One cold December night I hosted a Christmas party in Little Rock. One of my friends arrived at the door in a sweater. It was bitterly cold. I asked “it’s freezing outside, where is your coat?” She smiled and explained that she had three boys that needed clothes and shoes this year so she was going without a coat.
That year I was hanging out with a group of women that were into “stuff”. We would have lunch and we all oohed and aahed about new diamond tennis bracelets, or the new Mercedes. The love of friends and husbands was shown by gifts, and they had a hefty price tag.
I am ashamed to say I got caught up in that. I had a Christmas list that read like the Newman Marcus catalog.
I NEEDED that diamond bracelet. I NEEDED a Mercedes. I NEEDED a mink coat because the fox coat I had wasn’t what everyone else wore.
Yes, I really was that shallow.
My friend smiling, a genuine not self pitying smile, while she told me she could not afford a winter coat was like a slap in the face. I had a closet full of coats and I wasn’t satisfied.
She left that night with a warm coat. She left having given me the gift of being brought back to reality and understanding.
I’ve lived in a mobile home. I’ve lived in a 10,000 sq ft mansion. I’ve owned a 1964 Volkswagen that I had to push to start, and I’ve owned a Porsche and several BMW’S.
NONE OF THOSE THINGS MADE ME HAPPY. And none of those things are still in my life.
I was so driven with keeping up with my friends via material things that I blew right past what was important. I’ll chalk that up to being young. At least I learned.
I’m given precious gifts on a daily basis now.
I see the sunrise and sunsets in Colorado reflecting on my mountains four seasons a year.
I ride my heart horse with friends old and new on a perfect crisp fall day. I notice the sun sparkling on the water of the creek we cross, and I see the trout darting through the crystal clear water. I hear the laughter of my friends as they fight their way through the trees because I accidentally led them off the path. Hugs and smiles as we part at the end of the ride. What a gift.
I sit on my deck, bundled in a coat and blanket, drinking coffee with new friends from Germany. They are riveted by the night sky full of stars, which they haven’t seen in 20 years because of light pollution in their city. We gave them their first ride in a truck. Their first ride in a Wrangler. They were full of joy and awe as we drove Shelf Road through fall leaves as they stood in the back seat taking pictures. Peter and Magda popped into my life unexpectedly (thank you Helene) but I am so thankful for the gift of time spent with them.
My children are smart, funny, loving human beings that I am so proud of.
Not only does my husband love me, but we get to share our love for horses and riding. He puts up with impromptu dinner parties and social gatherings, and says “great!” when I tell him we have guest coming to stay with us. Some of the greatest gifts we have received have been getting to really know people when they stay with us.
Then there is my ‘Tribe”. There is something magical about finding those people that you really click with. There is a sense of belonging that comes with friends that “get you”. There is no negativity, no backbiting, no jealousy. Just love, support, acceptance and laughter. I had that in Little Rock through the martial arts. It wasn’t so easy to find after our move to Colorado but I sure have it now.
I don’t take these things for granted. I am so very aware of how short life is. I’ve lost friends this year to death, I’ve cried while reading about the loss of a child or a beloved pet. Sickness, hardship, death, hurt. All of those have been in my past. Many will be in my future.
Being aware of all my gifts, appreciating them, gives me the strength to get through those tough times.
We went to a Jason Isbell concert at Red Rocks a few weeks ago. Talk about a gift to really savor, sitting in that venue on a perfect Colorado night is about as good as it gets. When he played one of my favorite songs that includes these words:
Are you living the life you chose?
Or are you living the life that chose you?
I smiled through tears.
I’m living the life I choose.