I remember this day, more than two decades ago, I was in the 1st grade and my parents had organized a birthday party for me at Nahant Beach in Lynn, Massachusetts. The ocean really has always been my home…
Mom had invited the whole class (including my teacher and her hubby!). I was ecstatic, thinking alone about all the presents I was to receive. I mean, 24 students, 24 presents…. Holy smokes, I had never felt more special. My teacher, Mrs. D for short, was a talented sand castle sculpture artist and she and her husband had crafted the most magnificent sand castle birthday cake for me.
I remember thinking, “It was OK that I didn’t get to actually eat the cake, we were getting Hoodsie cups. But at least I was going to take home all those gifts, more than I’d ever received in all my 7 years…”
Until I heard that fateful line, “Catherine, we are going to do a white elephant gift exchange. There are no party favors, but every child will take home one gift. You don’t need all these toys!”
I was absolutely crushed. Heartbroken, in fact.
Funny thing is, I don’t have a great memory. Unlike my sister who remembers most of our childhood adventures AND mishaps, I never did. But that story is one of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong for a second, I have the most loving family whom I absolutely adore and esteem. I look forward to multiple vacations I am lucky enough to take with them every year.
But that event struck such a chord with me because receiving gifts (the small, thoughtful types of ones) have always been one of the primary ways I receive love. And don’t think for a second, I mean in the materialistic type of way… my brother gave me an abalone shell he found on a beach walk in New Zealand when he was visiting on an around-the-world trip, which is still one of my most treasured gifts.
But THIS is the greatest lesson I’ve learned this past year.
No one is more responsible for loving you than you are.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
I know, but stay with me for a moment.
Have you ever wondered why….
…. You consistently need to be right or get it right?
…. You apologize all the time, for lots of things, which have literally nothing to do with you?
… You tell your partner exactly what you need him to say or do when you get upset, and then when he isn’t a mind reader and doesn’t follow the secret rulebook made up and guarded with a key IN YOUR HEAD, you wonder if the two of you were every actually compatible and going to be able to make it work?
….You find it super hard NOT to say “I’m sorry” for most things, regardless of whether they actually had anything to do with you or not?
…You really truly struggle with what you want…and I mean really, truly deeply desire… because your automatic is to want to please other people and you’re simply that out-of-practice with your own wants that when you’re asked, you get stressed out?
… You never learned this short and one of the greatest time-saving sentences, “No”?
If there is one lesson I’ve learned this past year from my own experiences and from bearing witness to the experiences of my clients, is just how much we seek validation, approval, and in a nutshell, love, from others versus meeting those needs for ourselves.
Is this starting to resonate for you, yet?
What I’ve noticed is more and more places where this pattern shows up, in my life, and in the lives of every individual’s path I cross.
Marianne Williamson says it best: “Everything, everything, everything is either an act of love or a call for love.”
I can see so clearly now that my mother’s actions all those years ago to gift a gift to every child who was generous enough to attend my party was such a bold act of love. And for me, a call for love.
If I could give each one of you a gift for sharing in my birthday by reading this blog post, it is this…”No one can or shall ever be able to love you more than you love yourself.”
So go forth, practice, love hard and play hard!
Well, can’t you imagine the answer to that? I’m going to go buy myself that birthday dress I’ve been eyeing!
With love and lots of birthday cake,