Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Random Assortment Gift

In yoga, you learn to let things go. Focusing on the breath, stretching to new proportions, concentrating on all that is possible and all your body offers to you is the path to zen, so to speak. All the weight loss benefits, toning, bendy-ness, is all bonus. I love yoga. I love it so much I want to live in it. In the space you create for yourself after practicing for an hour and a half where everything in your head is peaceful. Even when someone in your yoga class spills coffee all over your bag and clothes.

I'm not sure who exactly thinks it is a good idea to bring coffee into a yoga studio, let alone not close the lid and then leave it beside their mat and kick it mid-class, BUT the amazing thing is not that this occurred. The amazing thing is that after the initial annoyance factor, at the end of class the only thought in my head was that now my shirt smelled yummy. This is the power of yoga.

Now that I am not working until three in the morning every weekend, and am therefore able to get up in the morning, I am trying to take as many yoga classes as possible. I have also been trying to recruit M to come with me. (Also, M does not like being referred to as "M" -- he says it makes him feel like he's in an episode of Gossip Girl. Why he thought of "S" and "B" on Gossip Girl and NOT "E" on Entourage is a little mystifying, so I decided not to change it.) Anyway, yoga recruitment efforts led to us going to two classes, where he announced to the teachers that he is "not bendy."

M has trouble with the language of the teachers. He is not used to people saying things like, "Open your heart center to the sky." Probably because most people who work in downtown Chicago do not go around saying things like, "Open your heart center to the sky." (Right now I am picturing hundreds of men in suits, puffing their chests to the Loop sky, breathing deeply and smiling like goons.) I, however, have been doing yoga for over half of my life and so I don't normally think about phrases like this sounding odd. They are what you think about in yoga. Today, the instructor said, "Don't get too attached to who you think you are. You are always changing." And this, while not odd, did give me pause. How often do we think we have ourselves figured out? (In case you don't know where I'm going with this, the answer is all the time. See how I think I have you figured out too?)

Anyway, this made me think about how we not only get attached to who we think we are, but who our friends and family are too. And this is the hardest thing about gift giving. Clearly, I tend to overanalyze everything (you're shocked now, right?) and this actually works pretty well for presents. One time I bought my brother a CD that on the surface was something I thought he would like because it was similar to other music I knew he liked, but really, it was a band that I liked. And I wanted to have it in common. Most of the time, though, I automatically ask those questions while I'm shopping. Questions like, "Do I see so-and-so using this? Would they pick it up and admire it/cook with it/draw on it on their own?" Questions also like, "Is this something they like, or is it instead something they would buy for me?" And questions like, "Is this something they like now or something they used to like?"

For some reason, especially with presents, we get attached to a particular version of someone and we keep buying for that one hobby they used to have or that one personality that they used to be. But if you can buy for what they are starting to like or who they are becoming, it shows how much you truly care for the whole of that person. My best friend, K, and I have known each other since high school. We are about the same height and sometimes get mistaken as sisters. Our birthdays are a week and a half apart. We went to different colleges and we haven't lived in the same city in over ten years. We are both terrible about calling on the phone but wonderful at texting. And we always give each other a Random Assortment of gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Gifts that are sometimes a little late. And by "a little," I mean we exchanged our birthday presents for each other six months after our birthdays last year.

The Random Assortment falls under care packages because it takes care of as many aspects of a person's personality or life-at-the-moment as possible. So K, for example, is currently in grad school, works in an office taking care of college students, is a remarkably talented photographer, has a few beautiful cats, and LOVES Christmas and Christmas movies. Previous Random Assortments for K have included an arrangement like pretty file folders for her office, fun paper clips, (if you do not think these can be fun, go to Office Depot and then talk to me,) highlighters for research, lots of picture frames, cat-themed magnetic poetry, and a lot of cards. This year for Christmas, I have sent her two cards, and am planning another one with the gift. This is part of the Random Assortment -- the preview cards to get someone psyched about the holiday.

Along with all the ways I want to support what K is doing now, I do usually include something I know about her from before too. I know that she loves butterflies, pansies, the color purple (not the book necessarily -- the actual color,) and Jelly Bellies. I watch out for clues that these favorites may change, but highlighting the combination of who you are, who you will be and who you will forever be is the best gift. I know this because K is the best at this particular gift.

Yoga is who I have always been. Zen is who I am trying to become. And the girl who wears a coffee-stained shirt home is who I am today.

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