The Present of Presence

Dara LevanBlog1 Comment

The holiday season seems to start earlier each year. Am I imagining this or did you also hear jolly jingles in mid-October? Last week I wrote about the “Costco Coma and Target Trance.” I’m still being bombarded with emails with subject lines such as “doorbusters” and “all the deals you want/love/need.” I’ve repeatedly unsubscribed and yet my inbox continues to fill like a persistent cyberspace cesspool.

A few days ago, I posted a December calendar on Facebook and Instagram. In each date box, there’s a suggestion for ways to be caring and thoughtful. For me, giving the gifts of love, compassion, and kindness ought to occur every day of the year. This visual suggestion, created by Advent of Kindness, inspired the topic of today’s blog.

Instead of focusing on material giving, let’s redirect our energy toward presence rather than presents. Of course it’s exciting for kids and adults to unwrap gifts. It is also feels good to give dear ones tangible items. The giver is excited to watch the recipient’s reaction, which is hopefully a smile!

As we embark on the last month of 2018, I encourage you to expand on the tradition of buying and giving presents. And I challenge you to share your presence. This is not an easy task. As I wrote about last year, we are technologically connected and easily accessible. Yet I observe such pervasive disconnect in our society.

What does it mean to give the gift of presence? It can be as simple as silencing your phone, or even better, leaving it in your car or another room. This quiet action speaks loudly to those you love. This action says, “You matter most to me in this moment.”

There are other subtle yet powerful ways to nonverbally be present. Try giving someone a hug that’s longer than usual or maintaining direct eye contact during an entire conversation. Other ways to be present with your presence include writing a note (rather than an email or text) or spontaneously complimenting a total stranger.

I also feel it is important to remember that not everyone’s holiday is jovial and jubilant. This could be someone’s first Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve without a loved one. So being present for that soul is a meaningful, invaluable gift.

Sometimes we don’t want to be “cheered up.” Often those who ache from loss, and I do not just mean death/physical absence, just want to be witnessed and have their pain acknowledged. Perhaps that means sitting silently next to your friend or family member. Or it’s supportive to offer reflective, nurturing statements rather than advice  such as “I’m sorry you’re going through this—know that I’m here for you.” or “I hear you.” versus “It could be worse.” or “This will get better in time.”

If someone is not up to talking, you can still be present for him or her. Perhaps send a card that is totally unrelated to the holidays. Or take a photo of a soothing image and text it with a short caption. And sometimes when you don’t have what feels like the “right words,” sending a poem or quote from an author is like an embrace.

And when it comes to children of all ages, I personally sense being present to celebrate the little moments is the best gift of all. It is truly remarkable how much I’ve gleaned from my children. I often say they are my most insightful, awe-inspiring teachers. Parenting them has made me a better, wiser human being. I have learned and grown in ways I never expected during these 16 years of motherhood. I am beyond blessed for their precious presence.

This all sounds easy, right? You may be surprised to experience some discomfort with being fully present. But the depth of sharing from one heart to another is a forever gift. Your presence transcends all seasons and holidays. Every moment matters—all we have is right now. Show up fully and unwrap the gifts of your soul.

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