I have sent money or gift certificates in response to invitations to graduations but haven’t attended the celebrations. The person receiving the gift never sends a handwritten thank-you note and doesn’t even call. The same holds true for gifts I have given to people celebrating birthdays and weddings. What do you think of this? I am ready to become a gift Scrooge.
Oh no, you’re not. Scrooge was a greedy guy. You want recognition of your generosity. It’s certainly thoughtful to handwrite a thank-you note and drop it into the snail mailbox for delivery. But we live in the Age of Entitlement. Many people believe that they deserve gifts and cash in exchange for inviting you to watch their transit through a rite of passage. Solve your unrequited feelings. Send a donation to a nonprofit in the name of the person of honor. Focus on organizations that serve the developing world, such as Doctors Without Borders or Heifer International. Then, notify the graduate or newlyweds or birthday honoree of your actions. You can trust that Third World recipients of services provided by your funds will be deeply grateful, even if your social circle is not.
If you choose to respond to a future invitation by sending a gift certificate or cash, unhook all expectations from the giving process. Shake off ideas about what a sweet person you are or any notions that you have met an obligation. Destroy the belief that says you deserve something in return for your gift. Give nothing until you can give without strings attached. That’s what it means to be alive and truly present.
I am in prison, 30 months done, nine to go. My girlfriend keeps saying that when I get out, I might want to be by myself. I feel like she’s rethinking everything because of the hurt I have caused. How do you let a woman know you love her more than life itself? Should I wait to get out and show her and stop writing stuff that sounds like a broken record? I don’t know much about love, but I know how it feels. But maybe it’s time to move on?
Yes, make a break from the belief that your girlfriend is the center of your universe. That throne belongs to God. Or, if you’re not a believer, place a virtue, such as integrity, at the heart of your internal world. Measure everything you do or say by whether it serves God (or alternatively, whether it keeps you in alignment with your chosen virtue). Use the nine months ahead to prepare for rebirth. That means you must stop clinging to your girlfriend. When she suggests time alone, don’t be frightened. Consider the invitation. How does it feel to imagine being alone? If you fear loneliness, you will always have trouble letting go of relationships, even those that are unhealthy. Your fear of being alone will demand that you tolerate anything, even abuse, rather than face being with yourself.
Right now, your mind is imprisoned by ideas about what love is or should be. Let me challenge you back to the tabula rasa. The mind at peace trusts in the rightness of the moment. If your girlfriend leaves, pray that she finds love, even if it means she is with someone else. When your mind drifts, gently draw it back into the activity you are in. Focus on developing within yourself the emotional, mental and spiritual maturity necessary to be attractive to God. Let difficulties wash over you. Grieve them, yes, but trust that what happens is for your personal evolution. Does this make sense? Your relationship with your girlfriend is not the answer. Your willingness to evolve into the next incarnation of yourself is key.