My birthday arrives a few days after the new year, extending the season of opening presents a bit beyond what’s usual for most families. When I was a child, it was a challenge for people to find anything for me that hadn’t already appeared under the Christmas tree or hadn’t already disappeared from store shelves. With the advent of online shopping and dependable delivery, the technical difficulties have lessened. I don’t  know that it’s any easier to overcome the post-Christmas gift selecting fatigue, though. It’s why I’m impressed with the creativity and energy that goes into my birthday every year. This year was no exception. It’s not so much the gifts per se, as it is the world-expanding nature of each one – either something to deepen my own inner spiritual journey or something that reveals the mystery and wonder of the world that surrounds me…

Tickets to a local movie theater and musical theater in Boston plunge me into the arts, giving me a glimpse into how someone else sees the world.

Books, books, books. Some I asked for, and surprisingly wonderful ones I didn’t. A grieving widower irritated by his neighbors enough to begin living again (A Man Called Ove), Malala’s story in words and pictures (For the Right to Learn), two spiritual gurus in conversation (The Book of Joy) and a cynically humorous take on work and life, and a daily reading of ancient philosophy (The Daily Stoic).

A collection of things to help me find joy in every day, including scratch-a-mandala papers for use as a meditation. A hand towel that makes a usually thoughtless action an act of remembrance and thanks.

Gift cards and money, providing an opportunity for me to enjoy a walk around a lovely New England town and a chance to catch a glimpse into the heart and mind of my son over lunch – and enough to do the same with my other son sometime soon.

Cards with beautiful images and words, bearing the writing of beloved friends and relatives.

But it’s not really about the gifts; it’s about the love that binds me to their givers. To be in this world with them is an immeasurable blessing and an honor that humbles me. They are precious gifts to me and to the world. I am so grateful.

Happy, Pharrell Williams ( Despicable Me 2, 2013; Girl, Circle House Studios, Florida, Back Lot Music, Released November 21, 2013) Purchased on iTunes

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