By Krystina Wales
Sometimes the best gifts don’t come in a box, or even wrapped. As inboxes fill to the brim with gift guides and sales — there’s an opportunity to step outside the commercialization of the holidays and think about how gifts can look different than simply another item.
1 – Be Thoughtful
Every Christmas, I handwrite a letter to my closest friends. I tell them what I love most about them, what I admired about them from this year and what their friendship means to me. Even if your love language is not words of affirmation, I find it an exercise in gratitude for myself, savoring the joy these friendships bring me. I have heard feedback that these letters are some of the most treasured gifts my friends receive, acting as a pick-me-up on tough days throughout the next year.
2 – Be Uninhibited
The past three years have been tough on us all. There are endless amounts of statistics I could reference here that talk about declining mental health, the load of work and stress we all carry around with us as a result of the trauma from this epic decade. Sometimes, the best thing we can gift ourselves is to step outside the homes that have held us during this time, feel the icy air in our lungs as we take a deep breath, listening to only the sounds of the air as it enters our nose and then fill the silent expanse with a loud, ass scream.
3 – Be Present
Presence is an action. My good friend and I instituted a thing during the pandemic called Porch Beers. When we desperately needed time together that COVID was robbing us of, we visited each other’s porches after kid bedtime. Sometimes there was beer, sometimes there were snacks. But there were always chairs, carefully placed six feet away from each other, and conversation flowed. When we think about the act of gathering, it matters less the logistics and more the connection. We don’t need to create elaborate settings to have conversation. We don’t need date nights and babysitters to reconnect with our partners. We need found moments to talk about nothing of consequence. No kids, no house, no pets, no work. Just “Gosh, the person I married is f’ing smart and interesting” moments. Presence is an action.
4 – Be Ready to Capture
My 5-year-old popped into a Zoom meeting recently, which was slightly embarrassing as I was interviewing a physician chair whose time is limited. The doctor was gracious and allowed my 5-year-old to speak and when she went back downstairs the physician said, “I hope you are recording that little voice. It won’t last forever.” Record your little ones rambling on incoherently with a story they made up or a song they love to sing. Capture the fleeting moments now. Record an interview with your grandparent and ask them questions about their life, their childhood, what informed their choices and what turning points shaped their lives. All our memories are inherently flawed, and while we believe when we are in these moments that they will never end, they will and you will want to revisit them someday.
5 – Be the Light
We have all had moments when we receive a call from a sibling, a child or a friend who vents about their day—stress at work or with kids or with a partner. We listen, we offer advice and then we hang up and move on. Sometimes the need behind the call isn’t articulated with words. Sometimes we need to listen for the wish behind the call. Show up with dinner, order a pizza, offer to clean their house or watch their kids. Pick them up and take them for a trail hike and say nothing as you walk among the trees. Everyone has a skillset. Everyone has an ability to act in ways that feel real and true to the relationship. You can unburden someone with the sole knowledge that you care enough to act.
This mama of two and rockstar partner is fueled by coffee and making a difference. Whether through ad copy as a healthcare marketer, personal narratives on parenthood or narration around the table with friends and a good beer, Krystina Wales knows how to tell a story … and she’s damn good.