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Day 64: Christmas gifts

This is both a life update and an oldie but goodie story.

So my dad is here with us visiting from Los Angeles and he's here for 2 nights. And so far there's been a torrential rain storm that’s sounded like the roof is going to collapse, our electricity has gone out a few times and the water has gone out. Our first night, just after we'd just picked up dinner, we were in our kitchen around the dining table and poof, the electricity went out and the whole space was pitch black.

We know this happens around here now n then during rainy season so we’re more or less prepared for it. But it hasn’t happened a lot since we’ve had Aurora so it’s funny that all of this happens in the 48 hours my dad is here. He's here to check in on his grand daughter, us and our new home we’re building. My dad comes from a nice neighborhood in Marina del Ray, California, so he seldom loses power to the point where it's dark and quiet around. So it’s been different for him, and different is a healing experience for anyone.

My dad is staying flexible and compassionate regarding his experience of our life here. And it’s fun to keep introducing him to a different style of life; one with meditation, Adam cooking, Yoga, a slower style of life and crystals. For him, being here is an exercise in releasing any expectations about anything really and going with the flow, so that he can hang with Aurora May.

But when we lost power and water, I thought about what "luxuries" I take for granted, and what helps me feel grounded and comfortable. When I couldn’t wash my hands, wash my face, brush my teeth or take a shower the first few hours of the day, I remembered how grateful I am for water. And when we couldn’t see in front of us and we had to vulnerably navigate some darkness and I have another human to care for and keep safe, I remembered how grateful I am for electricity and light.

Why does the absence of things often activate our gratitude and appreciation for them? That’s what this story is about.

But even before you read it, stop for a moment, and feel some gratitude for something, or something in your now. And be aware of times when absence makes your heart grow fonder. How about you grow fonder in your present moment with what you have.

I hope you enjoy this story.

It wasn't funny then, but it makes me smile now.

***************************************************************************** It was Christmas time in 2010, and I say Christmas "time", because to me Christmas isn’t just a day, it's the long lead up and the energy around it. There’s the decorations before, getting excited about giving gifts, getting excited about receiving gifts, the colors people wear, the songs you hear, the festive get togethers, the day of celebration, the night of celebration and then that week leading up to New Year’s Eve. I consider it all within Christmas time, and it’s a closing ceremony for each previous 11 months and an invitation to the next year.

Often times around Christmas I’ll do a monthly review for the whole year, and acknowledge where I grew, where I stretched and where I healed. That way once the new year rolls around, I can release the old one and invite in the new. Sure Christmas often felt a little lonely being early thirties and mostly single, so when I did have a chance to celebrate Christmas with a guy, I may have gone a little over the top. And that’s what happened in 2010.

But first, the backstory; Christmas 2010 I was 33, single and living alone in Salt Lake City, Utah, but I was putting valiant efforts out to try and force a connection to happen with a particular guy. His name was D*** and he was handsome in a different kind of way, in that he had gaged earrings in his ears, he was incredibly stylish with his clothing choices and he looked like he could be a model for Forever 21. Plus he was humble, kind, smart and witty, so I adored him instantly. We met on Match.com in August of 2010, and out of the gates we experienced an abnormally comfortable, & fun connection and chemistry. However the energy and chemistry between us was far more friend than lover, which I kept trying to change. And that was one of the first times in my life that sort of connection has ever happened; when I've wanted physical chemistry with someone, but it wasn't there, so I kept hanging on, spending time, and spending money on presents and activities, hoping chemistry would magically appear.

But meeting D*** on Match.com was certainly an answer to a prayer; or more like an intention I set before my 33rd birthday. I'd been told that Jesus died when he was 33 and Buddha got enlightened at 33, so I felt it was time for me to experience something life changing. And at that point in my life, I wanted that life changing thing to be meeting my soul mate. And I didn't just magically expect him to appear, I'd been preparing for his arrival by more or less training for it during the entire 2010 year. I'd been actively following dating blogs from male dating coaches such as Evan Marc Katz & Christian Carter, and I'd often listen to relationship podcasts on "Healing with the Masters." I was also reading specific books that I hoped would help awaken me to magic like The Alchemist and The Four Agreements. I was on a mission of self development with a romantic objective.

To help compliment this romantically themed self discovery, I began to open myself to different kinds people on Match.com that I normally wouldn't search for or respond to, like religious people. But I kept hearing the coaches talk about faith and religious beliefs being great building blocks in relationships so I wanted to explore that. I'd been out of the day to day church and religious world since I was 16, so I'd forgotten what it felt like. So I wanted to see what it would be like to be around and date a religious guy. So right around my 33rd birthday, which was August 2010, I entered "Christian", into my search category on Match.com and a whole new array of pictures appeared. Men I'd never seen because I'd entered "not religious" or "spiritual but not religious" into my previous search. And that's when D***, came along.

D*** was wonderful because not only was he Christian, but he was a preachers son as well, and his parents owned a church. But what was different to me was D*** played guitar in a rock bank and all his friends were covered in tattoos. Our first date was D*** picking me up at the airport in Salt Lake City at 9am on a Sunday in his grey Chevy Alero, and I couldn't help but notice that the passenger door didn't open from the outside and it had fast food containers and trash on the passenger seat and floor. But I was doing my best to stay in observance and not judgement. When he picked me up at the airport I was returning from my cousin's wedding in San Antonio and because I didn't have much free time for some reason during that time, and because D*** lived about an hour away from me, scheduling our first rendezvous had been challenging so an airport pickup seemed like a brilliant idea for a first date. It helped me practically, and gave us the length of time between Salt Lake City to Park City to see if there was a connection. And initially, despite D*** being a little late and the condition of his car, there were significant fireworks between us and once we reached my house, we kept wanting to extend the time we were hanging out. He stayed for breakfast, he stayed for lunch, he stayed for dinner, and then he fell asleep on my coach because we were up so late talking.

D*** and I regularly had wonderful heart felt deep conversations every time we hung out. He also introduced me to new music, including his own band's concerts, and he'd take me to a rock n roll church on Sundays where there were young people with tattoos everywhere. It looked nothing like the Sunday Episcopal Church upbringing I had. Plus the church music came from a rock n roll bank, not a church choir, and not from the blue hymnal that I knew so well. And to see everyone wearing jeans, flannels or other relaxed clothes to service, was nice to see because to me, going to church always meant having to dress up. I loved all of it.

Each time I spent time with D*** it felt like I was being transformed into a different world and I was learning new things about myself and being stretched in ways that were new to me; it was exhilarating. But what wasn't exhilarating was our physical connection. It was frustrating that our friendship connection could be so strong, but the few times we'd try to be physical it was not awesome, at all.

But I was torn because I'd never had such an open and loving connection with a guy before, so I convinced myself that with a new approach or angle, maybe I could turn on something in us that hadn't been available between us before. And what better time to have an over the top display of affection than Christmas time. So what did I do? I created a city wide scavenger hunt for D***; complete with love notes and prizes at each stop with clues and directions to the next stop. The game culminated in a gift certificate for a massage from me and I surprised D*** with this romantic scavenger hunt on December 23rd 2010, when he received prize #1 of a free fancy coffee drink I'd prearranged at the coffee shop I knew he visited every morning before work. There were 5 more "stops" for him to make and meanwhile I hoped that with each stop D***'s affection and love for me would grow, and we'd have some sort of fairy tale outcome.

