Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Gift Giving

I don’t know if you have ever heard of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, but it basically says that the millions of ways we show love boil down to five basic groups. One of them is “gifts”, which I scored a big, fat zero on it when I took the test.

I feel bad for the people whose love language is gifting if they have to interact with me. Some people are truly great at it. They give thoughtful, loving gifts that are personal and meaningful. It hurts them when they are unable to express love in their language.

I keep trying slowly take gifts out of Christmas. Besides my small efforts to be a pseudo-minimalist, I am also an organizer. As I get older, clutter has gone from something I don’t like to something I get completely anxious around.

Stuff, more stuff.

Americans are consumers, big time. Buying for people becomes so hard because frankly, almost everyone of any age has more than they can possibly use or need. But a couple of things happened this year that made me happy.

It started with my friend Nina. I arrived at an appointment with her and she handed me a wrapped gift. Oh no! We don’t normally exchange. I know you aren’t supposed to feel this way, but I thought I had better run out and get her something. Let’s face it. We all feel a sense of “obligation” to reciprocate.

When I opened it, we smiled and laughed and I thought about how I wish every gift was this way. A few years ago, I gave her a dress I was “done with” and she loved it. I had recently commented on a shirt she wore and there it was wrapped up and given to me. I absolutely loved it. No money. Just thoughtfulness. It felt great!

Then my friend mailed me a package with her mom’s coloring books. She died this year so the holidays were going to be tough for my friend and her family. I love to color. Not only did her memory pay forward to me, but I also shared them with a few clients who are trying new ways of coping while they are required to be alone. The passing on to me was passed on to several others as well.

My friend told me about her adult son listening to a family member who needed a certain kind of water bottle and put it on her Christmas list. He knew his family had a couple so he picked the best one and wrapped it up for her. She loved it.

Instead of “more,” what a lovely idea it is to “pass it on” instead. No extra money. No extra consumption. Just outright sharing. I think Christmas would be better across the country if this idea caught on.

LESS IS MORE!


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Julia Cameron: Openhearted

Gratitude card of the day: Openhearted

“I am blessed with a hospitable heart. I welcome new souls in my family of souls. I open my heart to new companions…As I welcome new life, my heart blossoms with new flowering.”

I would have to say I think I have an hospitable heart. I have never heard that specific term, but I think it’s pretty appropriate. I have spent lots of time trying to help other people see that your heart is meant to be shared. Love is about what you give away, not about what you guard and protect. The heart is an organ that grows with use. The heart’s capacity to love only gets greater the more it is exercised. Contrary to reason, it doesn’t get used up.

There is another side, though. If I have erred in life, it is sometimes for not protecting my heart enough at times. Once, a friend said to me, “That person is bad news for your heart.” It was very, very effective. I don’t think in those terms on my own. It just expressed something to me in a way that hit me differently. Very rarely am I “bad news” for someone else, but I spend little time considering whether people might be “bad news” for me. Anyhow, I told her she was brilliant and I wouldn’t forget that phrase. People, in and of themselves, are rarely bad, or even bad news. But they may be bad for MY heart. I guess I say that to balance myself. You can’t just rush in and give your heart to anyone and everyone. You have to be responsible with your choices.

Even for someone like me, having a hospitable heart and opening up to new companions can be very scary. I do it, but sometimes I almost panic. The new flowers can’t blossom, new life can’t be born without risk. But let’s face it, it’s still risk.

Anyhow, I think to oversimplify, people generally fall in one of two categories when it comes to this. They will either die erring on the side of not moving enough, not risking enough, playing it safe. Or they will die erring on the side of too much movement, risking too much. Every one of us will make mistakes, it just matters which side you fall on.

For 48 years, I’ve known I’m on the latter side. I won’t have stood still enough, slowed down enough. The last couple of years I wondered if I was jumping to the other side. But so far, looks like I will keep my hospitable heart. When I err, it will most likely be on the side of investing too much, trying too hard, risking…

But you know what? I think I’m okay with that! In fact, I may even be proud of that. “I am blessed with a hospitable heart. I welcome new souls in my family of souls. I open my heart to new companions…As I welcome new life, my heart blossoms with new flowering.”

Warm greetings to all the new folks in my life, in whatever space you come in (personal, professional, students, clients, etc.) I’m keeping my heart open to what you bring- the bitter and the sweet- and I hope you open your heart in return.