TODAY is Melissa’s birthday and we’re off for a day of hiking — one of our favorite things to do together. People are often surprised when they learn we don’t exchange gifts. Sure, we might get each other an occasional small item if it’s something we know the other will love, but we decided years ago that we’d rather spend our money on experiences.
Sometimes we go big, like for our 40th birthdays, we took a two-week trip to Italy. Melissa’s dream was to hike in Cinque Terre on the exact day of her birth and that’s just what we did, but most years we each simply block off the day and spend it together usually doing something outdoors, just the two of us.
I can remember at Christmas, years ago, coming up with a gift budget, going to the mall together, and each heading off to shop for the other. Aside from the fact that I loathe shopping malls, it seemed silly to buy things mostly because we’re “supposed” to; because that’s what you do at Christmas.
While we each had fun picking things out for the other, shopping just to shop doesn’t support either of our life visions. Maybe it’s because “receiving gifts” isn’t a primary love language for either of us or because we prefer to live more simply. Besides, we won’t be able to fit much stuff in our tiny house!
There have been some interesting studies done and articles written exploring why happiness from experiences lasts longer than from physical items. Sounds counterintuitive, right? I mean, the item you buy remains and becomes a part of your life whereas a concert, hike, or vacation comes to an end. But it seems the purchased item, which is now a fixture in your life, becomes old news. You grow tired of it. Think about it. I bet you were happy with your iPhone 6 until the iPhone 7 was just released. Such is the effect of shiny, new object syndrome.
Maybe you’re someone who loves to receive gifts. Great! Bring ’em on. And maybe you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention at a large party and you have a significant occasion coming up. Have you made your wishes known?
Take my mother as inspiration. She has a big birthday around the corner and has told us she’d prefer a gathering of immediate family and very close friends only. And it’s a good thing she did because if my dad had free reign, he’d have rented a big hall and invited 100 people! Because that’s how he likes to celebrate so he’d assume she would want the same.
To make sure your loved ones know how you like to be honored, you have to know yourself first, so stop for a moment and check in. When it’s time for your birthday or some other special occasion, what is your ideal way to spend that time? Does that match what happens now?
It’s easy to go along with some perceived social protocol and not consider if it’s even true to who you are, but consider this yet another great opportunity to deepen your connection to self. Inquire. Explore. Ask yourself how you like to celebrate. Then start honoring it.
For Melissa, by now I’m sure we’re right where she wants to be on her special day — on a mountaintop overlooking a beautiful landscape — because being in nature is what’s always on her wish list.
Here’s to a great week!