Today is Christmas Day. Fun, family, food… presents.
Throughout my life, I’ve had a kind of love-hate relationship with Christmas. There have been years where I wished that I was completely on my own, so I could celebrate or not, exactly as I chose. There have been times when I just adored every aspect of the holiday, from crazed crowds out shopping to the sound of tearing paper as I exulted over what family members had given me and had the camera at the ready to capture expressions as they see what I’ve gotten them. I’ve run the gamut of every possible emotion on this holiday – which rather gives the lie to the beLIEf that I can’t feel. But there was always a mixture of lasting impressions.
This year’s been a little different.
First of all, I submitted three of my pictures to a stock site. For those who aren’t familiar, a royalty-free stock photo site allows people to pay a fee, download a photo once and then use it multiple times. The criteria for getting a photo accepted are pretty stiff. Since the last time I’d had photos rejected, I’d taken classes, read books, been out for hours with my camera taking pictures, studying the photos afterwards for what worked and what didn’t, combing the stock sites for the kind of pictures that get accepted so I’d have some guidelines for composition and subject. I learned how to use photo editing software to enhance and tweak a decent photo into a striking one. And when I submitted the photos I’d chosen, I sent them off with hope and confidence.
Then I started looking more closely at the photos I’d chosen. I starting finding little things wrong with each one. I started to think that two of the three would probably be rejected, and the third was maybe acceptable…
And then I remembered I was supposed to be developing and practicing a positivity bias – which tells you how recent this was. I mean seriously, in retrospect, just sending the photos in was a major achievement, after all the work and effort I put in, work and effort I wasn’t really consciously aware of as being the kind of work and effort that brings success – playing with the camera is fun, and I like taking classes, learning new things, gaining new skills. And it’s amazing what you can see through the lens of a camera if you’re looking.
So it wasn’t really work. It was just one step at a time, this is what I want, this is how I’m going to get there.
The day before Jerry and I left on our trip to see our eastern-seaboard family, I heard from the stock site: All three were accepted!!
But while I was waiting to hear back, waiting to start the trip east, waiting and anticipating the whole family being together for the first time in seven years, I did my Christmas shopping.
That particular task is not as easy as it might sound. Two brothers, two sisters, two parents; two brothers-in-law, one sister-in-law. four nieces, two nephews… and only in the case of my older brother Ted do I live close enough to him to be enough of a part in his life that I feel confident of getting him something he’s going to want and like.
I don’t mind getting gift cards. They’re useful, fun little things. But I really don’t like giving them. I feel that they’re a cop-out; that they’re taking the easy way out, instead of working hard enough to find something that will personally suit the receiver. Of course I asked other family members what who might like, but it’s all hit and miss until you see the expression and know you’ve got a winner. So I pulled the individual person into the forefront of my mind, and kept the Law of Giving in the back – it may be a compliment, a prayer, a trinket, a flower – and hot damn if I did not get a very sincere “Oh, wow – that’s GREAT” type of comment on every single gift.
Every. Single. Gift.
I can’t remember the last time that happened. And it isn’t as if my family don’t appreciate the thought that went into something, even if it is a little disappointing – there are always, always, thank yous and genuine gratitude… but this year I didn’t read that little hitch of momentary dismay in anyone’s face. And I’m sure that nobody read it on mine – today was perfect.
Which begs the question – did I hit the mark because of something I’m doing differently, or because I’m perceiving differently? Because today I was focused on what went right. Not a word of criticism out of my mouth, but there was plenty of praise. I slipped and offered a couple of opinions, but they were very mild, almost more suggestions than anything, and I didn’t defend them if someone else disagreed.
It kind of reminds me of how delicate a life’s history can be. One choice, one tiny shift in perception and therefore direction, and the entire day changes. And there were plenty of opportunities for me to choose otherwise.
See, one of the secret, gnawing worries that I’ve had has revolved around the Law of Giving and Receiving. We give without expectation of reciprocity because we are in the dynamic flow of giving and receiving. And yet, in the back of our mind is the conscious awareness of that flow. We can’t expect to get simply because we give, and yet we know we will, because we’ve been told that by natural law such a thing is inevitable, therefore we can expect reciprocity from the Universe even if not from the same individuals we give to, and how does that not logically skew the entire setup? And I’ve fretted that I’m not giving enough. That my ledger is out of balance. I don’t get out among people much during the normal course of things – which is just fine by me – so not a lot of opportunity to be of service except in writing articles for my website or taking stock photos for others’ use. Yet without being of service first, as in Earl Nightingale’s Strangest Secret, we will not participate fully in the Law of Giving and Receiving.
But, I reckon that’s a question for another day. For today was a perfect day. I chose my family’s gifts well. I helped with making the dinner, and cleaning up afterwards. Tonight, the Gal in the Mirror and I are very pleased with each other.
Time to celebrate success in my dreams, and let contentment flood my mysterious source that never sleeps.