad believed in me.
Gift: handwritten cards
Giver: students (current and former)
Significance: I was a horrible math student (although I excelled at school overall and I had terrible experiences with math teachers. I was drawn to math education so that I could help students like me – bright, but had trouble communicating with algebra. Every year of the 11 I’ve taught, I receive Christmas cards (sometimes hastily written on torn out notebook paper) from my students. Many express how they finally like math. How they understand more than ever before. And how they have confidence in themselves to push past difficulties. Every year I cry. Those cards are the gift that tells me I matter.
Giver: Kay, a family friend
Significance: Kay is sort of like an aunt to me. She is friends with my mom and used to join us for holidays and outings. She was my designated “watcher” when I was in high school and my mom was out of town. She has been in my life since childhood and has had a significant impact on me. After the divorce, I received an iPod from Kay along with a Nike iFit sensor. She had “go Lisa go. here’s to new beginnings” engraved on the back. That iPod has been my constant companion and has traveled with me as I’ve run countless miles. It was a gift of moving forward.
Giver: Kay again:)
Significance: Kay was upgrading her GPS and passed the previous one down to me. Before the divorce, I would borrow my husband’s when I needed one (For those of you unfamiliar with Atlanta roads, a GPS is very useful here. Traffic is terrible, everything is named Peachtree, and the city is so spread out that it is impossible to be familiar with it all.) The GPS gave me the freedom to travel to new areas to meet friends or dates (!) without fear of getting lost or getting into a wreck while trying to read a map. It was a gift of freedom.
Giver: my mom
Significance: I traveled to San Antonio to visit my mom during the second spring break after the divorce. We both craved some mother-daughter time that was not centered around lawyers and tears. We embarked upon a week-long patio tour of San Antonio, eating and drinking our way across the outdoor eateries of the city. We talked, we giggled, we enjoyed the creative concoctions of Texas mix masters. We joked about creating an app that ranked patios based upon ambiance, menu, and libations. We still haven’t gotten around to it. I think we need to test more first… 🙂 Those patios were a gift of family.
Giver: Christian, a friend
Significance: Okay, first, these are not just any jeans. These are two pairs of tight, ripped, sexy jeans. After the divorce, I felt anything but sexy. My weight had dropped to dangerous levels and I barely registered that I had a body at all. Christian and I met in a Starbucks the morning after my first ever race. We hit it off and spent the next 12 hours together. A couple of weeks later, he surprised me with the jeans. They fit. Oh, did they fit. I felt like a woman again for the first time in months. It was a gift of sexy and inner confidence.
Significance: Until a year ago, I had been using a hand-me-down computer from my ex. It was littered with his programs, much of which was protected by passwords I did not know or needed dongles I did not have. I hated seeing his name appear on registrations and stumbling across old pictures and audio files. I put up with it because I did not have the money for a new machine. Things became critical last year when I was unable to update any of the programs or the operating system any longer due to the machine’s advanced age (2005, I think). I used some of the money refunded to me by the IRS for innocent spouse relief to purchase an 11″ Macbook Air. I love this thing. It is small enough to fit in my purse so that I can work in the park or in a coffee shop, yet it is fully functional. This machine has made my writing of the past year possible. It was a gift of voice.
Gift: Hand carved picture frame
Significance: Brock and I stayed in a cabin in the North Georgia mountains during our first Thanksgiving together (this was the inspiration for our camping tradition). That fall was when we really were becoming a couple. We were beginning to open up more and we were beginning to believe in a future together. In fact, that trip is when we became a team. Brock was on a mission that trip to find and cut a perfect walking stick. During our day long hikes, he was constantly stopping to slash down dead tree limbs to test them for viability. I think he went through a dozen sticks before he found the one. That Christmas, I opened a box that contained a picture of us on that trip surrounded by a frame made out of that walking stick. In it, he had carved “11/24/10 Ellijay,GA.” It was a gift of love and hope for the future.