No, not the kind that come wrapped.
You didn’t really think I was going to go all commercial and mainstream and retail on you, did you? C’mon, dear readers, you surely know me better than that!
No, this is the time of year that I babble about spirituality and gifts of the spirit and the magic of the season.
Okay, you know, I did get some cool gifts, too.
My older sister made me stuff, like she often does. But, then, I think she forgot that when we saw each other earlier in the year at her son’s graduation from Basic Training she gave me some art that she’d found somewhere, too. Either way, it’s always nice to be remembered and she always adds a personal touch.
The younger of my two older sisters and her husband sent me a book by one of my favorite authors, though I’m not entirely sure how they could have possibly known that. Possibly, just a lucky guess, but it was dead on. In fact, it was a book I’d almost gotten for myself, but had decided to wait on buying until it came out in paperback.
And, Mom and Dad got me art. Well, they got me art by one of their favorite artists, which is nice, but what I really like was the portrait of themselves they sent to me. It’s really well done and they look fantastic in it. Now, I just have to figure out where to put that where I can see it all the time.
But, really, those gifts were incidental to the real gifts I got this year.
Some of them may seem small. In fact, I hope they do seem small to you, because that means you’re far removed from the situations that make some of those small things important. For instance, I didn’t change jobs this year. I don’t have the perfect gig by any means, but it is a good job, that pays well, and gives me pretty decent flexibility, when I need it. And it’s close to home, so I have a short commute. And I genuinely like the people I work with and for, so that’s a pretty amazing gift. Especially when you consider how many people are out of work right now.
And, I’m surrounded by friends. Lots of friends. Sure, I don’t have that “one, special relationship”, but, you know, I’ve all but given up on that anyway. Sheesh, if my mockery of a marriage didn’t burn me out on romantic relationships, I don’t know what would. Besides, as much as a part of me would like all that, frankly, I’ve just been too busy this year to be bothered to put in the effort. No, really! And, that’s a gift in an of itself!
Oh, sure, I haven’t always been busy with the things I would have liked, but, wow, it seems like every time I turn around I have one friend or another who wants to go do something, whether it’s see a movie or go socialize and network with fellow geeks. There’s always something shiny to distract me and keep me moving forward. And, while I haven’t done as much volunteer work this past year as I would have liked, not everything that’s kept me busy has been self-serving. There has been the odd mission of mercy to help a friend in need, so to speak. And, no, you filthy minded gutter-thinkers, that is not a thinly veiled reference to a “booty call”!
And why that makes me think of all the ways I’ve seen my creativity unlocked this year, I’m not sure, but, well, there you are.
Between a bit more writing, here and elsewhere, and the photography, well, I have felt a certain amount of artistic growth, though, writing that seems a bit pretentious to me somehow. I doubt I’ll ever be a great artist of any kind, either writer or photographer, but, really, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that doing those things, and watching them, feeling them, improve brings me joy. Getting the words right, or nailing the lighting on a candid shot at a party, or even just learning something new about either craft makes me light up inside. Sometimes, I’m almost afraid to admit that out loud because I’m terrified that calling attention to it will somehow kill the magic that makes it happen.
And, perhaps, that’s the greatest gift of all; realizing that seeing the joy in my life won’t destroy it. God, the God of my understanding, has given me so many gifts this year. Some came in the form of ideas, some in the shape of learning opportunities, some even came in the arms of a new mother. But, one by one, like a string of pearls, the small joys came to me, threaded through the year and my life. Often, they came in the guise of friends, these gifts from God. People, some of whom had been there for years, some of whom had just shown up, who came, each with their own light, to show me at least the next steps my Creator seemed to want me to take.
Maybe I’m getting even more sentimental in my middle-age, but I find myself thinking more about all that than I have been willing to since college.
I try to make myself care about the measuring sticks the world uses, but it seems to get harder and harder as the years go by. Exponentionally harder since surviving cancer. But, you know, I expect to die broke, possibly quite a ways into debt, actually. Possibly, without ever knowing romantic intimacy again. And, oddly enough to me, every year I get more and more okay with that. Mostly, I have what I need, if not what I want. I’ll die surrounded by friends, if I don’t outlive them all, and what pittance I’ve had pass through my hands will have hopefully done some good in the world.
I’m not sure I’m entirely at peace. I think I may be a bit too young for that, but, I’m certainly more peaceful than I have been in many years.
And, that, I think, is the greatest gift of all.
Merry Christmas, faithful readers.
And, yes, God bless us, every one.