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How to Take the Gifts You Give Yourself

Santa Rosa therapist and life coach Patty Bechtold blogs about how to take the gifts you give yourself at wiselifetherapy.com

A few Sundays ago I was sitting at a table, lost in my own world.

Paints, sponges, words, images were spread out before me. Journals stacked precariously near the edge of the table. 

Definitely, I was making a mess, the good kind. The kind of mess that slows you down and brings you back to yourself. The kind of mess that feels like one of the self-compassionate gifts you give yourself.

You see, I’d signed up to spend the entire day at Unfold Studio, Susie Stonefield Miller’s art journaling haven here in Sonoma County. Susie calls herself a midwife to your creative spirit, and she most definitely is that.

Not long after I’d arrived and settled in, Susie came by and placed a fresh new art journal on the table, her gift to me for signing up for the whole day. Then, noticing the stack of journals in front of me, she said, “Not that you need another journal.”

But it turns out I did need the gift of that journal.

Because that journal has become a guide to actually taking the gifts you give yourself.

Before I get into that, though, let me take you back to the start of summer, when I deliberately gifted myself with lovely things. Like time, space, reflection, stillness, nature, play and savoring.

I know, it all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? In theory it is, but only when you take the gifts you give yourself. And last month it was clear that I wasn’t really doing that.

So I showed up at Susie’s studio intending to refresh my summer. I guess you could call it my version of regifting myself. And I came armed with journals that I knew were filled with nuggets of wisdom about how to truly take the gifts you give yourself.

I can’t claim credit for these nuggets of wisdom though. 

They show up in those transcendent moments of writing. Maybe you know what I mean, when you touch something just below the surface of awareness, some deeper knowing that you suddenly have access to.

Mostly they come unbidden, and not only through writing. But once they hit the page (or the air) and the pen (or life) keeps going, they’re elusive and fleeting.

Still, I wanted to return to capture these wisdom nuggets and keep hold of them, as best I could.

While the journal from Susie was the perfect place to begin that, I almost didn’t use it. 

I’d already started a new page in my current journal. The paint was dry and ready for words. And as I lifted my hand to write down a nugget of wisdom from an older journal, I pulled back. Because suddenly I understood that truly taking this gift from Susie required me to actually claim it and make my marks in it.

So I tore out the pages from the journal I was working in and pasted them into the one that Susie gifted me.

And that first mark I made, a nugget of wisdom extracted from the older journal, was this: Remember…Take the Gift.

A perfect moment of synchronicity, a reminder that there are forces all around saying: take the gifts you give yourself.

It’s got me pondering about how we keep this fresh in our lives, because I know how easy it is for many of us to forget to take the gifts. And how challenging it can be to remember.

Right off, I can tell you that the new journal I’m filling with wisdom nuggets is helpful. 

There are other practices that I’m playing with to help honor the gifts we give ourselves…

  • Reflect: At the close of day reflect on even the smallest gifts you’ve given yourself and taken. Be friendly, kind and gentle. Praise yourself. (No need to do an accounting of the gifts you have not yet taken.)
  • Imagine: Take brief periods to imagine what it will be like in those moments when you take the gifts you’ve given yourself. Let your sense memory guide you and sink into the imaginal experience: touch, taste, smell, see, hear.
  • Savor: In the midst of a self-gifting experience, pause for a few moments of mindful savoring.
  • Share: Start a conversation with other women and unearth your collective wisdom about healthy self-gifting. I notice we often share our struggles and challenges with one another, but perhaps less often our transformational experiences, which can be incredibly healing and empowering. So be curious, ask questions. And I know, this is easier said than done. I’m lucky because I get to be curious (and some would say nosy!) for a living.

And now, as we approach the waning days of summer, what gifts are still waiting for you to take them?

Art journal page from Patty Bechtold wiselifetherapy.com