I ordered Mary’s Winter Solstice gift two weeks ago. It arrived last Monday. I checked it over and it looked good – quality – exactly what I wanted it to be. Winter Solstice wasn’t until Wednesday, so I put it in my room to wrap later.
And forgot about it.
Monday evening, I see the box in my room but make no connection with needing to do anything with it.
Tuesday passes, and the same thing happens. I have Mary’s gift! To my mind, that is a task completed.
Wednesday arrives, and it is Winter Solstice. All day. We spend all evening together. No present thoughts cross my mind. Mary and I don’t have gift requirements in our relationship (except for her birthday – never forget it!). Certainly not for the longest night of the year, when one should be snuggling down under blankets and lighting candles to symbolize the returning of the light.
It isn’t until late that Wednesday night that I remember the gift, again. Mary already went to bed, so I guess she won’t be getting the present on Winter Solstice. Damn.
But, for the moment, I do remember the present and I realize it needs to be wrapped. That’s when I run into a roadblock. Because, unusually, this year we sent out a few gifts. Wrapped gifts. That used up the last of the wrapping paper I bought… three or four years ago? And the last of Mary’s stash of tissue paper. And still I had to wrap my father’s gift in newspaper (he’s not the type to mind).
Through this whole wrapping process, at no time did it cross my mind that it might be a problem for me since – duh – I had a present to wrap too. Not one moment of concern. Now, Wednesday evening, I was faced with the reality of that lack of wrapping resources.
I could put it in the box it came from. Naah. Not pretty enough. Or I could wrap it with newspaper. Too much like my father. It’s too late to pop out to the store and get new wrapping paper. And if I wait until tomorrow, I might forget about the present again. Hmmm… I scour the house. No, no paper bags. Hmmm… a cherrio box! I start bending it into a kind of wrapping situation… wait, how is this better than a cardboard box? It isn’t. Hmmmm…
Finally, I hit upon a solution. Earlier that day, I had emptied a 5 lb bag of flour into a plastic container. That might work. I dig through the recycling bin and find the wrapper, and turn it inside out. Excellent! The paper is white and thick enough that you can’t see the King Arther Flour markings. Good enough in a pinch… at least not visually offensive.
I quickly wrap my gift. I debate briefly about putting it out for Mary to find Thursday, but it isn’t a nice enough wrapping job for her to dwell on it, so I place it back in my room to grab at the right moment. And forget about it. All Thursday passes, all evening together, and not one moment where I remember the gift I want to give her. When I go into my room to do puzzles before bed, I discover it waiting for me. Dammit. Will I ever give Mary this gift!?!
Finally, I wake with the dawn Friday morning – two days after solstice – and remember the gift by some miracle. Should I go downstairs as she gets ready in the morning and give it to her? It is a risk. Usually, she likes space in the morning as she gets ready and gets extremely cranky when she doesn’t get it. On the other hand, I do have a present to give her which likely will put her in a positive space. I decide to live dangerously and roll myself down the stairs.
I grab the gift from my room and give it to her. The flour bag wrapping passes muster. Good. She opens it, and sees the two-cup stainless steel stovetop espresso maker I got her.
She likes it… and doesn’t like it. I can tell. It’s a combination of her facial expression not being quite full of joy, and a feeling of her energy staying flat instead of surging. If I was a bit more oblivious as a person, or if I had been socialized as a man, it would have been easy to miss. But I’m not, and I wasn’t… so there it is.
Four years ago, pre-injury, I would have been hurt, deeply wounded that she didn’t like my gift. Maybe for months. Any time I thought about her not liking the gift, I’d feel bruised again.
A few years ago, post-injury, I would of felt hopeless, sad, and worthless. My fragile ego would have crumbled, I would have quickly devolved into tears and felt like the world was ending.
Now, my response is different… because I have evolved and healed. During these last six months off, full of rest and healthy choices, my base identity has stabilized and become stronger than it has been in a long time. I am more centered in myself.
This stability has allowed me to regain that essential ability for dealing honestly with other people – not to take things personally. Mary is being honest, not attacking or insulting. My understanding of the world has grown so that my partner not liking a gift I give her is not a rejection of me as a person.
Our years together have also taught me that Mary and I are very different. How we experience the world is very different. So, instead of jumping to the idea that she doesn’t like my gift, there is room in my reality to know that something might be off about the gift that isn’t immediately apparent to me.
Conversation ensues. Like a good gift-receiver, she insists she’s happy with the gift. That she will like using it. That I don’t need to do anything. I push, because I do want to get her something she wants to use every day. Eventually, we get down to the truth.
It’s the shape. Really. That is what is the matter. It is not as pleasing as the traditional Italian espresso maker shape.
Why am I getting her an espresso maker when she already has one, you ask? Having her boil an acidic liquid in a $5 aluminum alloy pot on a daily basis doesn’t suit my sense of safety. I picked her out a similar sized stainless steel pot so she can have her coffee but not expose herself to aluminum flakes in each cup.
Years ago, I would have been angered by her placing so much value on how something looks. It makes absolutely no sense to me based on my worldview. Now, I can just accept that she’s different, and move one. Accepting Mary, different perceptions and all, is part of loving her.
My brain injury has been very similar. I use to rage against it, to be angry at it. Push it to be something other than what it is. And now I don’t. I just accept it, and move on. In both cases, acceptance has made my life a lot more peaceful and allowed space for love.
What, accept your brain injury? Isn’t that the same as giving up? No. Not really. Although my brain injury at one point might have been something that happened to me or that was caused by a particular action, now it’s just me. It is just part of who I am. Getting upset or angry at my limitations is the same as getting angry at myself for being who I am. It doesn’t make sense. Why not just provide myself the same acceptance that I extend to the woman I love? Why not just say – hey, I don’t understand these parts of me all the time, but I accept them. They are part of who I am.
The eventual outcome of my gift has yet to be determined. I researched those little espresso pots online and they aren’t made in stainless steel in the traditional shape. I offered to pack it away and give it as an (excellent) gift to someone else. Then Mary decided to gave it a try and it warped on the stove… only to unwarp when it cooled. She compared the size of the coffee compartments, and the new one is much smaller. We decided to donate it to the Syrian refugees coming to Rutland, VT in the next few weeks, so I cleaned it up properly and reboxed it. Then she said she wanted to poke at it some more and experiment. Regardless of the eventual home of my gift, I know it will be used and useful. Rather like me. What more could a item want?