As 2014 passes into history later this eve, I, as always, look ahead with hope, joy and a sense of adventure. In the half light of dawn, snuggled in my cozy bed, without the worry of an imminent alarm clock, vague, dreamy thoughts become compelling and from this, much of what I write about is born. And so it was this morning, as I drafted, in my mind, a thank you note I am going to write today.
I received a very unexpected and thoughtful Christmas gift from the man I loved for the past few years, the man I parted ways with a few months ago. I offered, I promised, on our parting, my enduring friendship and respect and hoped for the same in return. A gift, I did not expect, but it confirms, now, for me, the dream of a friendship is real. Today I will write my customary “thank you” note, as I always do, as an expression of gratitude and appreciation. With this particular thank you note, though, will be included a wish for the new year, and, hopefully, for every new year thereafter.
The gift; a fly-fishing reel and a couple of books about fly-fishing.
I’ve never considered myself patient enough to fish, and, in particular, fly fish. During the adventures of our relationship, I was introduced to the sport and found it to be exciting, exhilarating even. Fly fishing requires a great deal of thought, strategy, and action which stimulates the mind, set in a pristine, natural environment, which nurtures the soul. I began to dream of becoming a more accomplished fly fisherperson. The gift made me realize that dreams, though they may change shape and form, unexpectedly, endure. The gift also made me realize that I know many people who dream, but only a few who dare to pursue their dreams. The gift struck me, in this respect, because one of the fundamental differences between the bearer of the gift, and myself, is my commitment to lofty, impractical, dreams and his practical abandonment of anything impractical and unrealistic.
Dreams. As I first began to draft the thank you note in my sleepy mind, I planned to say something like, “May this be the year you realize your dreams”. But, on reflection, from my own experience, I recanted. Realizing our dreams isn’t what a joyful life is about. A joyous life is about pursuing our dreams, joy is in the journey, not the acquisition. So, after some reflection, I’ve decided my thank you note will read something more like this;
“May this new year be the year you begin to follow your dreams. Dreams do not depend on time or money, but on the imagination for conception, on a quiet and open mind for discernment, on a grateful and courageous heart for the pursuit, and on a joyful and adventurous soul for the journey. Dreams are not about possessions or accomplishments, but about the pursuit, the journey, the thrill, the joy, the adventure, and the love we experience, the lessons we learn, and the life we live, along the way. May you never realize your dreams, but instead, relish in every step of your journey in following them.”
I’ll probably continue to tweak the words, here and there, but it is this sentiment that I want to bestow, not just to the bearer of gifts, but to all of you! Happy New Year! May you never realize your dreams!
Do you remember Geoffrey the Giraffe? The Toys ‘R’ Us giraffe? Remember his song? “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid, blah dah blah dah blah”. I can totally relate.
When I was eight, I had it all figured out. I want to go back. I want to party like an eight year old.
Remember those birthday parties where you got to invite everyone you knew to come to your house that was decorated with whatever you were into that year, Barbie or My Little Pony or Power Rangers?! You got to eat cake, play games, eat ice cream and you got a gift, wrapped in wrapping paper, with a bow, and a card, from everyone who attended and sometimes, even, from people who didn’t. And you didn’t have to plan the party or clean up the mess, you got to show up, party, and then go play with all your loot, unsupervised, while the grown ups cleaned up the mess. And the grown ups footed the whole bill, too. Those were the days.
At Christmas time, you got a million gifts, wrapped in paper, with tape and bows and little nametags on them. And you got gifts from your parents, all your aunts and uncles and Santa Claus, too. You didn’t have to plan, or cook, or shop, or clean. You just showed up, partied, and someone else cleaned up the mess and footed the bill while you played with all your loot. Those were the days. I forget, now, why I wanted so desperately to grow up. It kind of sucks by comparison.
I’m kind of tired of how grown ups do this whole birthday and Christmas thing. A Facebook wall post ensures you haven’t been forgotten, thank you, Facebook, for reminding everyone, and still, you only get about 1/6 participation. I post birthday greetings on Facebook absolutely, positively every single day for absolutely everyone on my friends list, whether I know them, or not, and people call me crazy for doing so. Sorry. They’re “friends”, it says so on the list, so I wish them happy birthday because that’s what friends do. It takes like, five seconds, and, if you’re super worried about overcommitting yourself, there is actually an app that allows you to do them up to two weeks in advance, all at once, and it “delivers” your sentiment (or you can simply go with the default “Happy Birthday”) at the date and time you prefer. It defaults to 9:00 AM, your time zone, on the actual birthdate. Not hard. So?
If you’re super, duper special, as a grown up, you might get an old fashioned greeting card, in the mailbox, requiring postage and some display of thought, commitment and effort like; I went to the store, or happened to be at the store to buy milk, and remembered your birthday was, (pick one): a) last week, oops b) today, oops c) this year, some time, oops. I bought this card with a sentiment that someone else wrote, because (pick one): a) it made me think of you, b) it was the first card I laid hands on and I don’t think it was offensive, or c) actually, I had someone else pick it out so I have no idea what it says. Then, I laid down $5 for it, scrawled my name inside and put it in the envelope. If I was smart, I bought stamps while I was still at the grocery store, or else I had to show extreme effort and stand in line at the post office to buy a single stamp for this single card and have it sent to you. I got three, two mailed. Mom handed me hers.
