Saturday, December 6, 2014

Oh, You Shouldn't Have

And they're here. 

The holidays.

And the expectations just went through the roof. The expectations that we will all wear perfect outfits with perfect hair, the scents of perfect glowing candles in the air, laughing and singing our way through perfect weather, attending perfect parties daily, eating and drinking all the perfect food and drink we want, never gaining a perfect pound. And don't forget the perfect gifts in the perfect situation, which always involve the perfect snowfall and a bright red bow.

Enough to make me want to join in singing:

I've previously suggested that, when it comes to the holidays, there are choices.

This year, I'm suggesting there is a gift.  A gift that won't bust your budget and will return joy to both giver and receiver.


Time is a finite commodity. It is available in the very same amount to each one of us. I have 24 hours today and so do you. Every one of us will run out of it;  we just don't know when. 

We're often bad at managing our time. We spend hours scrolling through Facebook and Pinterest, but are late for rehearsal. We lay around watching Netflix, and then get anxious because the deadline for our client's website is looming. We stay out late with friends and blow the audition the next day.

This holiday season, put your credit card in a safe place, grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start to think about ways you could give your time.

Before I give you the ideas, I have some caveats:
#1 - There will be people on your list that don't really want your time OR truly need a thing. Gift-giving should be a judgment-free zone, so go ahead and buy them a thing.
#2 - Not everyone will receive your time in the way you envision. Some will never even acknowledge you gave the gift of time. This has the potential to churn up negative emotions for you, like disappointment, frustration and anger. That's yucky, but forge ahead, because the point is still to give, not to receive.
#3 - Giving time requires energy and commitment.  Be thoughtful about how much of your time you want and need to give.
#3 - If you give into the future, you have to make the commitment to follow through. But you're a self-disciplined creatavitor, so you'll make that happen.

Okay, the ideas:

Alone – Someone in your life, perhaps you, is always craving time alone. Time to write, practice, paint, compose, sleep, exercise, dream. Give this person space. Give this person permission.

Perhaps your partner is the one that gets out of bed every morning to walk the dog. You do it. Just once. Perhaps your friend has a great idea for a play, but can't give herself permission to write it down. Give her your permission. Sometimes knowing another person believes in your idea is all we need to get started. Perhaps your roommate is struggling with extra pounds and you are a fitness expert. Give them the gift of a walk to help them get started.

Write a heartfelt letter.  Put it in a big box and wrap it up.  Watch the joy unfold.  Then prepare to help dreams happen, even the simple dream of sleeping in one morning.

Assistance – We all have loved ones who live harried and stressed-out lives. Yes, they did it to themselves, but we're in a judgment-free zone today, so drop that and help out. Offer to run errands for them. Offer to cook them dinner. Offer to take their kids out of the house for an afternoon.

Many years ago, I took a friend's two boys to the movies while she sat home and caught up with life. Were the boys rambunctious? You bet. Did we have a good time? They did. They ate popcorn, punched each other, laughed, and released their exuberance with someone besides Mom or Dad. Did I do it again? Nope. But I did it once and it made a difference.

When The Teen was The Baby, cleaning the house was at the bottom of my list. Some student had the nerve to write “DUST ME” on the top of a cabinet in my studio. Yeah, why didn't you??? Couldn't you see I was taking care of a baby AND working full time, while you were gallivanting through your twenty-something existential crisis? Not helpful.

When he's not teaching people to be the singers they were meant to be or singing himself, Beloved is a fantastic woodworker. This means the basement of our house is a dust haven (see above). One Christmas, I gave him a certificate that said I would clean the basement once. And then, in September or October of the following year, I did it. He was thrilled.

Contact - someone in your life needs you.  They need you to send them a postcard once a month.  They need you to phone them and talk for 10 minutes.  They need you to send them a YouTube link of a cute dog (ahem, NOT cat) video) and tell them that you were thinking of them today.  They need you to do this for three months, for six months, for a year.

Have I ever told you about my Jewish Mother?  No?  Oh good, another post!  Here are the essential details for now.  She's 92 and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Her use of the Internet is extremely limited.  So, every three weeks, I send her something.  Maybe it's a postcard from a museum we visited together in New York City.  Maybe it's an article I think she'll find interesting.  Maybe it is an email to her caretaker with YouTube links of music I think she'll enjoy.  It isn't difficult (although I'll confess to making it difficult in my mind) and I know she loves hearing from me.

Together – there are people in your life that you love to be with, but there's never enough time. Give each other the gift of time. The gift can be as simple as an afternoon walking. It could be dinner out together. It can be elaborate as a weekend away.

Beloved and I have a great set of friends who have absolutely everything. And I mean everything. At some point, the four of us agreed that we didn't need more stuff, but we craved spending time together. So now, at Christmas time, our gift to each other is a weekend away. We've visited Civil War battlefields together, the Chesapeake Bay (the weekend before Sandy; fascinating watching all of the boats being pulled out of the water), the Hudson River Valley and Savannah, Georgia. It usually takes us nine months to execute this gift, but that gives us the joys of dreaming and planning.  Extravagant? You bet and worth every penny.

Here's a really simple one.  My BYY Best Friend has been having trouble finding joy in her work this fall.  So, for the past month or so, I've been texting her once a week, asking her to send me an example of joy that she's experienced in her work.  Last night, I received the best text from her.  Not only did she relate three joyful moments, but she also thanked me for assisting her in finding the joy.  And I have to tell you, her joy has been contagious and now I text her with joyful moments.  This takes us no more than 10 minutes a week and it is making SUCH a difference for the two of us.

Someone in your life needs you to do the same thing for them.  They need it worse than they need that sweater.  Your credit card company will be disappointed, but your spiritual account will overflow.  

Try it.  Let me know what happens.

Shameless Promotion Moment:  Come to my Cabaret.  I'm part of the Coffee House Concert Series at Darlington Arts Center on January 17.  For the first time ever on the face of this planet, I will be singing and accompanying myself.  If that isn't enough, I'm planning to sing some original compositions.  Maybe these two:

And now I've scared myself, so I have to go practice.

Update:  If you've received this post via email, the video links will not work.  Please go to the blog to view them.  Thanks!