Some of the most difficult gifts to find in the hi-tech, high-paced, high-pressure world in which we now live cost the least.
Simplicity. Peace. Acceptance. Contentment. Gratefulness. Generosity. Selflessness. Charity. Openheartedness.
It's not that most of us don't have all these qualities within us, it's just that we often lose touch with them as we strive for goals that are far less rewarding. It's all too easy to get caught up in what the world expects of us and fail to recognize what makes us truly happy.
Loving relationships, with friends, family and significant others. Good health. Self-love. The satisfaction of a job well done. The warmth that comes from helping others.
The stressors of everyday life build at Christmas and times of other celebrations for many, particularly in a time when the economy is bad and parents, especially, feel pressure to purchase the latest gadgets their children absolutely MUST have to keep up with their peers. (Consider the joy of a child more excited by the wrapping or box a gift comes in than the expensive toy it contained and it is obvious that excessive greed is taught, by parents, peers and society, rather than innate.)
I've personally experienced the despair of a parent who felt unworthy at not being able to provide more at Christmas and witnessed the pain it caused to not live up to the expectations, not of her children, but of "societal norms."
Unlike the founder of the Occupy movement, I'm not advocating a boycott of gift-giving. For myself, however, I find more meaning in a meal cooked with love, a hand-made note or the gift of time with loved ones than the most expensive trinket or latest piece of gadgetry.
This Christmas, I was blessed. The only gifts I unwrapped were cakes baked by a wonderful friend, which I then had the joy of sharing with others. I was given the gift of a place to stay in the countryside, surrounded by beauty, and the space and time to rediscover the qualities within myself that I'd lost touch with in my last job and busy city life and constant rushing from place to place. I spoke with family, friends and loved ones, both digitally and by phone, and shared in the joy of others around the world.
And relearned, physically, what I've always believed but sometimes lose the meaning of in the bustle of being - that life is an adventure, not an ordeal. A gift, not an obstacle.
This morning, I woke to a clear crisp day but no hot water, so walked through the woods to my friend's house to shower, with the sun rising behind me and speckling my path. In doing so, I startled three deer into flight, and marveled at their beauty and vitality.
It was a morning gift I would never have received if not for an inconvenience that I could have let upset me but that in the grand scheme of things was insignificant.
I will try to stay connected to that simplicity when I go back to the world of work . . .