Two Starbucks gift cards with a handful of photos in a store bought holiday postcard turned my world upside down.
‘Tis the season, I suppose. I can understand being rushed to get “gifts” out in the mail, as end-of-year work responsibilities and travel plans can clog up the otherwise steady schedule, but my heart cracked open after receiving this specific piece of mail.
I have struggled with a less than fulfilling relationship with one of my family members for years, given his course in life and my lack of power to hold my emotions in whenever the topic is brought up. I joined him and his new wife in celebration of their Vegas nuptials earlier this year, having an admittedly difficult time keeping my frustration and disappointment under wraps. They are a lovely couple, but I do not know them, together or independently anymore. There has been a lack of communication in recent years, and all I long for is to have him back in my life, as we were years ago. Family means all of us, together, in sync, at least in my brain.
That hasn’t happened for quite some time.
The holidays present an opportunity to give to others, and I spend months conjuring up gift ideas that will create the coveted tears of joy. In the past two years, I have realized that I need to tread lightly for some, and go all out for others to achieve my somewhat selfish goal. With him, it is a challenge every year, as I fear I have lost a sense of who he is as a person, outside the confines of being my brother. What he likes, what he needs, what will move his soul back to a place of loving me and our previously strong bond. Getting his gift is a true struggle each time, and I end up in more pain and confusion than I would like.
This year, this year will be different. Days prior to the holiday, I have come to the conclusion that my intentions are self-serving. My goal to induce a feeling of longing in someone else is purely for my benefit—it serves no purpose for him because, in all honesty, his heart is elsewhere. Building a family on his own, creating his path and journey the way he sees fit, regardless of the dangers involved and the stress he places on our family, remaining distant for his own protection, from us.
In my mind, he hates me. He lacks the desire to restore our relationship for a plethora of disjointed reasons, and there is nothing I can do to force him back into my life. This realization has come with a degree of pain and a sense of failure, but I know it to be true in this moment. Pushing him toward what we once had serves either of us not. There is no gift to give that will exude my desires, for he isn’t willing to receive it, yet. Uncovering this simple truth has been a powerful step in the right direction this holiday, at least on this end.
A task for this gifting season: let go of intentions that serve only self. Making those closest to us cry out of gratitude and pure soul-moving joy should be a bonus, not the sole purpose of a gift. Allowing others to receive what it is we have to give is the best gift of all—it breaks down walls of shoddy communication, misunderstood feelings, and lack of emotional connection in an instant, if our heart is set in the right place to begin with. Give time, grant an experience, be a partner, show respect and love in a way that is meaningful for the other person. Instead of focusing on the me, look outward for what will move the we.
The same should be done in receiving. Instead of having a hand out ready to receive, we should have our heart prepared to accept. Even though opening that envelope caused a degree of discomfort, based on the fact that it felt as though little effort was put into understanding who I am or what I am about, I have now accepted it for what it is. I am grateful for the thought that was put into sending the card, and will display the included pictures of the couple on my fridge, proudly.
After years of doing this the wrong way, despite my best intentions, this year will be different, even if there are not tears from all parties involved. Oh, and the received Starbucks cards will be donated, without delay.
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Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons