December 22, 2009


With apologies to B.W.

I have as a friend one of those people who has such great reserves of inner peace and patience that it drives the rest of us crazy. She's the sort who, when you wander over to her house unexpectedly in the middle of the day, always has interesting tea to serve, is baking something marvelous, and who arranges flowers for fun. She dresses impeccably, is gorgeous and slender at sixty (and looks a good twenty years younger than she is), and never gets angry or upset.

In short, she's the sort of person you love, envy, and resent all at once.

We were talking the other day, and I asked her about New Year's resolutions, She didn't strike me as the sort of person who made them, and I was right in that suspicion. "Resolutions?" she laughed, as we sat over a pot of green tea with paper-thin slices of lemon floating in it, "I never make resolutions. I have something different that I do."

"What's that?" I asked.

She leaned across the table and said: "I give gifts to myself."

That hit me like the proverbial thunderbolt.

When she quit smoking, she did it at the New Year, but she made it a gift to herself, as in, "I will give myself the gift of clean hair and clean lungs this year, starting now."

When she decided to save money to buy a house, she decided to give herself the gift of enough savings to make a substantial down payment so that she'd have a warm, comforting place in which to entertain her friends and live her life.

Think about it: We all make New Year's resolutions, and we mostly make them about things we'd like to accomplish but think will be at least slightly unpleasant to do--like losing weight, running a mile in under eight minutes, or finally keeping the car clean. The word itself, resolution, implies that what we're undertaking will be difficult or fraught with setbacks. It's a flinty and stalwart word that makes you straighten your spine and set your teeth. My pal doesn't roll that way.

Instead, she looks at the end result and calls it a gift. To herself. Which blows my mind.

If you look at your goal as a gift, the process of reaching it suddenly becomes much less complicated. The guilt over bobbles on the road to getting there disappears, the goal is cast in a much more positive light. Rather than being a resolution, or something you have to do, it becomes, well, a gift: something you give yourself because you love yourself.

Again, think about it: we all give gifts to other people, all year long. Some of them are material, like the birthday present that you know will interest and excite the person you give it to. Some are non-material, like the shoulder to lean on or the listening ear. You give these gifts, material or not, because you love the person who's getting them and you want to make them happy, or share something that you like with them, or show them how special they are to you.

Yet when it comes to *us*, to that amazing creature that lives in this skin, we set down a list of must-dos, should-dos, and can't-dos. Instead of loving ourselves as much as we love our best friend (or even our not-so-close friends), we treat ourselves like recalcitrant six-year-olds who need a daily checklist and reminder chart of how to behave.

Screw that, I say. This year, I hereby resolve to treat my goals as gifts to myself. If I don't achieve all of them, what's the difference? The beauty of looking at a big goal and saying "This is my gorgeously-wrapped, priceless present for *me*" is that that present is made up of other tiny, precious presents--smaller gifts inside one big box. Even if I don't get the big box, as it were, I'll be getting the stocking stuffers--and those stocking stuffers can be just as valuable as the big present under the tree, to push a metaphor to the breaking point.

I'm off to work up a list of gifts. What's on your want list?


  1. I love your friends way of viewing the world.

    on the very very top of my gift errr want errrm whatevs list?

    Starting and finishing a picture book for my daughter.

    and then gifting it to her.

    please to hold me accountable.

  2. Looking at it as a gift is a great way to do it.
    I hadn't planned on any resolutions as yet. Now that they are gifts, it might be easier to settle on something.

  3. love the idea of gifts instead of resolutions!! I'm going to gift baby #2 with fresh air and gift me with clean hair by not smoking anymore :)

    please don't give me too much crap - i just found out!

  4. I don't "do" New Years resolutions (why not start now?) but what a fantastic way of looking at life.

  5. Your friend sounds like one very cool lady. I love that way of thinking about resolutions as gifts.

    When my first child was born, going to the gym and getting out of the house was my gift to myself after a long day of diapers and breast feeding. I think I lost that as my children grew.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Love this idea! I'm going to gift myself fitting back into the clothes I love instead of my "fat" clothes.

  7. Awesome outlook. I will be "gifting" myself a new healthier, fitter, longer life!

  8. GREAT POST and what a fantastic idea!!!! I don't do new year's resolutions but I do set out some challenges for myself that are not set in stone... they move with the wind. BUT I like this! Gonna do it!!!!

  9. Love this!
    I haven't done resolutions for some time now. But running is the gift I give myself....then there are the cute running clothes...

  10. LOVE THIS POST! Yes, gifts! I just posted last night my wants and don't wants for the year via Santa and the Grinch! Now, I will just add the mental spin that they are gifts to me.

  11. This friend sounds kind of awesome. This is the first year that I'm making a resolution. Maybe I'll add some gifts to that. I like the home idea: I'll give myself savings to put toward a down payment. That sounds a lot better than saying I'll scrimp and save till have have enough to buy a house. Thanks!

  12. Your friend is truly an amazing person. I was blown away by her way of looking at changes she wishes to achieve in her life. As for me, I think I'll adopt her way of looking at life. It's so much more positive. I can't wait to make a list of gifts for myself.


  13. That's a beautiful idea, I'm going to steal it!

  14. I totally love it. No resolutions this year, only gifts.

    I'm giving myself a trip.
    I'm giving myself diamonds.
    I'm giving myself that Mercedes...

    Nah. I think I'll give myself The Shred Level 3. I'll give myself the ability to run that mile. I'll give myself a pair of size 14 jeans. Maybe 12! :) I'll give mysefl some abs of steel.

  15. I. Loved. This. Post.

    I am always at myself with the "shoulds" which doesn't seem to work all that well as a motivational system.

    This is WAY better.

  16. What a fantastic idea!

    I tend to think of myself as a pretty positive, upbeat person, but all the same I can overload myself with the "shoulds." As a wise person once said to me, "Don't 'should' on yourself!" And he was right!

    This is a great way to add more positive thinking to your life, and to put a pleasant and healthy spin on goals which may seem overwhelming when they're something we "should" do.

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

  17. That's a good way to look at it -- rather than my usual way of seeing self-gifts as being more along the lines of instant gratification. (I want patience and I want it right now!)

  18. Awesome post!! Your friend sounds very wise. (I'm going to gift myself tighter abs :)

  19. Beautiful post. I like the way your friend rolls and that's probably why she's so relaxed and looks good.

    As for me, I'm going to give myself the gift of compassion since I'm so hard on myself most of the time.

  20. Simply wonderful! This year I will gift myself with more energy and better sleep.

  21. Excellent outlook, that dear friend of yours.

    I will gift myself the time I need to workout and get fit *without* feeling guilty/selfish. I am just as much of a priority as the rest of my family. Would someone tattoo that on my forehead? *sigh*

  22. What a lovely you've got me thinking!

  23. Your friend sounds like Miss B at a church I used to attend. We always said she was so perfect that if we weren't all Christians, we would have to hate her!

    She is right, though, we should give ourselves the gifts of making things better for ourselves.

    Not sure what I will do with this one yet, though.

  24. Your friend sounds insanely wise! I'd like to give myself the gift of movement this year.

  25. This is wonderful!

    Early in January I am starting classes for what will hopefully be a new career, one that I have wanted for a long time but never really had the guts to pursue.
    Hubby is doing the same: the next year or so will be very busy for us both, and challenging, as well. I want to dive us both the gift of pursuing our new paths, whatever it takes.

  26. Oh, and CONGRATS, LILLIAN'S MOM!!!!!

  27. Great way to look at it....hmmm now I'm off to think of the gifts I'm going to give myself this coming year.

  28. This post was a gift to us - in learning about your friend's practices and your own musings on why we shouldn't waste time treating ourselves like kids being punished. In 2010, my gift to myself is the joy from a national book contract that will help others change their lives. Oh, and a trip to the UK with my boyfriend would be cool too.

  29. She is one heck of a smart lady! I have been trying to alter my mindset and look at it all that way too... definitely helps with warding off the Christmas goodies when you remember that good nutrition is a gift to yourself.

  30. I love this post! How differently people view the world amazes me. My gift: make my body healthier by running 6 days a week.
    And the picture at the top.... Calvin and Hobbes, best comic ever. (I never have really outgrown comics :))

  31. OMG. How did you find a real life TV character friend?
    How often have you watched a show and the detectives (or whomever) show up unannounced at some womans house and she is fully dressed, wearing full make-up, has an immaculate house, AND has a full tea set where she kindly offers rudely arriving unannounced guests tea and crumpets?
    I have to throw on a sweatshirt if the UPS guy shows up because I'm not wearing a bra. Sometimes I wonder if I would admit firemen inside if my house were burning. A full tea set? I'm not sure I could offer you a drink in a clean glass!

    Oh yeah, good true. I'm still reeling from the thought of your TV friend.

    And btw, I'm not a pig, we've been remodeling since Noah was born.

    What the hell is a crumpet anyway?

  32. WHY am I crying over this post? Amazing, and you have a wonderful way of telling a story. I LOVE this way of thinking, and that's one of my gifts to myself - positive attitude about myself and the "world" in general. Lovely, lovely post thanks for sharing!!

  33. This is a fabulous idea and the timing of it for me is "spot on"; it is a wonderful way of looking at things.

  34. I absolutely love this post! The gift I'm giving myself this year is a deeper relationship with my friends!

  35. Wow. What a beautiful post.
    It takes three steps back and helps us see what we are really working towards. happy and healthy. The best gift I could give myself. Happily it is a gift that is easily shared with the people around me.
    Thanks. This made my day/month/year.

  36. What an excellent idea! I, too would like to give myself the gift of clean lungs, fresh air, non-smoky hair/lifestyle. I really love my gift of exercise that I gave myself a while back. And the gift of feeding myself with foods that I enjoy, and make me healthy.

    I hope to gift myself a job, so I can continue the pleasure of living indoors.

  37. Hi,
    U have a nice post!
    It is so interesting and realistic !
    I got many good info from it. I will share this link to friends.
    Thanks for sharing !

  38. This fits. I just gifted myself 12 sessions with a personal trainer. I want to be stronger and fitter and I'm giving myself the tools to do that. I had been feeling a little guilty about the cost, but no so much now!

  39. Thank you, as always, for posting such an inspirational and eloquently stated entry. What a refreshing way to approach the new year.

    Since I usually only do half-hearted resolutions, it is now time to think about the gifts that I will truly be giving myself this year.

    I look forward to following your blog in 2010.


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