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The gifts we want

I remember a Christmas evening when my son was about 6 years old. I found him upstairs alone in his bedroom crying. I couldn’t imagine what he would be crying about. We had had a wonderful Christmas day with lots of presents and relatives visiting and a festive time with food and friends. I picked him up and asked why he was crying. He said “I didn’t get everything on my list.” I remember now the stabbing poignancy of that moment as clearly as if it happened yesterday. He was telling a truth that we all learn. We never get everything on our list. Our wants always exceed what we are given. I rocked with him that night. Just held him and rocked in silence – not trying to convince him of some other truth. I was nearly on the verge of tears myself. How do we walk that fine line between having great desires and not ever getting them all met? It’s true of Christmas presents when we are children, but it’s true of our adult life too.

We never get everything on our list. Such startling news and yet unarguably true. I just came from the funeral of a friend – who undoubtedly, like most of us, wanted to have more life than she got. We don’t get what we want. And even when we are lucky enough to be given the thing we most want – it often turns out that it was not, after all, the holy grail. It did not make our life perfect. What we get is our life. Not getting all that we want forces us to learn to accommodate to being human. Each moment we have to adapt to the truth. We have to change our course, learn a different path, learn to cope with disappointment, learn to be grateful despite our disappointments – to learn to embrace what we do get. We never thought we would have to become different, to learn to live inside limits we don’t choose, to become flexible and to learn the patience necessary to cope with being who we are, living the actual life we have.. To learn to appreciate the beauty of an ordinary human existence.

Writer Roger Housden, notes that “life comes to us out of left field. We are not in charge.” Yet life is , of course, the biggest gift we will ever receive. Out of all the amazing alternative possibilities, we exist. This is the gift we are given. This poem by Rebecca Del Rio addresses this dilemma;

Prescription for the Disillusioned

Come new to this day. Remove the rigid overcoat of experience, the notion of knowing, the beliefs that cloud your vision.

Leave behind the stories of your life. Spit out the sour taste of unmet expectation. Let the stale scent of what-ifs waft back into the swamp of your useless fears.

Arrive curious, without the armor of certainty, the plans and planned results of the life you’ve imagined. Live the life that chooses you, new every breath, every blink of your astonished eyes.


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