Yeah, yeah, I know Christmas is over. The tree is down, cookies are gone, the puzzle is back in the box. New Year’s eve came and went with a quiet hum. And now I want to talk to you about exchanging gifts? Really?
This past weekend I participated in a New Year’s workshop led by Lori Snyder, the founder of the Writer’s Happiness Movement. (If you don’t know about Writers’ Happiness, click on the link at the bottom of this email —well worth the detour.)
But stay with me here for a minute…
As part of the workshop, the 40 or so writers participated in a gift exchange—over zoom. Here’s how it worked:
We each wrote down 3 things that we are really good at. Three things that made us the wonderfully perfect human beings that we were in 2021, and will continue to be in 2022. The idea being that even though it’s fun to choose a word (or a ‘vibe’ as Lori calls it) to bring into the New Year, it’s also super important to remember that we already ARE pretty awesome the way we showed up in 2021.
I have to admit that at first it was tough for me to come up with three. I knew exactly what I wanted to strive for in 2022, but how was I amazing in 2021? Hmmm….. that wasn’t so easy to articulate.
After some harsh words with my inner critic, I came up with three things I felt I did really well in 2021, and will continue to do in the new year. They were: deep listening, holding space for others, and making people laugh.
The next step was to write each one down on a piece of paper so we could give these gifts to someone to bring into their new year. We gathered in separate ‘zoom rooms’ and took turns giving and receiving our gifts.
I happily gave away mine and received in exchange a gift of organization, a gift of showing up–butt in chair, and a gift of kitchen dance parties! I know I will definitely use all of these in 2022.
So here’s the thing… we all offer our gifts freely
without even realizing it!
Here’s what I mean: After the workshop, I had lunch with my mom and sisters. Sure enough, my gifts showed up: listening, holding space for others, and laughter.
Mom prepared an amazing gourmet meal of roasted cauliflower soup and jumbo shrimp salad with fresh figs and avocado.
As we started in on the soup (omg…delish!) my sister was telling us about her cat, to which my mother responded:
“Did I ever tell you the story about our cat that died in the barn and then came back to life… twice?”
That was my cue to put my soup spoon down, and grab my phone. Not to see if I was missing any texts…but to RECORD her story, because I knew once she got started, there would be another one right after that.
My mother is 82 years old, and though I’m pretty sure she’s got the Betty White longevity genes, a few years ago I started to make it a priority to capture her stories on paper. She is a master storyteller. And once she gets started, you want to savor every bite. (Kind of like the cauliflower soup.)
We laughed till we cried at the cat in the bag in the barn story, and eagerly waited for the next, while my mom served the salad.
“Did you get enough figs? Who wants another shrimp?”
As she filled each one of our plates, we prodded her with questions about her childhood, waiting for something to spark into another captivating story. Even one we had heard before…
Like the day she got her first period when she was just 9 years old. She and her cousin Patsy were at the neighborhood park on the swings, and Patsy noticed blood running down Mom’s legs. (“Remember… girls didn’t wear pants in those days.”) At first she thought she must have cut herself on a nail, but when she saw where the blood was coming from, she panicked. She went home in tears, convinced she had broken something inside of her. Her mother showed her how to strap on a sanitary napkin with a belt, and that was that. No talk about what it meant. About her body changing. About becoming a woman. Nothing.
“We never talked about our bodies or sex! I had no idea what to expect when I married your father.”
And just like that we were on to a new story, about being an 18 year old virgin on her wedding night.
I had heard bits and pieces of that one before, but now with the recorder in my hand, I wanted details!
“So who told you about sex?” I asked.
“The day before my wedding, my mother sent me to Aunt Sophie’s,” she answered.
Aunt Sophie, my grandmother’s sister, was the rebel in the family. The one that drank whiskey, smoked cigarettes, wore pants, and played cards with men. If anyone knew about sex, surely it was Aunt Sophie.
“What did she tell you?” We were dying to know.
“She told me to close my eyes and God will make it happen.”
She burst into laughter. “I begged her to tell me more, but she wouldn’t!”
(I’m not going to spoil the rest of the story… it’s a good one! You’ll have to read my mom’s book to find out.)
Yes, my mother is writing a book of her life stories. And yes, I am helping her do that. Why?
Because that’s MY gift in this world!
If you want to write your life stories, hang out in my corner. I can help you. I can help you remember your stories, write your stories, craft them from scattered memories into words on the page. It’s my jam. And I’m just gonna say it.. I’m really good at it!
No, I’m not going to follow you around with my phone and record every story as it comes to mind. But what I can do is invite you to my proverbial lunch table and serve you a delicious soup and salad disguised as a process to find and write your stories. It comes with a side of mindfulness, accountability and craft. If you ask anyone I’ve worked with, they will tell you it’s delicious (and it works!)
My small group program “Write Here Write Now” begins the last week of January. Want to join me at the table and begin? Hit reply and I’ll send you the scoop. Or, schedule a call with me and we can talk about it. Click here for a link to my calendar.
In the meantime, write down the gifts YOU already have that made you awesome in 2021, and will continue to be in 2022.
Send one my way!
p.s. Here’s another gift for you… Writers Happiness Movement. Check it out!
Can you guess which one is my grandmother and which one is Aunt Sophie?