Gift yourself

Christmas is on the way, and many people are working on their gift list.  The gift could be for their spouse/partner, kids, parents, siblings, friends, on and on.  Do you give a gift to yourself?  If you just bought a 4K TV, you are probably okay.  If gifting yourself was never in your mind, I suggest you give it a thought.

This is why: you worked so hard the whole year, in the office and at home.  You did the best to take care of your family.  Even in mid or late December, you are still scratching the head, and wonder what gifts are the best for your loved ones.  Do you deserve a gift from yourself?  Absolutely!  Does it have to be very expensive?  Not necessarily.  It may not even have to be a material gift, if you don’t like stuff.  What about giving yourself a 2-day break, no work, no family obligations?  Just do whatever you like to.

I got a gift for myself last week:  a $10 weekly planner notebook for 2018.

Why a planner notebook?

Late in 2016, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy”.  A very good book.  Sheryl is the COO of Facebook.  Her book talks about how she processed and went through the huge personal loss, after her husband suddenly passed away in May 2015.  One of the things she did was:  writing down 3 joys every day.

I really liked that idea, and want to thank Sheryl for sharing it.  It gives me the chance to see my glass half full every day.  Inspired by Sheryl’s book, I decided to give it a try starting Dec 2016.  I went to a dollar store, and bought a small notebook for 2017.  It’s really a monthly planner, not a weekly planner.  After all, what can you buy with a dollar?  The section Phone Numbers of the planner is large enough for me to hand-write each day, and put the 3 joys there.

Why didn’t I get a better planner?  A decent one with each day labeled and more space would cost at least seven bucks.  Can I afford it?  Yes.  I was not sure if I could keep the writing habit for one year.  If giving up within a couple of weeks, why wasting the money?  I’m probably both frugal and cheap.

Surprisingly, I kept this writing habit most of 2017:  3 joys every day, sometimes even 4 or 5 (I called it the overflow of joys).  The only time I skipped was the two weeks in mid November, when this blog was started.  It was time consuming to launch a brand new blog.

I really enjoyed this new habit, and plan to keep it.  So for 2018, like an airplane ticket, I gave myself an upgrade from economy to business class:  I went to WalMart, and picked up a nice weekly planner for $10.  And the planner brand is BlueSky, I love blue sky.  Even blue sky in the winter is great!

Positive things from writing down 3 joys every day

It helps me to look at the life in a new perspective.  Is it panacea to happiness?  Absolutely not.  It’s a reminder for me to focus on the positives of life.   Am I mad when being tailgated on the highway?  Yes.  But once at home safely, I try to let it go.  And write something down that made me smile that day.  It could be the gorgeous sunset and twilight, a singing bird, beautiful flowers, a hello from a stranger, or a piece of apple pie …

Here is one of my joys I like to share with you.

Starting early April this year, a cute mother duck took a home at my front yard.  It lasted for 5+ weeks, and she became one of my dear family members.  She chose a nice spot, right behind the small bushes and tulip flowers.  14 lovely eggs were laid down.

At first, she was here only for a couple of hours every day.  Then she was gone most of the day.  Once all the 14 eggs were there, the mother duck became a permanent resident.  She stayed here most of the day, and only took a quick break daily.

When taking off, she flew.  Duck is a mystery to me.  How did she figure out her home located on my yard from the air?  Most of the houses in this neighborhood look similar.  Does she have her own GPS?  Some days, she flew back with her companion.  The partner didn’t stop, just continued the journey, and she touched down on my driveway.

My family and I were attached to the mother duck emotionally.  Day in and day out, it was a lot of joys.  And the joys filled up my $1 planner notebook.

I was kind of anxious, too.  Hoped all the eggs would hatch.  But worried that, once the baby ducks were born, how the mother duck would walk the big family to the pond, their real home.  That was a couple of miles away, and they had to cross a busy street.  Should I walk with them, and protect them?  Or should I call the local sheriff office for help?

Unfortunately, it was a sad ending.  None of the eggs hatched.  For a couple of days in early May, the temperature suddenly dropped, and it rained pretty hard.  The mother duck tried several more days beyond the due date, and finally gave up.  Here is my thank-you note to the mother duck:

“Dear Mother Duck,

Thank you, for being part of the family, and for the great joys you brought to us.  I know you tried the best.  It must be heartbreaking to you as well.  I wish you the best in the future endeavors.  Please say hi to your partner.  You are always welcome back home anytime.

Love, 

– Helen”

Back to the original question:  do you plan to give a gift to yourself this year?  What are your joys in 2017?  I hope this duck story brings you some joy.

Take a look at my eBook, a mini-memoir on Amazon: “DAD’S BICYCLE: Journey of A Chinese Family”.

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2 Responses

  1. EHC says:

    Great story with the mother duck. Sad that none of the eggs hatched, but alas, life goes on for the mother duck and all of us. Do you think she will revisit your front yard this year?

    As for gifting yourself, it is a “resounding” yes while practicing some restraint, because life is short and I can afford it; however, it’s more rewarding gifting others. I just finished making a wedding photo album for someone just in the nick of time for Christmas. Surprisingly, I utterly enjoyed exercising my very rusty right brain. I better quit rattling on… Just want you to know that I enjoyed your writing.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      EHC,
      Right, life moves on. I really hope the mother duck comes back. Spring always brings me hope …
      I like your idea about gifting ourselves while practicing some restraint. Giving is rewarding. It’s so nice you just wrapped up the wedding photo album right before the holiday. Thank you, and have a great holiday.

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