Gift of Presence
When it’s over, I want to say: All my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
It’s easy to get so lost in the momentum of holiday activities and the seemingly endless to-do lists that we forget what the holidays are for. There is always more to do than there is time for, and probably never quite so acutely as during the holidays. Gift giving drives a lot of the frenzy and although we can point to all the cultural mania driving us to purchase our good holiday feelings, for many of us there is a legitimate desire to really give something that feels meaningful and is a true reflection of our love.
Every now and again we are fortunate enough to know of a particular thing that is truly desired…Better still when we have the exact make and model number…but short of those golden opportunities where the desire matches our ability to give, there is precious little that we can offer in the way of material goods that can communicate our deepest feelings. The power of advertising further complicates this by making us believe that certain gifts will speak volumes about our love- diamonds, flowers and fine chocolate are a few that come to mind.
While those are all nice gifts, I don’t know if I have ever gotten a more authentic sense of my partner’s love for me than when he has taken the time and gotten over the inconvenience factor to show up for me. Some years this has been in the small mundane tasks of trying to get gifts wrapped for our four kids late into the night. Other holidays, it was the nightly drawing a bath for me and reminding me to give myself the attention I so readily give away to others. A couple of romantic holidays ago, it was making a romantic bed by the fireplace. The best gifts have always been the moments of him giving himself. The gift of our presence is what we all want most: to know that we are not alone in the world.
Sadly, it is often at the most tragic moments in our lives that we experience the gift of true presence. In moments of loss, the details that consume life fall away and the mystery of our frail human form and the relationships that make life meaningful is all that we have and all that we ever really had. This gift of pure presence is not an easy one to live in. In the moments of pure love and connection or pure loss and loneliness we know that our emotions are not thoughts in our head, but physical weighty forces that fill our physical body so completely that they have the power to alter our physical senses.
Falling in love is a full body experience, one that alters how we see everything–a more powerful drug you can’t find on the planet. The same is true for grief, especially grief that we don’t allow ourselves to experience. Feeling the weight of our own sadness is frightening. There is no deeper emotional access to the present moment than our sadness and grief. Yet feeling the full force of these emotions often reminds me of my kids when they were three years old, just old enough to get their experience but without a big enough body to contain it or a language to express it. Witnessing the trauma of a full on tantrum is enough to make any sane adult choose to repress it, the power of the feelings are as large as any force of nature.
Giving yourself or someone you love this gift of pure presence is the most amazing and life changing gift you can offer. Here’s the truth… it doesn’t work to repress our feelings. Our experience of life deserves to be witnessed and shared. All that is not given the air and space in the world around us will like any force of nature so transform and alter our internal landscape that we can’t find our presence- with ourselves and not with the people we long to love the most.
Eternity is not waiting to happen after you die, it is happening right now- and the meaning and love that you have the chance to make in your life is the only gift that will really count when your days are over. So instead of just exchanging physical gifts this holiday season- open your arms wide to the stories and feelings that make our presence real and our relationships sustainable.