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  • Writer's picturepamradtkerussell

Twas the Day After Christmas: Why Internal Gifts are Better Than External Things

Happy Boxing Day!

For a long time I thought Boxing Day was a yearly “Trading Places” kind of tradition in the U.K., thanks to an episode of M*A*S*H in which the enlisted men traded places with the officers for the day. Hilarity ensued.

I was a young teen when the episode came out and it made an impression. I thought my life was pretty miserable. I wanted to celebrate Boxing Day and trade places with my parents. I thought if they could just experience my pain first hand they would understand me better. (I think I even asked, but they looked at me like I was crazy). Or, I wanted to change places with the cool kids in school who seemed to have everything. I wanted to know what it was like to be popular for just one day.

The idea stuck—that if something changed, if I could be someone else, if I could live somewhere else, if I could do something else, maybe just for a day, I would be happy. Because, I thought, that I, and my life, were lacking.

I thought if I had Calvin Klein jeans I would be Brooke Shields. Or much later, if I made more money or had a better house — if I could just trade places with the people further up the ladder of life — I would be happy.

I spent decades living by that toxic model of envy and acquisition. While I acquired much of what society told me I should have — a husband, two children, a house full of beautiful things and perfect feathered hair — I was still unhappy.

Better late than never — I realized over the last year or two that chasing external things will never make me happy. I have more “things” than I will ever be able to enjoy or use. What I didn’t have, and have set out to acquire, is inner peace, self love and compassion. I am learning to approach life from a place of gratitude and abundance instead of scarcity.

I am certainly not done, and will never be finished, adding to my internal collection of emotions, feelings and general self awareness. But the work, I’ve found, is actually enjoyable. Sure, I still want pretty things. I still covet a sports car and new jewelry. But I don’t rely on them to be the magic "thing" that finally makes me happy.

So, I have decided that on this Boxing Day I will start a new personal tradition. On the day after acquiring and giving things for Christmas, I will focus on my internal acquisitions — on inner work and contemplation and growing my soul.

I will, in essence, trade places with the old me. I will consciously exchange unhappy feelings of bitterness, resentment and disappointment for sweetness, satisfaction and contentment.

And most of all, I will remember and celebrate that I am enough. I don’t need anything else to fully enjoy my life.

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