Man’s real life is happy, chiefly because he is ever expecting that it soon will be so. – Edgar Allen Poe
Many people talk about giving the gift of experience to the point where the words have lost some momentum in recent years. The concept, however, came full circle for me this holiday season as a lifetime of experiences surfaced. By reflecting on the flow of what I have given and received in my lifetime, it became clear that giving is an important exchange that I give a lot of energy to, not just during the holidays, but all year, every year, always. Because it takes a lot of time and effort to get it right, I sometimes build expectations of the recipient without even knowing it, and I end up giving a receiving without unconditional grace.
When I was 12, my parents decided they would no longer buy Christmas gifts for us. We would go on a family ski trip between Christmas and New Year’s every year instead of gifts. Of course, there were always gifts from special relatives and stocking stuffers but there was a huge change in our holiday season, that in hindsight, was legendary. We would start talking about where to go, where to stay, what to cook, and projected snowfall, at the Thanksgiving table. The excitement about our time together as a family slowly took over and that momentum became the framework for our holiday season. We had more to give to others because the burden was lifted and the excitement took over. It was a palatable shift.
To continue the tradition, on our first Christmas away in 2013, my aunt and parents paid for ski lessons for the kids in the Southern Apennines in Italy. The lessons lasted for six consecutive weekends and each time, their instructor, who spoke only Italian, pushed them to new heights.
This past weekend, our children used certificates they received from relatives in New Zealand, to try a high ropes course. Ever since they opened the envelope they have been reading about each course, converting meters to feet, looking up new words, like flying fox which translates into zip line in the USA, in anticipation of their experience. Last Sunday was the perfect weather for such an adventure and we headed to the course. As they climbed higher and higher into the trees, the image of them disappearing into the clouds on the chairlift in the Southern Apennines flashed before me. I stood there, watching them soar, overwhelmed with love for the people who thought of them in this way. It was truly an epiphany to think, not only are experiences gifts that keep on giving, but it is not possible to ever lose it, or have it taken away or devalued.
This journey and the many people that have given us unconditional gifts have taught me that there is no other way. As soon as conditions are introduced a kind of currency is sparked and there is a sudden obligation to reciprocate and keep the exchange going. With experiences, there is no way to give something of the same or greater value back because the growth is priceless. No returns, or exchanges. All we are left with is an appreciation for such a legendary gift and love for the person who saw us in that experience before we could even dream of it for ourselves.
Experience is often something we are willing to allow ourselves to have because it was a gift. Big or small, experiences are packages full of excited anticipation and that is a magical vantage point from which to view the world.
Today’s Tweetable: Big or small, experiences are packages full of excited anticipation.