But that's not what happened. Christmas Day arrived and I knew D*** had stopped and gotten each of his clues, including the grand prize at the end, so I proudly called him to hear how excited he was about his experience and the massage, and to hear his pronouncement of love for me. But it didn't go that way. And I knew it right when D*** picked up the phone and I felt my heart sink a little when I heard the tone of his voice. And I went from feeling excited about my gift to feeling embarrassed by all the time and energy I'd spent scattering the damn scavenger Christmas gifts all around town. And after an awkward silence on the phone, I heard D*** take a deep breath and then he shared his thoughts on my extravagant scavenger hunt. "Harriet, I got all your presents and this is undoubtedly the nicest and most romantic thing anyone, and any girl has ever done for me (inner voice: yay!)... "But... *(I hate buts) "this feels like the kind of thing a girlfriend would do for her boyfriend for Christmas, and that's not how I feel about you. I love you like a dear friend." He then immediately shifted into a more chipper friendly familiar tone "but you are welcome to come over for Christmas breakfast in 2 hours because my parents love you." I felt a stab of pain in my chest. What?! He'd just devastated me, and now he wanted me to come over for breakfast and hang out? What the fuck. I begrudgingly accepted, and knew that my attendance would dig this nail into my heart just a little deeper, but I also had no where else to go for Christmas and I didn't want to be alone. I'd spent the previous year alone because I was sick and single, and I didn't want that to happen again. Over the years Christmas has changed a lot since my parents split up in 2004, and I often felt like an orphan on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, adopting families around town to share the festivities with. And because I'd spent Thanksgiving with D***'s family, I'd already set my sights on hanging with them for Christmas, so I agreed, even though I felt awkward for my clear demotion to the friend zone. But I still drove the hour commute to D***'s parents home in Riverdale, Utah, and could feel my heart aching the closer I got. I was sad that I'd offered my heart to someone who didn't want me and also pretty embarrassed that all his friends (and mine) knew I'd just created an elaborate scavenger hunt for him expressing my love, and I'd been given the friend card as a thank you. Heartbreak wasn't something I was familiar with because I'd always done a marvelous job of heading it off before it hit me, by breaking up with guys before they had a chance to hurt or dump me, but I'd fallen hard for this preacher's son, right from the beginning. As I shared earlier he had me questioning my beliefs and habits and this edgy new kind of faith was a welcomed change to my growing disbelief in life and belief that church was a stuffy conservative experience. The love in me was beginning to brew, and it was a different feeling than than anything I'd felt before, so I attributed this feeling all to D***, which wasn't healthy.

But somehow that Christmas breakfast with D***'s family after my rejection by him felt oddly peaceful. I sat at their long family breakfast table, with D***'s sister, her kids, his parents and his grandmother, passing the food around the table, hoping no one would ask the status of D*** and my relationship. Here I was 33, a business owner and massage therapist, and I'd created my dream job at my spa, and I absolutely loved every person who I worked with. However, my romantic life was very lonely and had a lot to be desired. And I was beginning to see that D*** was just there to show me that I needed to generate more love for and faith in myself. But how do I make myself the focus of my affections and not a guy? It was a great question to consider that Christmas time. As I was leaving D***'s parents' house that Christmas afternoon, D*** told me that a group was going skiing the next day and did I want to join. Skiing always brought me great joy and it was something I was very good at, so maybe I could show off my skills a little in order to boost my self esteem from just getting dumped into the friend zone for Christmas. I drove home that Christmas with my heart feeling a little bit in pieces, and I began to pray that my focus and attention be taken away from D***and go to myself. I'd gotten more accustomed to praying since going to church more often with D***, so during my drive I called in and was open to whatever was bigger than me to help shift my focus. I called out to God, Angels, the Universe, and anyone else who was listening because I just needed assistance to move through this heartbreak. I didn't know what in the world could scoop me out of this heart pain, but I asked for something significant because heartbreak on Christmas sucked, and I cried myself to sleep that night. The following morning we had a group of about 7 people hitting the slopes at the Canyons Ski Resort, in Park City and it was a day of flat light, which means it's tougher to ski because you can't see the bumps in the snow. My energy level was pretty low from crying all night and I wasn't particularly excited about anything, so I just let my body take over the skiing part, because it knew what to do. Plus I didn't need to pay too much attention because we were just warming up on a blue slope and I'd been skiing since I was 3. So I waited for everyone to get off the chair lift, and then away I went down the mountain; and yes, maybe there was a bit of cockiness in my skiing, because I was the most advanced skier in the group, which I loved. I did a few fancy fast turns, just to remind everyone how long I'd been skiing, and how awesome I was, and when we rounded a corner, I felt my heart race because my speed was a little faster than I'd intended. I also noticed the snow was sticky, so I leaned forward into my turns. Then out of nowhere, I felt my right ski pole stick in the snow, so I pulled hard and the pole released easier than I anticipated and I saw my own fist coming straight towards my mouth and I heard a crunch followed by a mouth full of liquid. Yes, I'd just punched myself in the face with my ski pole and my mouth was full of blood and teeth. Everything went to slow motion after that. I spit out the liquid from my mouth onto the snow, but my mouth kept refilled with liquid and what felt like a bunch of pebbles. And as I continued to spit out the contents of my mouth, I realized I was spitting out bright red chunks of skin and teeth out into the snow. And then the reality hit me; holy shit, I just knocked my front 4 teeth out!!!!! Just as I was beginning to take in the enormity of what happened, D*** skied up to the scene and asked if I was ok. "Am I okay? Umm, no, I'm not."

The roof of my mouth felt like it was a war zone, I couldn't feel any of my front teeth, and there was blood around me everywhere. Merry Christmas to me. And being the strong soul that I am, I insisted on skiing the remainder of the way down, rather than contacting ski patrol, because needless to say, I was in shock. But I skied down slowly, marking my route with a trail of blood, teeth and tears. My self talk was brutal and I was convinced this was the end of my dating life. Because who'd want to date a girl with no teeth? Once we reached the bottom of the hill, my girlfriend Jessa was by my side and I drummed up everything in me to smile at her, and say, "how does it look in there?" Giving her a front row seat to my mouth. "Sweetie, how about we get you to the doctor, and you don't look in the mirror" She said. Wise advice. And away we went to the E.R. Once there, they sedated me to where I was almost laughing from the pain, and the nurses asked me who my family dentist was. Family dentist? That felt so 90's to me, since for the last few years, I'd been that girl bouncing around from dentist to dentist, depending on when I had a cavity, where I was living, who was open, and who had a Groupon deal on filling a cavity. So instead of calling my nonexistant family dentist, I turned to the yellow pages and began to call every dentist in the Park City area, to see who would answer their phone and rescue me on this Sunday, the day after Christmas. Fortunately for us, a dentist named Dr. Innis answered his phone, and my friend Jessa drove me to his dental office, where he'd be meeting us shortly. We arrived to the dental office at the same time as him, and he unlocked the door and took me straight back turning on the lights as we went. A pretty young woman accompanied him, who I quickly learned was his daughter, and she was fortunately a dental assistant. I got into the chair and felt a little piece of me relax. I stared up at the dental light and so many thoughts crossed my mind, like how the hell am I going to pay for this, how much is this going to cost, what does repairing a mouth of crushed teeth entail and what the hell am I going to do about the people on my massage schedule this week, some of whom had been waiting all year to see me. I watched each thought dance through my mind, seeking an answer or a solution. But what didn't cross my mind was my heartbreak surrounding D***. My embarrassing scavenger hunt and demotion to friend was all but forgotten. What did come through as I laid in that chair staring up at a ceiling I'd come to be very familiar with over the next 3 years of mouth reconstruction, was a phone call from my dad, who I'd texted a "911 call me" message to. My friend Jessa answered my phone and filled him in on some details, and she handed me the phone to listen to him, since my mouth was busy with the doctor in it. "Harriet, it's your father; don't worry, I'll help you with the expenses of this, so just do your best to rest and relax. Call me when you can, love dad...." And then he hung up. And with those words, every muscle in my body relaxed, and though my mouth was a total shit show, my dad helped me find the faith, courage and support to endure the toughest part of the journey, all the not knowing. I just needed to know I wasn't alone in this mess, or in life, and that he was there to help. And yes, it took several years to reconstruct my mouth, and it involved many different expensive and humbling stages, one of which was to extract the remainder of my 4 front teeth, and wait 8 months for my gums to heal, in order for my replacement teeth to get installed. So I was now the single girl in her early 30's who had the party trick of being able to remove her fake teeth because they were on a retainer. The blessing in this scenario? During the time I was toothless, I stayed away from men, so it was the greatest self reflection time I've ever gifted myself. It was a permission slip to slow down, go inward, and take my focus away from finding my soul mate, and shift it to healing my inner self and my perception of my outer self. I recommend this sort of self healing time for everyone, because it helped me build a new foundation in my self, that was rooted in love and acceptance. Though I certainly don't want you to have to knock out your teeth to reserve this space. Rest and healing is one of the most important practices you can gift yourself, especially during the holidays, so that you can be your best, and deliver your best. It's a win win for you and all your loved ones. And as for the best Christmas present I've ever given? It's no longer the 2010 scavenger hunt I created for the preachers son who wasn't supposed to love me. It was the self love I was now forced to explore in myself.

And as for the picture in this story, I redid my bridge here in Costa Rica because my gums still needed more healing, so I once again got to explore a time period of having my teeth be removable. But this time, rather than avoid men, I had a loving husband to experience this with. Trust the perfection of the journey, and do your best to enjoy it, teeth or no teeth. Namaste

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