Because my husband is very much a creature of habit and routine, I cannot get him to switch off the morning news. He just wants to check in at the very start of the day and spend about 30 minutes or so just catching up on what’s happening locally and then another 30 minutes on what’s happening nationally. It really ends up being background noise for us as we’re getting ready for our day, but it’s there.
And GMA is the morning show of choice in this house. Probably around September is when we started to actively notice the seeds of scarcity being planted, but if we were paying more attention, it probably began even earlier than that. Around September is when they started sending reporters out to the pumpkin farms to talk about the shortages that would be experienced this year.
Then they marched on to the turkey farms in October, urging everyone to go out and get your turkey NOW and put it in the freezer because there wouldn’t be enough turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Then they started showing all of the ships just waiting for a spot at port and waiting for weeks with all of the goods in those containers because there weren’t enough workers to handle it all.
You get the idea. You probably saw and heard it too. I just hope that you were able to see right through it as we did and not worry that there wouldn’t be enough to go around if you didn’t get yours right now.
We didn’t react to any of that noise. Yes, it seems that Trader Joe’s was a little later than usual in putting out the pumpkin displays, but they were there. I picked up a few. Just what I needed.
We had a super small and intimate Thanksgiving where no one even wanted turkey and we knew all along that was going to be our experience this year, soooo…turkey shortage? No one cared. Not this fam. We had lasagna and salad.
Now, Christmas…I don’t know, you all. I swear I feel like retreating to my cocoon every year around this time because the frenzy and the rush and all of the doing and all of the spending just really wears on me.
And that can probably be traced back to the days of me balancing two jobs simultaneously for both a mail order catalog company and a major shipping company. I did that for just over two years and working in either of those environments around Christmas can be enough to shift your perspective in a big way. Doing both simultaneously? OMG, I wanted nothing to do with this time of year for a good while.
I just will never forget being screamed at by a customer (over the phone – I was working in a call center)…screamed at because the jacket she wanted to order for her husband was out of stock. She said that was the big gift she had been planning for.
It was THE GIFT. And we didn’t have it. She screamed at me, “You’ve ruined Christmas!”
And somehow…I’m not even sure how, but somehow, I was able to maintain calm and even find a little compassion for her in that moment. Even though I was really taken off guard that she would assign blame to me for that coveted jacket being out of stock. I don’t even remember what I said to her out loud in that moment, but I’ll never forget what I thought.
I thought, ma’am, if the absence of a jacket ruins your Christmas, you have far greater problems than I can solve for you.
Now, I was in my twenties then and I was a customer service rep in a call center. I would certainly have a much different response for her today as a coach. In fact, I think of her every year. Her rage and frustration really opened something up for me and helped me to see how materialistic we’d become as a society in America.
In fact, it helped to shape my approach in jobs I held later when it we would do a gift exchange at the office. After the first year of doing that, I suggested that we all take that $15-20 we would spend on each other and put it toward buying gifts for a family in need instead. That was far more rewarding a practice than trying to find a random gift in that price range and it held far more meaning in the shopping experience because we had an actual list of specific items that a family wanted or needed.
That’s how I worked through my mini trauma of having been screamed at over a jacket being out of stock.
Wherever you are, angry lady, I hope you have found peace. I am grateful to you for having opened my eyes fully to our attachments to material things being the centerpiece of a wonderful experience.
Thank you for that lesson.
Now, I realize that Christmas may not be the holiday that you celebrate. Some of you are already past your holidays. Diwali and Hanukkah, for example. I’m going to pick on Christmas because it’s the most widely recognized and overly commercialized in our culture.
I’m not even making this episode about Christmas so much as I’m going to make it about gifts, so please stay with me if you’re finding this in July…because there’s a reason you chose this topic and I’m going to deliver. Just hang tight.
Before I get to the greatest gift, I just want to give a shout out to all of the light ceremonies. Notice that during the darkest time of the year for us in North America, no matter what we are celebrating, light is involved. Candles or twinkle lights; a mix of both. That’s pretty rad. Light up, my friends. Light UP.
Now, let’s talk about the absolute best gift that you can possibly give.
Any idea what that might be?
I’ve already given you a little hint with the story I just shared.
I talked about how I’m on to the news media, I’m not buying what they’re selling us, AND I’m not going to be shaken down by someone else’s anger.
Yes, the greatest gift that you give to another is also the greatest gift that you can give to yourself. There are so many ways to describe it, but I’m going to go with emotional well-being for now.
Other phrases came to me earlier today when I was doing a stream of consciousness writing practice for five minutes. Things like, to know and be known. To be open, supported, and seen. To be aware, awakened, and safe. To have no resistance. To fully allow. Activate. Clear. Express. Align. Listen. Teach. Reach. Embody. And stop thinking so much!
Any or all of those things can fall under well-being. And to be clear, I believe it’s more than emotion. It is the whole of our being that we are often suppressing and not fully embracing because we’ve had all of the knowing conditioned right out of us.
I’ve come to see this as a test or a challenge of this lifetime.
