A friend of mine's youngest son is at that stage in school where they are learning about words: synonyms, antonyms, and homophones, oh! and onomatopoeias and the ever popular palindrome. [I actually couldn't remember exactly what a palindrome was until he gave me an example: racecar] and, it brought me back to being 6, almost 7, when fun with words, was truly and amazingly and totally Fun [with a capital F].
When I saw him last week, we discussed the importance and relevance of pretty vs. beautiful, fat vs. thin, and then went on to such topics as pair, pare and pear*, and words like tweet, bang and whoosh, and back to racecar a bunch of times (he is a boy, after all).
I remembered that homophones were my absolute favourite as a kid, and then as trains of thought go [or should I say, as my often meandering trains of thought go], I got to thinking about this time of year, and the stress that can come up around picking out or making that perfect present for that special someone. How so much meaning and energy and importance is often placed on this gift that will be given to that someone, and the hope that this gift will say so many of the things that want to be said to and about this person, this giftee.
Feelings like: How much this person is loved, or valued, or counted on. Confusing emotions like: I am not sure how I feel about this person right now, but I want them to feel special because it is the holidays. And then the oft-felt: I have to get present(s) because it is expected, or because they will likely get me something, and I have to have something for them. So much can be tied up in a package . . .
Presents Mosaic - see details on Flickr
When I think about all my various and different relationships with friends and family, I think about our moments together. I think about time spent together: communicating, experiencing, relating, sharing thoughts and feelings. It is the moments that we are present for each other that can mean so much more to me than that gift wrapped something. Though, I will say parenthetically, that presents given and received can also be wonderful surprises, full of beautiful heartfelt giving, and are certainly valued, i.e: I have never turned a present down.
But it's presence of mind, staying present in a moment, listening with my full self to that person that means so much to me, and feeling that I am heard when I need to say my piece. The true miracle of sharing a light hearted or laughter-filled moment with one person, or a group of people, and re-living that moment, those moments, during other harder or more difficult times. Those times when deep truths are told and heard, when it feels like time spent with someone I care about - deep in conversation - actually feels like some hurt has been healed, some confusion totally cleared up, or some twisty issue has been straightened out.
Presence Mosaic - see details on Flickr
Being there for each other and with each other. How much value can be put on that? Sometimes it might feel easier to give a present to someone, instead of our time and our attention, but which is worth more to us? For me, I think it's the time we give to each other, the attention to the details in the lives of those we love, our practice of listening and speaking up, holding a hand in need, being free with our hugs, and looking deep into anothers eyes, saying loud and clear: I am here, you are here, and isn't it amazing and wonderful that we are here together, in this moment.
So, in the spirit of my favourite homophone* "pair, pear and pare", this holiday season, I am thinking about presence and presents, and trying to remember that more often than not, the giving is in the acknowledging of our presence in each others lives, our connections to each other, our care for each other, and the endless gifts we receive through that presence.
May your holidays be filled with the presence of those you love and care for . . . and may abundant flowers bloom for you all!
The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. - Thich Nhat Hanh