Happy New Year 🙂
I know, I know – it is just a day like any other day, nothing special about it. And yet it is – because we give it meaning. Because we choose to give it meaning. Humans like rituals I think – and New Years is a ritual. However you choose to celebrate it (or not).
I celebrated with my little Nuclear family: Husband and kids. We had Champagne (or Cava – metode traditionelle) and Lobster, Iberian pork and loads of fresh steamed veggies, with loads of butter for dinner. It was lovely.
I was also sick – and did whish that I could postpone New Years a day or two – so I could get better. I guess I could have. But that is the thing about rituals and traditions – if you don’t do it right (and by right I mean the way you think it should be) then it doesn’t really matter. Had I moved the New Years party till today it just wouldn’t have been the same. So I didn’t.
As I sit here in my new living room I contemplate how lucky I am, and how happy I am. It is a great way to start a new year – any new day for that matter. I love living here – I love my house, I love the climate, I love the culture around here, I love the Spanish mentality.
Yesterday I woke up, and I could feel that cold coming on, I lay on the couch and felt a little sorry for my self. The guys who are fixing our terrace came, and started working – knocked on my door and presented me with a giant flower and a bottle of red wine. That gave me the energy to get up and get going. Such a small random act of kindness, and it sent me of on my way.
Kindness is so important – just before Christmas one of my friends gifted me a solar oven, just because. How awesome is that? Our neighbours help us with problems with our gestor (accountant) – who stole a lot of money from us. So yeah, there is that problem with a guy who has stolen money from us. But neighbours standing up for us helping us get our money back. And a lawyer, whom we have never met, helping us out for free – just because it is decent and the right thing to do. It just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. We are trying to deal with it without involving the state… But we might have to involve them at some point. But just seeing how many people are willing to help us, not for any personal gain, but just because is really encouraging.
When people talk about gift economy – this is part of what they want. But I think they are overlooking something. Eg. if the lawyer does not act as fast as I want, I cannot complain, because he is helping me for free. if my neighbour gives me honey, but not wine (both is produced on his land), that is his choice not mine (I can refuse to accept his gift though). Gift economies are inherently complicated and full of invisible IOUs. If you accept that, then it is a beautiful thing. If not it can be a restraint – including a social restraint, that many modern people do not want in their lives.
Currently I am thinking about ways to pay it forward – to help other people become more independent in their own life. I really want to do that – without expecting reciprocality. But I find that often I am met with demands and expectations, which makes me wobble – thinking that I should change myself in order to meet other people’s needs, which ultimately makes me feel like not sharing and giving at all. Finding a way to share without feeling a need to give in to demands I feel resentment against is hard. I think it is part of our cultural fabric, and part of the cultural fabric that I wish to shed. I sincerely want to help other people, but I also want to learn to do it in a way that allows me to preserve my self-respect. In other words I need to learn how to be kind and assertive at the same time. When we grow up we often learn that it is a question of either/or – I think it can be both.
I see my kids be fiercely independent at times, and just as generous and loving at others. Sometimes they are both at the same time – sharing, and giving, while establishing what they want to share, and what they don’t want to share – how they would like to help, and how they will not. When we demand children share, to help etc. we rob them of an opportunity to be truly generous – and also of an opportunity to establish firm borders between themselves and their friends or family-members. To know who you truly are, those borders have to be established. My kids who have had the opportunity to establish those borders all through their lives are living examples for me – they give and share without thought of reciprocality, but when needed (in their judgement) they say no without guilt. I am learning from them every day.