There are infinite ways to show our love and gratitude, with spending money on (or making something for) another as just one possibility.
Giving and receiving gifts can be magical. It can be a way to express that we truly see someone or it can show our support for a business or artist we love. The right gift, for the right person, at the right time is wonderful.
If you’re giving gifts this year and seeking inspiration, I’ve pulled together a few of my favorites…
1. Maria Schoettler’s 2013 ‘Eat Local’ Calendar. Been my go-to calendar going on three years. Stunning.
2. The Seven-Year Pen. Yes, this pen lasts seven years. If you don’t lose it along the way, it writes beautifully and is a great deal. Love mine.
3. Mati Rose’s “There is nothing wrong with you” print. Mine hangs happily in my kitchen. A great reminder.
4. 80 Acres Verde scented body care. From the body butter to the scented candles, this is hands down my favorite smell these days.
5. American Apparel jersey chemise. I wear one of these almost every day. It’s the ultimate layering tank if, like me, you or your gift recipient like ’em long.
6. Pinhole Press personalized memory game. My niece or nephew (due this spring!) may not be able to play this game for a good while, but it caught my eye as a great kid gift and it’s no a stretch of the imagination to envision playing it myself.
7. Vanessa Barrington’s DIY Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch. If you’re wanting to make a homemade edible gift this year, Vanessa’s book is your go-to bible. I love every recipe in it and the gorgeous photos from Sara Remington don’t hurt.
8. Native Seeds/SEARCH’s heirloom beans. Santa brings me these beans every year, right before I go through last year’s stash. They are gorgeous, flavorful, versatile, and nourishing. Terrific hostess gift.
9. Ilia lipstick and tinted lip conditioners. On my wish list. Highly recommended by some of my most respected and lip-hip lady friends.
10. A homemade surprise ball. I was gifted one of these for my birthday this year and it was the most fun present to unwrap, ever.
11. Mt. Washington Pottery bells. My dear friend Beth is an extraordinarily talented potter and lately she’s been making these beautiful bells. Love mine. Perfect gift for the home.
12. The Porridge Manifesto. In this, my first book, I share my philosophy of creating a delicious life by starting with breakfast. It’s perfect for anyone who loves porridge or is looking to shake up their breakfast routine.
When I run into people I haven’t seen in a while they often remark that while I am still myself, I’m so much more relaxed and at ease than they recall. That’s because for much of my life I lived with a base level of anxiety and for me that manifested as: vague constant dis-ease/worry, insomnia, sporadic panic attacks, being overly controlling of others (as a means to soothe myself), and an eating disorder (also to soothe myself). While I had all these symptoms, I was entirely functional – able to hold down a good job, earn my masters degree, and have close and healthy friendships. And while my anxiety was somewhat normal if you looked at TV or movies, it was also exhausting.
So how did I get to today where life feels pretty easy, I’m at home in my own skin – even when life is hard, and to a place where very little overwhelms me?
I sewed a patchwork quilt. One square at a time of information, experience, aides, and awareness. Each person’s path out of chronic anxiety (or depression) is unique and there ought not be any judgement about one’s choices on the journey. No one road works for all and what matters is that quilt square come together to forms something that works.
I released any shame I had about mental illness. (See Brene Brown’s work on shame).
I worked with some talented and wise psychotherapist that felt great to be in the room with.
I attended a 10-month Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills group. I seriously think the DBT skills should be a mandatory part of public education.
I practiced and pondered mindfulness. I found sitting groups. I read. I got quiet.
I practiced and pondered compassion and loving-kindness. Again, I found sitting groups. I read. I got quiet.
I connected. I stopped isolating myself with the idea that I couldn’t show others that I was struggling. I reached out. I was real with others. I stopped creating a life where I only let my flaws hang out when I was alone. I stopped pretending like I had it all together, because I didn’t and that kind of isolation will kill anyone.
I paid attention to what worked and what didn’t work for me. I learned I have a lot of HSP characteristics. I learned I do better working for myself. I learned that taking long afternoon naps and putting my needs first leads to happier days, happier friends, and happier clients.
I took a hard look at my family. I saw that the parent I shared so many traits with had depressive, anxious, and OCD tendencies themself – markers that I might have inherited some of what I was experiencing.
I started taking Zoloft (generic name Sertraline). I named this post ‘In praise of Zoloft’ because I think my decision to take medication to treat my anxiety is actually the most unique part of my story. While millions of people around the world are medicated for mood disorders, I was an unlikely candidate. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where there’s an acupuncturist on every corner. I earned my Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education where I took courses in stress reduction and relaxation, Ayurveda, and nutrition. I meditated. I ate greens. I went to yoga class. I was primed to take an all natural and alternative approach to my anxiety.
But for me, several years ago, the floor finally dropped out of my life and Zoloft got me on solid ground. I’m lucky in that I’ve not experienced one side effect from taking it and I feel like myself, only more even keel. I’m still creative. I still feel all my emotions and cry now and then. I still have worries. I think as clearly as I always have, perhaps more so. It’s just that a tiny dose each day makes my life much better. Anxiety and depression are certainly aspects to spiritual awakening and I wish more people would look there first. That said, I had experienced symptoms my entire life and Zoloft has played a significant role in getting me where I wanted to go.
I believe that medication is not for everyone (though meditation probably is). I believe that Zoloft is not the medication for everyone (consult a professional please). I firmly believe, truly, to each their own. But I wanted to share some of my story so others could see that taking advantage of modern medicine isn’t a failure and it won’t turn you into a zombie. And sometimes, it might just give you back your life.