I still buy and wrap real gifts for everyone special in my life. And at least one card, sometimes more than one, if I find more than one super appropriate card or several that make me laugh out loud in the Target card aisle. I’ve been known to give two or three cards. I even buy “the perfect” card, or cards, in advance and file them, by intended recipient, in my file cabinet. I plan all year long, I have lists, secret, password protected lists, on my iPhone, where I jot down gift ideas for family members as things are mentioned, or I notice something I think would be appreciated. And in my “contacts” section of my phone, I keep secret, detailed notes on my loved ones, like shirt size, shoe size, pant size, the ink cartridge their printer requires and their preferred Starbucks, In N Out, and deli sandwich orders. You don’t?
I take great pleasure in seeking out the gift, the perfect version of the perfect gift, and I buy it and wrap it up with real wrapping paper, you know, like with tape (that sticky stuff that comes in a roll) and the whole deal. I rarely use gift bags and tissue paper (not toilet paper, tissue paper), especially for Christmas, but depending on the size or shape of the gift, every now and then, a gift bag is the best solution. Then I present the present (or presents) to my loved ones and it makes them happy, but it makes me even happier. I love to give people gifts. I’m as excited as they are for it to be opened. There is nothing quite like witnessing an adult, totally jazzed to open a gift you’ve taken some time and effort to find, buy and wrap. I’m alone here, aren’t I? Apparently.
I even take an inordinate amount of delight in selecting the wrapping paper, and then choosing tissue paper, for inside the box, that matches, or is a cool contrast with, the wrapping paper. I also choose a matching bow or other embellishment, and all of this is done with attention to things like the recipient’s favorite color, or favorite cartoon character, or a design or pattern I think they’ll find pleasing or attractive. For Christmas, I buy new wrapping paper every single year. Usually. Last year was a departure, and, frankly, I found, as a result, the Christmas spirit was a bit subdued. Last time I do that.
On rare, and I mean rare, occasions, I buy people gift cards, but usually as a result of being asked directly for a gift card. For graduation gifts, though, I give cash, and that’s the only time ever. I got cash for my birthday. I spent it on gas, and a frozen pizza, and a six-pack of premium beer. I’ll never forget it.
How is it that this has become a lost art? Is it really that difficult? Do we need to consider offering this as a required class in high school, or something? Gift Giving 101. Fail.
People in my life wonder why I have sort of a shopping habit. Let me explain. I buy for myself what I want and I know no one is going to buy for me. They’re gifts, I guess. I just spread them out over the year to mitigate the economic impact. I think I’m fairly likable, so for everyone who likes me and didn’t buy me a gift, I’ve got you covered, I buy myself a few gifts for Christmas and a few for Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, and my Birthday. Did I miss a gift-buying season? I hope not, because I’m broke after my birthday, I bought myself a dress, and an awesome pair of shoes, and a couple of cute tee shirts and a skydiving trip, I had a hard time wrapping that one. It was a big birthday, I got carried away. Now I gotta save up before Christmas rolls around again.
If the current trend continues, I can foresee, in the not so distant future, people not knowing what to do with a box, wrapped in bright, cheerful paper. You’ll hand it to them and they’ll just give you a blank stare and, perhaps, say, “Wow, a pretty box. Cool.”
Did you ever give a baby or a toddler an awesome gift, in a box, all wrapped up? They tear the wrapping paper off the box, open the box, take the contents out, and climb into the box, gift totally overlooked, and they’re so totally enthused, you just let it go for a while. That’s what’s going to happen in the next decade, for all of us, if this alarming trend continues. “Wow, a cool box! I can use this, for something!”
We had a dog, once, who loved to open presents. Yes, guilty, I even bought the dogs birthday and Christmas presents. And wrapped them. They got a cupcake, too, and a bowl of ice cream. And so did the humans. Any excuse to party, I tell you, that’s what I’m all about. But this dog, Wylie, the Springer Spaniel, he loved to open gifts! He’d lie down on the kitchen floor and grasp the box between his front paws. Sometimes his butt was up in the air, tail wagging, other times he was flat on the floor, but the tail was still wagging. He’d tear the paper off the present with his teeth and paws, and then start working on the box. The other dog, a Beagle, Genevive, would get into the act, too, she wouldn’t initiate the gift opening frenzy, but she’d help once it was underway. It. Was. Awesome. Until I stayed up all night wrapping Christmas gifts and found them all unwrapped under the tree the next morning. We went back to the “Santa Claus plan” after that; all gifts stayed in their hiding places until early Christmas morning. Oops, spoiler alert.
So, I don’t know. I write a lot on things we can do to maintain our health, to prolong our youth, vigor and lust for life. What I really want to know is, how can I expand on this exponentially, so I can go back in time? I really want to party like an eight year old.