The Perfect Gift

“I got a buddy; he’s a chiropractor. His business triples around the holidays. You know why? Neck injuries. People like to take stock at the holidays. They look around. They see what they’ve got and what they’re missing. All that craning…what they get is a sore neck. You want to be happy? Don’t look around. Happiness can be found in one word: Denial!” -Fishism

In college, I was a big fan of the television show, Ally McBeal. I related to the main character’s perpetual awkwardness and unending quest for love. She worked in a socially progressive law firm that was run by a partner that created these totally absurd life mantras (i.e. Fishisms) that ring a little too true for most people, myself included.

I’m at home sick today, and I’m binge watching Ally McBeal on Netflix. This “Fishism” stood out to me. It’s the first week of February, and my mind is already set on the 14th. Valentine’s Day! Is yours?

For the first six years of our marriage, Chris would buy me really nice gifts for Valentine’s Day. Little blue boxes with white satin ribbons, designer clothes, and expensive accessories filled my closet. I always looked forward to the gifts that I would receive from him. I would post pictures of our day on social media and flaunt my newest “thing” in front of all of my friends. It was my personal form of denial.

I took comfort in the “things” of our relationship and not in the relationship itself. I knew that if I looked past the things, there wasn’t going to be much there. So onward I marched down the path of denial. When our marriage, and my husband, started to change so did the gifts I received.

Gone were the days of gifts from earmarked pages of fashion magazines and Tiffany catalogs. In their place, I started to receive letters. Hand-written letters. Words. Words that expressed gratitude, appreciation, affection, desire, and that four-letter word that we all long for…LOVE! That is the real reason why people love, and hate, Valentine’s Day. We all want to be loved, and Valentine’s Day has a way of highlighting the abundance, or lack, of love in our lives.

On Monday, I came home to find a little slip of paper on the counter. It was dated Feb. 1 and addressed to me. The crooked sentences written in blue ink on soft ivory paper that promised 13 more letters leading up to Valentine’s Day were the perfect gifts to make me feel loved.

Each of the three letters I’ve received so far gives me a small glimpse of how my husband views me. Sentences like: “You’re a good mom; I’m lucky to have you; I’ll never regret the day I married you; and Thank you for being you” make me feel the abundance of love. And there are others I’ll store in my heart forever. These gifts are more than enough, more than I ever dreamed of receiving from my husband.

And then I start craning my neck (or my pointer finger on the mouse), taking stock of what others have. You see, even the perfect gift, seems “less than” when we start comparing it to someone else’s. Marriage is the same way. No marriage is perfect, not even the ones that seem that way on facebook. Every marriage has strengths and weaknesses, and there are a lot of men and women out there following the same path of denial in their marriages that I traveled down.

If you are always taking stock of other marriages and not your own, you’re never going to be happy with what you have. Stop craning your neck! Take stock of your own marriage, even if it means that you find a lack of love instead of an abundance. Waking up to the lack of love may be exactly what your marriage needs in order to find a way to add it back in. Don’t get distracted by craning your neck, and certainly don’t settle for denial as happiness.

As Valentine’s Day approaches quickly, I am challenging myself to look straight ahead at my husband. To the deep calluses on his hands from hard work. To the grey hair that symbolizes the hardship we’ve survived. To the tenderness on his face as he tucks our boys in bed. To the wrinkles that form at the corners of his eyes as he smiles at me when I walk in the door. To the letters that I’ll find on the kitchen counter each day leading up to Valentine’s Day that really are the perfect Valentine’s gifts for me.

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