Gifts you don’t like

For my birthday, I got eczema cream. Needlessness to say, I didn’t like the gift.

How do you write that Thank You card? “Thanks for highlighting my skin problem that I’ve been dealing with my whole life and have already tried just about every solution. That’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday. How’d ya know?”

I wasn’t at all grateful, in fact, I was very angry.

Gifts we don’t like or ones we even find insulting are the best opportunity to understand ourselves better – at the deepest level.

Recently, a friend received a package from her parents with a bunch of baby photos/albums. She doesn’t stay in contact with her parents regularly so she thought this was strange. Us friends thought so too. We thought her parents were trying to manipulate her into contacting them or rejecting her (she’s no longer part of the family), etc.

Every one had an opinion. And the conversation escalated into the inner workings of her parents’ mind for sending this package. Soon, the story was elaborate and included past interactions and gifts from her parents. A story that became a saga.

But what if the story began with “my friend received a package containing photos from her parents” and it ended there?

What if my story was: “a family member gave me eczema cream for my birthday” and I didn’t add “she sees my eczema as a problem that needs to be solved now”.

Because beyond the facts (=you receiving a gift), the rest is just a story we’ve made up.

And our brain loves to create a story. It’s how it makes sense of everything in the world (that’s why children love stories). In adulthood, we continue to create and hold on to stories sometimes without even questioning its validity.

The way we tell a story (even to ourselves) reveals and impacts us at the deepest level. Our stories reveal how we see things, how we shape and create our reality and thereby, ultimately how we experience it.

I could see how I viewed my eczema as a big problem (with or without the gift). I could see how I judged this family member as mean spirited (with or without the gift). I could see how my friend wanted to hold onto the package as an example of everything wrong with her relationship with her parents.

It wasn’t easy for me to see how much my life long struggle with eczema felt like I was the cause of the problem and a failure for not having figured it out. It’s a story I created and held on to for many, many years. The eczema cream became my evidence for all my failed attempts and flaws.

As I continue to get gifts I necessarily don’t prefer (=pot holders with a joke about women’s breasts on them), I’ve started to stop the story. Attaching meaning and a story to the gifts (and gift giver) gives it and them all the power. And that’s not a gift I’m willing to give away to someone else or an inanimate object.

Instead, I prefer to hold onto to my power in the story I choose for myself and let the gift go (=donating the unopened gift to a charity shop).

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