As we approach the end of the year, most of us (whether we are religious or not) are celebrating Christmas in some way or another. For some, though the practice is deeply misguided, it is a celebration of the birth of Christ. For others, it is a time to be giving, or to spend much needed quality time with family and friends. For still others, it is simply a divine excuse to cash in those sick hours at work and get out of town. However we choose to celebrate, the majority of us stay true to one central theme: presents!
Gifts come in many forms and can be defined many different ways. To some, particularly on a holiday, a gift is something completely gratuitous and even extravagant that one might not be entitled to receive at any other time. Others perceive a gift to be anything given as an occasion. Then there are those who are just plain kooky and emotionally well-adjusted and can easily consider a few hours of quality time with a loved one to be a gift. What freaks.
To me, a gift is something I have done nothing to deserve, or that I never boldly expected to receive. A gift is something extra. It’s a doo-dad in an already fancy hat. A chocolate sculpture on top of an already decorated cake. A gift, I say, is Ryan Gosling holding a puppy. It’s overkill.
I never expect anything at Christmas, which means I am always thoroughly overjoyed when I do get things. This year, I have been blessed to have a roommate, a boyfriend, and friends who thought I was important enough to shop for, and that means a great deal. But what else have I received this year that perhaps I never truly expected to receive, or perhaps even doubted I deserved? The more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether I would be able to pull up a memory for each of the past twelve months, of a time that I was given a gift. A little something extra. Let’s see if I can.
January This was the first month that Daniel and I spent as an official boyfriend-and-girlfriend couple, and that is a gift in and of itself. If someone had told me just a calendar year before that such a thing was possible, I would have kicked them in the shins for teasing me. I would then have promptly inquired as to the identity of their dealer, because they were smokin’ some good shit. Daniel, and my relationship with him, are a gift, and I am thankful for them every day. I have never been treated more fairly, or with more respect by someone I love. Even for his faults, I am thankful, because at least there is room to improve, which means we have a lot of time ahead of us in which to do so.
February Almost midway through the month, I secured my first job after the move back to Arizona. Though I applied to many places, it was ACE Parking that offered me a home, and a paycheck. In this economy (and in my position), employment is a gift, and as many times as I have hated the job or wanted so badly to quit in favor of something better, I have been thankful for it. I have met good people, learned valuable lessons, and made great personal improvements. Even if I leave ACE Parking for new horizons, I will remember that when I was jobless and lost, it was a parking garage in Downtown Phoenix that threw me a lifeline.
March Though I did not agree with it, this was the month one of my oldest and closest friends got married. I consented, begrudgingly, to attend the ceremony. I even got all dolled up for it. I was uncomfortable and out-of-place and completely put off by the entire situation until one essential and key moment. When I saw my friend in his formal suit, standing at the altar by his young son, beaming brightly at the vision of his bride to be walking toward him, I felt a bubble of pride swell and threaten to burst in my chest. My friend, with whom I had made so many reckless mistakes, and in whom I thought I could always trust to continue to be reckless and foolhardy, was a man. He had grown into himself, and though I did not and still do not agree with his choices, I consider it a privilege that he chooses to make me a part of them.
April I know I made it seem like none of these would be material, but this deserves mentioning. For my 26th birthday, on the 26th day of this month, Daniel gave me one of my most prized possessions to date. It is a hand-crafted pendant meant to be a gorgeous re-imagining of the amulet of Talos from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the most amazing and epic video games ever made. I don’t know if he knows exactly how perfect his choice was, but I am in love with this necklace. It has almost become an anchor of comfort for me. I wear it almost every hour of the day (with the obvious exception of sleep and showers because it also doubles as a deadly weapon!), and if I actually manage to leave the house without it, I feel vulnerable and exposed all day. Barely a day goes by that a stranger does not tell me how beautiful my necklace is. It’s like 365 strangers a year reminding me that Daniel is fantastic, and he is.
May This month was marred by the unfortunate passing of my roommate’s very old and very dear cat, Angel. However, in the spirit of my own odd way of bringing out the positive in the worst of things, I took care of everything for her and then suggested we go out and look at TVs. Just hours after taking her cat in to be cremated, my roommate helped me bring in and set up our brand new 51″ HDTV. Plasma flat screen, some kind of ridiculous refresh rate and Hz and who even knows, but even my tech snob boyfriend agrees it’s a superior slab of electronics. The reason this television is so important to me, apart from its sheer majesty, is what it represents. This is the single most expensive and luxurious thing I have ever purchased for myself, it is entirely mine, and no one can take it from me. I slapped down $710 of my hard-earned dollars just for the privilege of watching the Titanic sink in 51 glorious high definition inches, and I have never been able to regret it. Fuck, yeah.
