Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Gift Boxes

“Inspiration is the greatest gift because it opens your life to many new possibilities. Each day becomes more meaningful, and your life is enhanced when your actions are guided by what inspires you.” – Bernie Siegel

When we were younger, we would buy a gift for someone and put it carefully in the perfect box. There it would rest, perfectly nestled, amongst its folds of tissue paper. There was not a flood of extra space for the gift to slide about, nor was the gift so cramped that it was wadded into itself. It was perfectly – beautifully – portioned into a box that fit it just so.

Life, we thought, was supposed to be this way.

It was supposed to be perfectly portioned, doled out in just the right amounts, not overlapping, but giving each life event just the right amount of time to occur. Thinking about life when we were younger, we never dreamed of just how messy and out of shape life could become. College in four years, five tops. Then marriage. Then kids. A good job, of course. Those are the vague outlines we tended to see. And really, we saw very little beyond them.

We grew up.

We realized that life isn’t so pat and neat. Life is much less tidy than we ever thought it was. Somehow, as we’ve grown, this chaos of a life has blossomed around us. Identities that we have always drawn thick, hard lines around need to be rethought because those thick, hard lines? Really, they mean nothing to anyone but us. And the more we bluster on about them, the more foolish we look. We must open our minds, and close our mouths.

Kids have come into our lives creating a patchwork family. One daughter has these grandparents and another daughter has those grandparents but this daughter doesn’t share those grandparents and that daughter doesn’t share these grandparents but they both share my parents. We are a living, breathing Venn diagram.

Life looks nothing like the wondrous future we once imagined for ourselves back in our youth, back in the spirited days of our late teens or even our early 20s when we were still invincible with heady exhaustion and the absolute overwhelming possibility of life. Everything was still before us, all the gifts and joys and, yes, trials, of life were yet to come.  No, this is not the future we imagined for ourselves then.

I won’t say it’s better. But we have been gifted something in all of the messiness. There is something freeing in leaving the vision of our youth, in mentally off-roading, in getting in the mess of life to really feel it. We have to change. We have to grow with it. We have to allow ourselves to be changed by it. Never lose a chance to be affected. We have rediscovered how to improvise. Now, when we buy the perfect gift, we no longer require the perfect box. The box may strain at the edges. It may be too rounded at the top, and the sides may be taped together. Perhaps the box is too large and the gift shimmies and slides and wallows in the luxury of space. The gift is what matters. Not the container. This is what we have learned.

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