December 21, 2020

On this Christmas, Remember: The Gift is in the Present.

Elly Fairytale/Pexels

“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment, you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh


I sat down to write an article.

What was I going to write about? Mindfulness, how to stay present, practice the pause before responding?

Old memories were filling my mind with the anticipation of Christmas and the excitement of all the presents. Like many other children, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. We maintained many wonderful traditions in our family—baking sugar cookies, posing for the annual Christmas card, decorating the tree and house, listening to our favorite Christmas music, and getting together with extended family.

At four o’clock, my family headed to church for Christmas Eve service, except we double-timed for the two o’clock service if my sister and I were in the Christmas pageant. As I fondly recall, I’ve taken on several roles, including Mary, the angel, and sheep. No baaaah humbug here!

After churching for the afternoon, we retreated back home to sit down for the lovely dinner my mother had prepared for us. It’s the only time my sister and I cleared the table in record time! There’s a special magic in the air at Christmas time, with goodwill toward men, hohoho, and feeling especially light and happy.

Christmastime was always noteworthy, and it was fun to guess what we’d be receiving in our gifts, with our duty of making lists and visiting Santa. After we tore through our presents in what seemed a nanosecond, there was a “thing” that seemed to always happen within me, even though nobody knew. I felt an intense sadness after opening my presents, even though I received everything I wanted. I was too young to even understand why I felt sad. Maybe it was because I opened my presents too fast, but looking at my younger self with an adult lens, I believe on a certain level that deep down, I didn’t feel I deserved the gifts.

Up until the last few years, I previously had difficulty truly accepting a gift, especially if it was not for my birthday or Christmas. Occasionally, thoughts of, “What did I do to deserve this” came fleeting in.

Through my personal journey of healing, introspection, and self-discovery, I hurdled over the blocks in my psyche, and once this happened, I finally accepted a gift wholeheartedly and acknowledged that the giver wanted to give me this particular gift without conditions.

Old traumas had been preventing me from genuinely accepting a gift. I then grew to appreciate that meaningful gifts are lovely to receive at any time, not just on a birthday or special holidays. And I’m not going to lie. Now I love receiving presents and especially the unexpected ones—flowers, a sweet card, artwork, a bracelet, money, a book; from small trinkets to bigger-ticket items.

But even more so, I landed on giving myself a gift every single day—the gift of the present, making small promises to myself, and of cultivating my own happiness. And the more I gave to others, offered gratitude, and took responsibility for my own happiness, mastering my thoughts, emotions, and peace of mind, the more gifts began to show up.

I forgave myself for past mistakes and old hurts, and practiced mindfulness with meditation and yoga to ward off anxiety about the future. So, instead of a typical article, a poem started to form.

Christmas is coming, said the child in her bed
The tree decked with shiny balls, and lights of gold and red
So many lovely presents, nestled underneath the tree,
she couldn’t help but wonder, “How many are for me?”

Send the Christmas cards, the sugar cookies bake
The cardinal pair make their appearance in the woods and on the lake
Just a few more days, sneak candy canes from branches of the tree
“Hmmm,” the thought danced in her head, “How many are for me?”

Sing favorite Christmas songs, ice skate on the rink
View the Nutcracker Ballet, with sugar plums and Mother Ginger in pink
Only one more day, and we’ll gather ‘round the tree
“Have I been good this year?” “How many are for me?”

Warm the ham and sweet potatoes, the apple pies cool,
The kitchen smells of cloves and cinnamon, even the dog’s about to drool
It’s finally Christmas Eve, the angel lights the top of the tree
Excitedly, she muses, “How many are for me?”

The presents are sorted, the ritual begins
Tear through beautifully—wrapped boxes, containing her favorite things
In a blink, it was over, shredded papers by the tree
A feeling of sadness rose inside, “There’s nothing left for me”

The girl grew up, and many years passed
She continued to receive gifts, yet the giddiness didn’t last
It took experiences carved out for the girl to understand
That wrapped gifts are fleeting, and the present isn’t planned

The gift is in the present, the present couldn’t be known
By worrying about the future, or the seeds of the past that were sown
To thine own self be true, is the truth we seek and find
Which brings the peace of understanding, guard the heart and the mind

The heartfelt gift is that we give others, in time, presence, and love
The immeasurable peace we reap, defined by no other than the dove
Stay in the present, don’t stray too far
It’s breathing through the moments that cause us to jar

And in case you’re wondering if the girl still gets down
Only during the times she’s tired, feels lost in the storm
And temporarily forgets the truth of why she’s here…
The creator of presence, which can no longer be stripped by fear


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