This weekend, my mom drove in from Las Vegas to deliver my Chanukah gifts. As I've mentioned before, the woman is a gift maven. There are odd-shaped boxes and bags awaiting me for the eight days of Chanukah. Seeing the gifts stuffed under a table in my living room has started me thinking about the best gifts I've gotten this year. In the interest of blessing-counting, I've made a list.
1. Silver Tiffany bracelet
I bought it myself. After I rolled the dice for a family friend shooting craps, he threw me a $100 chip. I was so tickled I marched over to Tiffany & Co. to buy the bracelet I'd secretly hoped someone else would buy me. I had it engraved with the phrase "Do I dare?" from the poem "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. Whenever I see it on my wrist, I feel lucky.
2. I made a new friend
She's very emotional. I told her a story about a guy offering me work if I slept with him and she actually cried in empathy. She's breast-feeding and it might just be the hormones, but it felt like a gift. I think she's what my mother would call "a keeper."
I had a little meltdown this year about my career and I went back to San Francisco to see my former therapist. She made time for me on a Saturday, her office cozy and familiar. During that session, she gave me two things. First, she gave me the mantra: "It's not life or death." It sounds simple, but it's changed my life. It reminds me that work is work, not a reflection of my total value in the world. The second thing she gave me is the concept of a "thought stop sign." When my mind starts into an anxiety spiral, I just see the red sign in my head and stop. She diluted my anxiety with two parts perspective.
4. "The Inner Game of Tennis"
This is a classic 1970s self-help book, ostensibly about tennis but really about life. A friend recommended it, and I loved it. The basic idea is to stop observing and judging yourself, just see the ball bounce and hit it. There's no gift like a great book recommendation.
5. A health scare
You don't notice how good you feel until you don't. As it turns out, there's nothing seriously wrong with me. Still, I don't bother feeling chubby or unattractive as much these days because I'm so grateful all the parts are working. Also, a guy I've been seeing for a few months came with me to the emergency room. You really see what a guy's made of when he doesn't flinch while watching you carry a urine specimen. I got the chance to be taken care of, and I think that's what all great gifts make you feel.
6. Great advice
"Never reject yourself," said a friend. "Your job is to put yourself in a position to be rejected every day." I love that. Not that I do it, but at least I consider it.
7. A new car
This one seems shallow, but my used Taurus is the first car I've ever bought myself. The rest were family hand-me-downs. As my old junker rotted at the mechanic's and my savings poured into a rental car, I faced the carnival of confusion that is used car buying and did it in one long, soul-sucking day. When I think about that goal met, I'm inspired -- not to mention air-conditioned.
8. A box of "Almond Roca"
Made by my mother, it was among the gifts she brought me. She has been making her own knockoff of Almond Roca every holiday season as long as I can remember, and even though my folks recently sold the family home and moved, the candy reminds me that the sweetest traditions travel.