In journaling/writing/ thank you/more please/ try this at home

best gift ever

Forty-ish years ago, someone gave me my first diary.

My mom converted to Judaism when she married my dad – and we didn’t do Christmas in our house – but both my folks wanted to make sure her parents didn’t miss out on including their grand-kids in their traditions, so we’d go visit them in order to join in on “Gam” and “Pop Pop”s Christmas celebrations. That’s where I learned to love Bing Crosby’s Christmas Album, sugar cookies shaped like Santa, and the lights and sparklies on the tree.

It’s also where I got my first diary.

I don’t remember who gave it to me … my first entry went on and on about the awesome hat that my Aunt Betsy crocheted for me (“just like ali mcgraw’s in love story!!!!!”) (and yes, there were 5 exclamation marks), but there was no mention of who gave me that gift that has kept on giving for soooo many years.

Whoever it was, I’m insanely grateful that someone thought that this almost-twelve-year-old chatterbox had tons to say, and would embrace this gift like no other.

And my wish for you during this holiday season/year-end count-down: health, compassion for yourself and others, time with people you love, and time to journal.

Try this at home: Write about one of the best gifts you ever received.

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  • Sandi
    December 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a full set of the Little House books, including the song book. I still have them tucked away in a box of beloved childhood things. Memories of the never ending cold of the The Long Winter and Laura and Almonzo’s love story from These Happy Golden Years are still so alive in my memory. It may be time to reread!

    • Deb Cooperman
      December 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Methinks that re-reading old childhood books is a gift too. Actually, re-reading any old favorite book; kind of like visiting with an old friend.

  • Jenipher
    December 26, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    The best gift i’ve ever gotten was a do-over. I was stuck, depressed, and super sick when i lived in Orlando. I barely left my house, EVER. And just the thought of even leaving the house paralyzed me with anxiety.

    When i started dating Boy there was no way to make our relationship work if i didn’t move to NY. He had a full time job, and i was unemployed with a business that wasn’t thriving.

    I knew we were meant for each other, but we were TERRIBLE at long distance… and i knew the only way to make 100% sure it would work out long term is if i moved… so i packed up some belongings, and my cat, and moved in with him [and his 4 … rude…roommates in a three bedroom 1 bathroom apt]

    This was the HARDEST 8 months of my life; but i couldn’t find a place to live that didn’t have crazy folks, or in my price range. Anyways, we moved into a new place by ourselves after those 8 months, and b/c of that time, i think we can handle conflict MUCH better than if we didn’t suffer during those times! Now we’re married, and i feel SO SO grateful.

    I don’t know if this can compare to a diary seeing as it’s not a tangible ‘thing’ but it was seriously the best gift i ever could have asked for. I don’t live DEEP DEEP in that depression anymore, and i don’t feel like anything is missing anymore!! And.. NY is just SO FREAKING AWESOME. 🙂

    • Deb Cooperman
      December 27, 2013 at 8:35 am

      A gift is a gift is a gift. (did i say tangible?) 😉

      I’m so glad you moved to NY too, Jenipher!

  • ANewMeme
    December 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I’m looking at this Throw-Down as an opportunity to write about choices.

    I’ve struggled for a long time with various demons—depression, anxiety, insecurity, self-imposed limits—and in attempt to escape those demons, I’ve often made choices that aren’t/weren’t good for my physical or emotional health—or my work or my family.

    These choices provided a quick fix—a way to get myself going and motivated. But in making these choices, I’ve leaned over the railing, attempting to see how far I could go without actually falling. The funny thing is, I didn’t always realize just how far I was going. I said, funny; I should have said, scary.

    One of the interesting things about living with depression and anxiety is that you can fall victim to the label of the condition. What do I mean by that? It’s hard for me to express, but it has a lot to do with how one chooses to see the world—as a depressed/anxious person or as a person who has depression and anxiety. There’s a difference, I think.

    As part of my work, I see a lot of people who have many different physical and emotional diseases/conditions. Unfortunately, many of them have chosen to let their physical or emotional condition define who they are. Oftentimes, they’re in denial, blaming their circumstances on their family history or genetics or, in some cases, believing that they’re being punished by God or some other force for some transgression.

    On the other hand, there are many who have chosen to look at their disease or condition in a different way. It’s not like they’ve become friends with, or completely accepted their physical or emotional state, but their attitudes are different. They’ve learned how to live with, rather than be consumed by, the circumstances of their lives. They have made specific choices. They do the tough stuff. They exercise, they eat right, they take their prescribed medications, they go to their physicians for regular checkups, they read, they stay informed, they take active control of and participate in their treatment.

    Oh sure, none of them is perfect—none of us human beings could ever hope to be. But they’re trying.

    I am torn between compassion for and – honestly, sometimes – dislike for people who don’t take active control, who don’t make those good choices. (Perhaps they remind me too much of myself.) Of course, there are many conditions— schizophrenia and cancer come to mind, easily – where people have fewer choices, if any, at all.

    But I’m straying from where I started. I tend to be a live-in-the moment kind of person, motivated more by short-term, than long-term gratification. I’m impatient with waiting, with not moving, with being a passive recipient of a TV show about nothing. (Can I just say how much I hate reality TV?) I need to be doing something. But this need to do, to move, to live in the moment, is at odds with setting long-term, meaningful goals. I’m not talking about losing weight or exercising or quitting smoking—those things I’ve done—and I’m damn proud of myself for having done them. But again, I digress.

    I’m talking about the big life choices that I’m facing. I could continue to do the same old, same old, and be bored out of my mind for the next nine years until I have enough money saved to retire. But what a future to contemplate that is–not! I trade the boredom of sitting at a desk for the boredom of sitting on a chaise lounge? Sorry, I can’t seem to see the positives that might have accrued once I retire. My mind is bogged down in the very here and now, which is part of the problem, I think. Lack of imagination, the inability to envision a different set of circumstances is part and parcel of this funk I’m in—and therefore, comes my flirtation with the short-term dopamine fixes. (Sometimes, I think I need a dopamine receptor transplant—you know, like, “Hair for Men” but for brains.)

    I need to find the way out my hibernaculum.

    One more little digression, because, well, this is an important part of my story, and one that perhaps in writing about will get me motivated enough today to get off my bed and out of my red footie pajamas and thinking and planning and imagining. Or at least starting the process.

    After my second child was born, I had my next and even more potent taste of post-partum depression, but this time with a side of anxiety. To borrow someone else’s metaphor, I was coming apart and I was fresh out of glue.

    My sanity lay in my evening ritual of reading to my then-five-year old son. We read lots of stories every night—it was calming and connecting for both of us—but the one story that stands out in my mind is “The Little Engine That Could.” Yes, I know this sounds so trite, but it is so real and true for me. I held onto those words, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can,” like a person clinging to a tree branch in the middle of a flooded, raging river. And I still do.

    So, what does this all have to do with making choices? I don’t know exactly, except that this living thing we do is made up of a lot of little and not so little choices. I can blame the depression and anxiety for my woes, and lie cowering underneath them. Or, I can accept that they’re there; they’re not going away–but they don’t have the right or the ability to tell me how to live my life. They’re a little like taxes. You know you have to deal with them, but you file your tax returns, you pay what you need to, and life goes on.

    The process of making choices to create change is not linear. All I can do now is to try like hell to make better choices that keep me away from the railing. Oh, trust me, that railing will be always be there. But I don’t want to fall. I have a hell of a lot of living to do still.

    • Deb Cooperman
      December 28, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      I’m really, really glad you chose to write about it all. And share it.

      (regularly leaning into writing can definitely help with that railing leaning …) (well, i would say that.) xo