Little gifts arrive at unexpected times, and who doesn’t like presents?

Imagine friends stopping by to drop off birthday gifts for you, leaving them on your kitchen counter.  Imagine that you let those gifts pile there, unopened.  Dust gathers on the wrapping.  Crumbs fall on them as you prepare food; the ribbons become spotted with wayward splashes from the sink.

Does this seem ridiculous?  I can’t fathom ignoring a pile of gifts with my name on them.  It’s as crazy as throwing out Halloween candy (well, at least the little chocolate bars – fruit chews I can do without).

Please put on your metaphor hat, if you haven’t already.

It’s one thing to be given a gift.  It’s another thing to receive it.

Until I open the gift, examine it, try it on and use it I haven’t really received it.  It is mine, all right. But until I truly accept the gifts I’ve been given, they just gather dust waiting for me to notice them.

I can think of gifts I have given to others that weren’t well received.  Sometimes it was disappointing, sometimes annoying, and sometimes truly hurtful.  I put time and effort into choosing (and in some rare cases, even making) something special for someone, only to never see it worn/used/displayed.

On the other hand, is there any better feeling than to see someone I love cherishing a gift I’ve given?  The child to can’t sleep without that teddy I chose, the friend who looks fabulous in that scarf and wears it often.  A thank-you is appreciated, but to actually see a present I selected be used and enjoyed is the best evidence of gratitude.

Back to the presents on the counter, the ones with our names on them that we are ignoring.   What stops us from opening them?

I don’t want it. (Too bad – it is yours now so you have to decide what to do with it.  It is your responsibility.)

I don’t deserve it. (Maybe, maybe not.  That doesn’t change the fact that you own it.  Why waste it?)

I might not like it. (Only one way to find out.  Give it a whirl.  Someone chose it for you for a reason.)

It’s going to be too much work. (You are working around it as you leave it on the counter.  Why not transfer some of that effort?)

I didn’t ask for it.  (True, but it was given to you just the same.  You own it.)

I’m afraid of what’s inside. (Ahhhh.  Silly child.  Why would someone who loves you given you something bad?  And what is the worst that can happen?  If you don’t like it, you can change it to suit you or find another use for it.)

In order to quit drinking, I have realized that I used wine as a tool for comfort, and I needed comfort because I wasn’t acknowledging things that were bothering me.  Sometimes I confuse denial with strength.  I mistake animation for joy.  And for the past decade, I was confusing numb with comfortable.

Giving up alcohol has meant finding other ways to comfort myself, and also decreasing the constant need for comfort by clarifying my thinking and behaviour.

The funny part is, I really am a happy, bubbly person.  I am strong.  I’ve always considered those special gifts.  Yet I had to muck through how to still be myself while not ALWAYS being happy and strong.  I don’t want to be sad or weak, but sometimes it is necessary and called for.

I want to be liked, that’s my comfort zone.  Happy, strong, liked.  Now I am learning that I can’t trade “liking how I feel” for “being liked”.  If I fake being happy or strong in order to be liked, I will create discomfort within myself and that’s when the cravings start.

What I need is a way sort out if I am being authentic.

So I shuffle through the pile on my metaphorical kitchen counter to see if there is a forgotten gift there that might be of use and ah, there it is: discernment.

I blow the dust off the bow and remove the treasure from its wrapping.  It is tucked in my pocket for now, and I can pull it out whenever needed.