June I had to go back through my Facebook photos to be sure of this one, but this is the month I finally stopped being a bleach blonde. I started in very early 2013 and almost didn’t stop once I got so much positive feedback, especially from Daniel. The reason I consider the decision to stop to be a gift is because, even now, I can still feel the irreversible damage bleaching has done to my hair. It was a personal act of mercy to myself to stop abusing it so thoroughly just because people thought it was hot. I will never bleach my hair again. On a note of more depth, this is also the month of my parents’ wedding anniversary. I am thankful every year to have been raised by such a solid couple.
July In Phoenix, Arizona in July, just living to see August is a gift. No Phoenician is required to be thankful for fuckin’ ANYTHING during this god awful month of hell. I had to work Fourth of July parking for the fireworks at the Goodyear ballpark and nearly died. I came home and had to clean up multiple occurrences of dog shit because Pippin and Broly are assholes. We were spending buttloads for air conditioning. Like I said, it is a gift to have LIVED. In fact, I consider central air conditioning quite a great gift.
August As far as Facebook tells it, this appears to be the month in which I discovered the true wonder and magic of the George & Dragon Pub. I love this place. I am IN LOVE with this place. If you live in Phoenix, or plan to visit, look up the George & Dragon. Good jukebox, real pool tables, events three nights a week (trivia, Texas Hold ‘Em, karaoke), great fuckin’ food, a huge drink selection, friendly and tolerant staff, and a hilarious pair of English owners who like to tell jokes over the PA system. This pub is a gift from the gods, I swear it. I would spend every Friday night there if I could.
September This is the month Jennifer took me into my first Starbucks, and led me down the garden path to discovering espresso. ‘Nuff said.
October After spending many uneasy, unhappy, and unpleasant weeks hovering at or below 18 hours a week at work, we acquired a new garage downtown on the 24th, and I was taken personally aside and offered a transfer position within it. Since then, I have gotten 30 hours a week pretty consistently (though it sometimes dips below), my schedule is fairly solid, I have only two other employees to compete with and they are both fun and competent, and the position requires that I be largely independent and self-sufficient, which I love. It is a small ascension, but an ascension nonetheless. Nowhere to go but up.
November Two really memorable things went down in November, and it was a great month. For one thing, Jennifer and I took a great road trip upstate to enjoy the cooler weather and the beautiful sites. I had never been to Sedona, and so we made sure to go through, and it was a lovely little tourist trap for sure. The real deal, however, was staying overnight in the surprisingly awesome little city that is Flagstaff, Arizona. The hotel, the restaurants, the people, the shops, and downtown area — all of it was just a blast and a half. Then after that, I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time as an adult, and was truly and deeply blown away by how god damn beautiful Arizona really is. I almost can’t believe I ever left, even for a minute. The second gift is more something I gave others than to myself. While running a fever and damn near passing out the entire time, I cooked (from scratch) my first complete Thanksgiving meal for myself, Daniel, Jennifer, and her friend Greg while they relaxed and played video games. I was beat to shit by the end of it, but I am told everything was perfect, and I am fucking proud of my bad self.
December Which brings us up to speed. As the last month of the year draws slowly to a close, I breath in just a little deeper each day, harboring a sense of dread that I might wake up at any moment. I have survived a full year back in Arizona, and a full year of my relationship with Daniel is about to be carved into the proverbial stone. My survival, as patchwork and complicated as it has been, is a gift. That I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and no holes in my bicycle tires is a testament to my personal fortune. I would not be here, and in any position to improve my situation, if not for my gracious and patient roommate, my constant and tolerant boyfriend, and what is left of my own fragile sanity.
Every year that we go on living has the potential to be a gift. I don’t even mean that in the cheesy, ridiculous way. I mean it truly. Life sucks. It’s fucked up, and hard, and mean, and cruel, and senseless, and no one deserves to live through it alone, or without even the smallest glimmers of light, and it often seems we are all in that very position. I am no stranger to the sensation that everything is bleak and hopeless and irreconcilable. But, if I can look back on a year of my life and pull a beacon and fondness from every single month, then so can you. So can anyone, if given the time.
Happy Holiday Season, everyone. I hope your twelve gifts are as easy to conjure up as mine were. That being said, I got a Kindle Fire HD for Christmas. SUCK IT.