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I recently wrote about gratitude and its importance in our lives. It seems only fitting that a relative of gratitude, “giving”, have a spot in our discussion. Giving is such an amazing ability. For some of us it is the core of our existence. Whether we have chosen a profession surrounding this concept or it’s a life philosophy which we practice thoroughly at every opportunity, giving is kindness at its best. For most of us the gesture itself delights us and helps us to feel good about ourselves, our purpose, our connectedness to each other. But is it possible, as with all good things, that we may give too much? I know this may sound unkind or ugly but spare a moment, hear it out.

I’m not suggesting we stop giving, I’m suggesting we be mindful. It seems a relevant topic as we are now fully in the spirit of the holidays, which for a long time now has been more about the spirit of giving and receiving and asking and wanting and so on. We all know how the materialistic empire we call “The Holidays” has been created. However, as we run around for a month or longer berating, cursing, and cutting each other off on the roads in our pursuit of the perfect gifts, are we really doing it with love, gratitude, and giving in mind? Maybe. Maybe at some points we are and maybe part of the fun is the thrill of the chase. Fine. The point I’m making is, that as us humans often do, we’re creating a lot of something out of nothing. In this case, material objects that will most likely be returned to their store of origin within days post holiday. Does a return mean that you love someone less? Are connected to them less? That they in exchanging their gift love you less? Maybe, if you got them something really horrid that could be…I joke. The idea is to remember what connectedness is really about. I’m sure you’ll find it has nothing to do with our modern day rituals which usually result in our own disappointments and lack of self-care.

When we put so much emphasis on pleasing others, not just in giving gifts, but in giving of ourselves, we risk losing ourselves. One of my favorite books, which I would find almost unbelievable if there is someone who has not heard of it, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, simply but profoundly identifies this unconditional relationship of giving. A few drawn lines paired with a few symbolic words and you have the truest of truths which cause me to tear at every reading. The tears stream down for a few different reasons…for knowing and feeling the sacrifice of unconditional giving in the name of friendship and love and parenthood, and the complexity and beauty that co-exist in most of these life relationships. But also, in knowing the risk and the danger in giving until there is noting left, in giving until you are gone. As a mother, I would, and sometimes do feel like I give my whole self to my children. It seems natural and acceptable and often without thought, it is my role and what my heart wants. However, in the quiet spaces, I do feel the pangs of bits and pieces lost, and while not nearly as important as my girls, I sense their absence and think of the tree. And when I do, I am reminded of the importance of self-care, of how I would be of little use to them unless I am well maintained. I am reminded that it is OK to feel my deficits and include my needs in the rotation of priorities.

So you see how giving, gifts, and parenthood are so closely related? Enjoy all three this holiday season! Just remember to take time for yourself, and perhaps for a change, give to yourself.