Can you solve this or are you just going to keep running around this maze, looking for the prize at the end, thinking that it’s not even part of this life but it’s in an afterlife?
I mean, no disrespect to those of you who believe this, but I’ve received some gifts along my own path that show me otherwise. I believe those gifts are here for us to enjoy right now.
And what happens when you take care of your SELF? I talk about this a lot when we touch on topics related to self-care. What happens when you put your own oxygen mask on first? You are better positioned to show up for everyone else and SHARE your gifts.
That unshakeable, unwavering support. Your smile. Your touch. Your kind words. Your compassion. Your generosity. Your precious time. Your talent.
The outward expression of your inner peace.
Yes, my friend, the greatest gift that you can give to another is the gift of yourself. And you must first give this gift to yourself before it can possibly be shared with others.
How have you done this in the past? How did you feel when you did? Let’s just take one example. Let’s say the gift of your precious time and maybe you can even combine that with a talent.
I used to love decorating for Christmas because I loved the end result, of course. I also loved doing it because it reminded me of spending time with my dad. He used to decorate other people’s houses…now, he was getting paid for it, of course. But he truly enjoyed doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy doing it, but I no longer have the capacity or the energy to extend the offer to friends and family like I used to.
But during the time that I did do that, I was giving of myself and from my heart my time and my talent. I didn’t ask for anything in exchange. It wasn’t that kind of arrangement. It was my gift. The gift to myself? Well, I was channeling my dad for a few hours…spending some time with his spirit and feeding my soul in the process. It didn’t feel like work. It felt like love.
You can’t buy that in a store, friend.
This kind of gift is unaffected by the supply chain.
No, there isn’t a material object to hold on to in many cases. It may be experiential and held in your memory banks, but that’s what I’m saying here…not every gift has to be tangible. Some gifts are greater than anything you can fit into a box.
Speaking of boxes…what box are you trying to wedge yourself into when it comes to celebrating the holidays or moving through life in general?
The box of other people’s expectations? The box of the perfectly curated IG image? The box of tradition that must be carried on or else you’re not doing right by someone else’s memory?
Listen, we are all unique, beautiful souls. No two are alike. It’s not your purpose to live someone else’s dream. It’s your purpose to create your own and live that one out.
So, if you’ve put yourself in any of those boxes, it’s time to let that shit go. Liberate yourself internally. Free yourself.
Give yourself that gift.
When you do that, everyone around you will benefit.
Even if you don’t head over to their house and decorate it. You don’t have to actually do anything but show up and they will receive the gift of your powerful presence. How cool is that?
I’m telling you; this is absolutely the greatest gift possible.
I think we have learned (indeed, been conditioned) to constantly think of how we can outdo each other and ourselves. If we gave a big gift last year, we need to go even bigger this year. We have to keep raising the bar, right?
No. No, we do not.
I would say that I’m getting to the age where I don’t want things anymore. I would rather have experiences. I could tell you that it comes with being of a certain age, but I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s more about your mindset and your full awareness of your own needs. I say that, because my 13-year-old son struggles to come up with a list of what he wants when Christmas or birthday rolls around.
So, I don’t think it has to with how old you are or where you are in life as much as it has to do with your current level of satisfaction with life and your awareness that no material item is going to fill the void inside of you.
You are the one who can be equipped to fill that void, if you are willing to explore it.
And I think that if you are a parent, the best gift you can give your child is the awareness that we don’t always get what we want in life. I’m not implying that you do this intentionally, I’m just saying that if you’re thinking about creating a bot to crawl the web to find the latest coveted video game console that truly is in short supply and high demand, what are you teaching yourself and your child?
You’re teaching yourself to continue making sacrifices of your time and energy in order to please your child. You’re teaching your child to always expect to receive exactly what they want when they want it. Mom or Dad is going to move heaven and earth to make it happen. You’re teaching your child to be entitled. Possibly. I mean, every human being unique and all…I’m speaking in complete generalities here.
What I’m saying is that placing the focus on material things takes you out of your essence and keeps you in that maze. It keeps you searching for the next thing and the next thing to bring you joy, instead of looking inside of yourself and finding your own ability to create joy, satisfaction, contentment by living authentically and true to the whole of your being.
It keeps you in the chains of consumerism and it feeds the machine.
Try feeding something else, for a change. YOU. Your soul. Your spirit. Your life force.
When you do this, your entire life experience shifts in such a positive way. You might just amaze yourself at what you can accomplish and who you will help.
“We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us.”Rumi
No jacket sitting under the tree is going to create the perfect experience that you have envisioned in your mind’s eye. Yes, I’m telling you, I still think about that woman. I do! I send her love and I hope she has found a way to be free of material things, or at least free of her attachment to any one thing being necessary for her to have an amazing experience.
And yes, I thank her for my lesson.
You have probably received plenty of lessons through your life as well. You just may not have seen it that way at the time. You may have seen it as someone else being an asshole toward you! Which is what we do. It’s the way we’ve been trained to think and I’m here to show you a much better way to experience this life.
Let’s talk about it. Here’s a link to my schedule.
This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 89. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible!