Your Life as a Gift: How Do You Want to Use It?

Your life is made up of opportunities and decisions. What path do you choose?

Posted May 19, 2019

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You’ve heard this before: That of all of the possible combinations of time and partners, sperm and egg, you are here, literally unique, a one-in-a-million creation. Here you are in life. Here you are as a human being, and unlike other animals or plants, you have the clear ability to choose. Here you are now, rather than 100 years ago or 100 years in the future. Your life is a gift.

How do you want to use this gift? The possibilities are infinite, but some thoughts to help narrow it down:

You throw it away, misuse it

Suppose you are 8 years old or 13 years old and you get this purple sweater from your aunt for your birthday. Or your grandparents give you this board game that they think you would like. But one look at the sweater and you know you hate it. Your first reaction to the game is that it is stupid; it comes with this huge booklet of rules and instructions. The game seems so overwhelmingly complicated.

So, you stick the sweater into the bottom of your dresser and never even try it on, or sneak into your mom’s bag of Good Will clothes. You open the first pages of the game instructions, quickly toss it aside, muck around with the game pieces. You sort of make up your own game, but that gets boring, and then some of the pieces get lost; the instructions get eaten by the dog.

The consequences

Life as disappointment where you never get what you want, where your disappointment overrides trying it out. Life where the rules are too complicated and overwhelming, where the game is stupid but you think you're stupid too. Maybe you don't have anyone to sit with you and learn the game, or you're afraid to ask for help. You sit on the sidelines, you struggle with anxiety and depression; maybe you use drugs; mostly you give up.

You wear it out

You love the sweater, the game. You wear the sweater every day even when it has holes, no longer fits. The game becomes your obsession, you play it all the time, it’s what you live for. There’s no holding back.

Consequences

Your approach to your life is one where you’re all in until you’re no longer able to be all in — until the sweater is worn out, until you’re drained and exhausted by the game, until pieces are lost, or until you’re understandably and eventually bored with it. 

Here you may attach quickly in relationships, and drop them when the excitement wears off. You become myopic about your career and it fills 90% of your life and your identity. But when the excitement ends, when that career comes to halt, when the kids leave home, when your life no longer fits, when you’re burned out — you’re at a loss. Your life became too narrow, you invested too much in one thing, there were too few baskets in your life to balance it out.

You don’t use it, you save it

You love the sweater, but you put the sweater away because you don’t want to “spoil” it by getting stains, holes; you vow to save it for special occasions but those occasions are never special enough, and then you outgrow it. You look at but never play the game or share it with others because you are afraid of losing the pieces.

Consequences

A life of caution, a life filled with anxiety, a life filled with what-ifs. You hold back you. You let opportunities go by, you fear vulnerability and opening yourself up to others; you never feel comfortable being honest. You retreat, you avoid fully engaging with others and your life.

You give it away

You love your sweater, but your sister likes it too so you lend it to her. She gets a hole in it, a stain, you say it’s fine, though it bothers you. Your friends ask if they can borrow the game, you’re reluctant but do it anyway. They lose the pieces, you’re upset, but again you let it go. 

Consequences

You give your life away. You’re sensitive to others, you don’t want to hurt their feelings. You have a hard time saying no, setting boundaries. You become the perpetual caretaker, the martyr. Your life is determined more by them than by you. You’re left with the remains.

You use it, you take care of it, you share it, you transform it

You have other sweaters, and you wear the purple one when you feel like it. You appreciate it, less for the way it looks but more because it was a gift from your aunt. You lend it to your sister, but ask her to be careful. You learn the rules of the game, play it with friends, but are also careful and make sure that the pieces don’t get lost.

And when you are older, when you’ve outgrown the sweater, you use it as a pattern to knit your own (in a different color). You pass the sweater, the game down to your children, your grandchildren, but you take the time to show them how to take care of it, you teach them the rules and show them how it is played so they too can appreciate it the way you do.

Consequences

You override any initial disappointment, readjust your expectations, and appreciate your life as a gift. You take life on, you don't hold yourself back, you're not always looking around corners expecting disaster. Your life is diversified, balanced. You listen to what you want; you see life as filled with choices, options.

And you pass you on — you and your personality, your gifts, your knowledge of the rules and the wisdom of navigating life — and by doing so you help others learn to appreciate their own gifts.

How do you use your life? Which path do you choose?