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The gift you give to yourself

I want to share this post I wrote from my birthday in 2012.

Yesterday was my birthday. A birthday for a child can be filled with the same kind of excitement and joy as they feel at Christmas. But as we grow into adults and begin having children of our own, our own birthday can become just another day. I know some adults that manage to keep that same childlike exuberance but there seems to be more people that find it holds more work for them than excitement. I am one who had excitement but didn’t really have much hope for it being what I wanted it to be.

So this year I decided to give myself a gift. I wanted to spend my birthday being focused on giving rather than receiving, for it is when we give that we are truly blessed and can receive our greatest joy. I have come to understand that I am the one who chooses whether or not I am excited or happy and if I wanted to have that for my birthday, I needed to be the one to do something about it. If I wait for someone else to give it to me, I’ll constantly be at the whim of others for my happiness. And since no one knows me as well as I do, it’s kind of a crapshoot when you try to get your happiness from another person’s actions because they don’t always know what you want.

I wanted to spend my birthday doing something that would allow me to spend time with my family. I wanted it to be a gift to them, something that they would enjoy doing rather than something they were doing for me. So I planned for our family to go to the aquarium and dinner. This was pretty much a whole day thing since it takes about an hour to get to the aquarium and we spent several hours there. It was fun but as anyone with small children and teenagers know, it can also be trying.

Even though I had decided not to ask for gifts and wanted to focus on what I could give instead, there was a part of me that kept thinking “what about me”. I found that my mood kept fluctuating between being happy and being frustrated. This seemed to correlate with my thoughts. When I was focused on the moment and enjoying the experience I was happy but when my thoughts wandered to an expectation of what should be happening or what I should be receiving I would begin to feel frustrated, impatient and tired.

I believe it is Karol K. Truman who said, “You can’t have negative thoughts and feel good and you can’t have positive thoughts and feel bad.” There is a saying in my church, light and darkness cannot exist in the same place at the same time. So if you are feeling bad, it is a sure sign that your thoughts are in a negative place. And so it is for feeling good, that your thoughts must be positive.

As I realized what was happening, I quickly worked at refocusing my thoughts because I did not wish to think negatively. These negative thoughts were only serving to make me unhappy and I wanted to spend my birthday happy. This was the gift I was giving to myself. But as anyone can vouch, sustained intentional thought is hard work. Henry Ford is quoted for saying, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is…why so few engage in it.”

I am sure the reason for the mood swings can be attributed to this reason, because I was not always being the driver of my thoughts. But just as with anything else, it takes practice to become better and turn something new into a natural habit. And something that when first started may be hard or difficult can become easier over time. The key to this is work. Anything and everything requires some kind of work at one time or another. But if you are clear about what you want then you know the work is well worth the effort. In fact if you are very clear, want it bad enough and are focused on obtaining the goal, the work can become easy and to some degree effortless. It is really only when our thoughts begin to be filled with the negativity of “I don’t want to do this, this is hard, I’m tired, I wish I could be doing something else” etc., etc. that it feels hard or even impossible to do anything.

Long story short, I spent the day with some really great highs and some unintentional lows. But overall, it was a great day. I had fun and even though it wasn't perfect, I did achieve what I set out to do. I spent the day with the loves of my life, my family, in a way that brought joy to us all. I was able to give to others and in return received the excitement and joy I desired for my birthday. And I can definitely say that it was well worth the effort. In fact most of the time, it was effortless when I was present in the moment and received it with gratitude.

“Happiness consists of forgetting what you give and remembering what you receive.” ~ Unknown Author

If today is your birthday or even if it isn't, what gift will you give yourself this day and every day here after?

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