We’re wrapping up another year as wrapping paper and greeting cards fly off the shelves and last-minute shoppers scramble to find those items that will spark joy in their loved ones.

It’s fortunate that we all have a little downtime, well, maybe with the possible exception of those who work in retail, hospitality, healthcare or other industries that can’t afford an outage, to sit back and reflect on 2018. Every year brings new people, emotions and material things into our lives and as quickly takes them away from us.

Last year after the holidays, I remember looking at the Christmas gifts I received from my loved ones and feeling sorry for myself like a spoiled child that none of the gifts given to me by my nearest and dearest reflected my true essence, that of a writer. I mean, couldn’t anyone have given me a fancy journal, or a writing course, or a book for God’s sakes?

I decided that day that I’d create stories with the gifts I was given to give back to my loved ones in the form of a book. I attempted to follow through with this but couldn’t. Some gifts just truly didn’t make sense and there was one experience voucher that we couldn’t fit into our year. Fortunately, we were able to get an extension on seeing this beautiful city of ours, Sydney, from a helicopter. In all honesty, can I do without it? Yes, but I can’t do without writing.

Three of the gifts inspired stories as they helped me reveal a little of life’s gold nuggets under all the dirt and rubble. The meaning I gave to these objects strengthened my relationship with the gift givermyself and my community.

This holiday season, I’m transformed. I’ve been writing on a regular basis for months now and have never felt so connected to myself, my friends, family and my community. When I’m filling out forms that ask for a profession I still hesitate a little but I write “writer”. I applied for a writer-in-residence program in my community and put my hand up to be a volunteer memoir writer to help patients in palliative care tell their stories.

All of this writing happened despite some major changes that rocked my life this year, most significantly, the arrival of our sweet little Zoe on November 27th. Our Lucy hit the terrible twos milestone in a fitting fashion with molar teeth arriving and stealing her and our sleep.

The writing remained. It kept me sane because if I can’t download my thoughts like I’m doing now, they only become poison. A creative practice, be it writing, cooking, painting, connecting with friends and family to tell one’s stories, is essential if one is to remain functional in the face of all that time brings and takes away from us.

This year I gave myself to my writing, the gift I wouldn’t accept for a long time, the gift that kept nagging me, making me uneasy and out of sync with the universe. Just to think, all this time I could’ve accepted it and done its maintenance and lived happily ever after.

But it never works out like that does it?

There will always be obstacles standing in the way to getting our writing done if you haven’t strengthened your practice so that it becomes an essential in your life. Once you make it a priority, it automatically becomes understood and respected by your loved ones and they help you create the time and space for you to do it.

That’s what I found.

My partner now understands when I say I need an hour to write. Happy wife, happy life, he gets it. Getting these ideas out of my head and onto the paper empties the stagnant water in my spiritual well and prevents it from becoming a poisonous cess pool. Once emptied out, my duty is to refill it with new ideas. If I don’t get the space to replenish my spiritual well, then my inner garden runs the risk of becoming an arid desert where no seeds of love can take hold and that causes some severe burns, so watch out.

This year, acknowledge your gift and create time to express it. Don’t get caught up in the stress of buying everyone presents out of duty and obligation. That’s a road to hell paved with good intentions and you’re wiser than that.

Thich Nhat Hanh says:

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

So What Does a Writer Want?

That’s easy…Present readers. What else?

Over to You…

What were some of the things you liked and disliked about your holidays last year?

How are you going to improve your holidays this year so you can give the gift of your presence to your loved ones?