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day 90: synonyms for "grateful"

May 2, 2011

I’m a sucker for a good makeover story.

As a child of the 1980’s, I soaked up movieland transformations (“Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Pretty Woman,” and “The Breakfast Club” spring to mind) with a zealot’s fire.

I pored over Seventeen magazine, ripping out “Six Steps to Perfect Hair” and taping it to my bathroom mirror.  I believed these assertions that anyone — given complexion-appropriate highlights and a step aerobics regimen — could achieve transcendental beauty.  Though I was smart enough not to admit it, I think I also believed that a dip in the redemptive waters of gorgeousness just might bring salvation.

Then I grew up, of course.  While I still linger over “See How Sarah M. Took Ten Years Off Her Eyes!” on the treadmill, I notice that Sarah M.’s magical eye cream is coincidentally advertised on the magazine’s back cover, a fact that escaped me at fourteen years old.  I’m still a sucker for the “After” photo, I’m just less likely to try to squeeze in next to Sarah M. at the finish line.  I want a peek behind the curtain, and I’m skeptical of any story half-told.

Ninety days ago, I embarked on my “a gift a day” project.  It was conceived as part writing practice, part spiritual exercise, and part challenge to my noncommittal side:  I asked it, “Can you finish something you’ve begun, with no degree/reward/bouquet waiting for you at the finish line?”  I went easy on myself.  To participate in my self-created project, I had to give something meaningful away, and I had to write about it every day.  I charged myself to think small.

Thirty days in, I wrote about perspective, openness, and connection.  On Day 60, I met with my minister and talked about building a substantive foundation upon which my children could thrive.  In the space between “then” and “now,” Japan was ravaged by disaster, then Raleigh, then Alabama.  Parents got sick and lots of babies were born.  I drank gallons of coffee and ran lots of miles.  My son turned five and life roared on, texturing the background of my appreciative evolution.  I sit here, at the end of my 90 day experiment in giving, struggling to find more synonyms for “grateful.”

When I began this project, I don’t know what I thought would result.  Truly, I’m not sure what has resulted, but I’ll tell you what “a gift a day” is not:  it’s not an instruction manual, encouraging Redemption-Through-Giving In THREE! EASY! MONTHS!  It’s not self-promotion — I hope I’ve laid bare enough of my foibles to prove this true (giving a Lara bar to a hungry, toothless man?  offering babysitting services to a mother who rejects them?  vowing health food for my children, then taking them to Chik-Fil-A for lunch?).  “a gift a day” is too brief to be a journey and too incomplete to be a redemption tale.  It’s not self-help, though God knows it’s helped me.

If asked how I am different, ninety days later, I’ll say that I have new eyes.  I’m lighter from the cynicism I’ve lost; the care I’ve left behind.  I’m made fresh.

You who are reading this now, my extended family, you’ve contributed; you’ve chucked coins into whatever machine kept me going.  You are to be thanked and blamed for giving me your time, the gift which — I’m forever convinced — outvalues every other one I’ve offered (yes, even the free nail polish coupon).  For reading one entry or 90, I thank you.

I hold each of you in my thoughts.  Bearing special mention, though, is my Steve: my first reader, my ally, my home, my heart.  Every day and every word began with him in mind.  Never having bought into my self-doubt for a second, he’s  convinced I’m better than I am and makes me so.  On Day 90, I finished a gift for him — a short story he commissioned for his birthday, a gift long overdue.  I hope he likes it.

Niece number 15, the last and newest little girl on my list, also received a gift on Day 90.  Though she’s too young to play with it, I’m sending her this doll:

My inner child wants to keep her.

I know some people find dolls creepy, but this little lady would have been my childhood dream gift.  If Baby C finds her terrifying, I hope her parents pass her on to someone who will adore her as much as I do.

Many of you have asked where “a gift a day” is headed, now that my 90 day experiment is finished.  Several of you completed my poll (thank you!), in which I begged for your direction.

The immediate answer is that I’ve loved writing here too much to let it go.  I don’t trust my noncommittal side to hang up the blogosphere with a promise to write “when I have the time,” only to discover ten years from now that I’ve written ten words.

And, as I said, I’m skeptical of any story half-told.

I need to take a week or two’s hiatus to revamp the blog, to give it a non-surgical facelift of sorts, and I’ll check in with you in the meantime to let you know how it is going.

I look forward to seeing you soon, refreshed and uplifted.  Stay tuned, if you’re a sucker for the “After” photos.  I thank you wholeheartedly for showing up.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Culbertson permalink
    May 2, 2011 8:02 am

    thank you Anne for going through this writing process and sharing it with us. I’ve learned to like and admire you even more than I did before. I look forward to your future writings



  2. May 2, 2011 8:11 am

    Anne – My favorite post yet! I cannot to see what this blog brings next!

  3. tierd permalink
    May 2, 2011 12:13 pm

    I have so enjoyed following your 90-day experiment! I look forward to finding out what’s next – enjoy the break! 🙂

  4. Dawn permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:09 pm

    I’m so, so glad that you love writing this blog too much to give it up. And, I’m also happy that you’re going to take a much deserved break before you reveal the revamped version.

    Thank you for sharing these last 90 days (how can it be 90 already?). It’s been part of my routine each day and I selfishly wasn’t ready to let it go. I’m grateful to you for letting us be a part of this experiment. Reading your blog has truly been a gift each day.

  5. May 9, 2011 12:13 pm

    Thanks so much to all of you! I am working with someone (far more skilled than I) to pretty-up the blog a little, and will be back soon with greater regularity. I am really excited to keep it going, and so appreciate your encouragement.


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