One evening, my friends and I were sitting with mugs of tea and decaf coffee, discussing the calendar for our women’s group. (Picture a book club, but the books are optional.) What were we going to read or discuss or do together, and when? We all had some vague ideas, but nothing was coming together. A little ball of angst started rolling around in my belly, because I like when things do come together, and also, what if someone handed the calendar to me? That would not end well.
Jessica, our fearless leader, took my anxious presence as a sign that maybe I was trying to communicate something to her. “Do you want to help with the planning?” she asked.
“Me?” I bounced in my seat like a skittish rabbit. “Oh, no. Nope. Not me. No thank you. I’m not the best with calendars. At all.” I accidentally schedule two things at once and forget to write down half the other things on the list, every time.
Then Jessica did the thing she does when she finds herself outside of her own zone of genius: she waved her hand in front of her face like it was no big deal, like she was waving away a wisp of smoke, like she was clearing the air. “You have other gifts,” she said.
I have other gifts. This is what Jessica says when she isn’t willing to pretend to measure up, and she means it, too. This thing in front of her may not be her jam, but oh well. She has other gifts.
My chest always relaxes a little when she says that, because of course, she is right. Of course, you don’t need to be gifted at all the things. Of course, it would be silly to expect yourself to do it all. Of course.
If you know what your gifts are, it’s not so scary to have some faults. This is an idea I like a lot. Do I have any gifts, though? If I do, it’s hard to see them around my enormous list of meh. I have no phone skills, I have no ability to go with the flow, I cannot meet new people without being weird and awkward, and I have never yet learned to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
If I have any gifts, it’s hard to see them past all that. But I think listing our gifts might be a little bit like making a gratitude list. When I make a list of three little things I’m grateful for each day, I start to feel more grateful all the time. If I make a list of my gifts, maybe I’ll start to have a clearer picture of who I am—not just the ways I don’t measure up, but the whole of me. So who am I?
I am not the person who should plan the calendar, but I am another kind of person: I am a person who is willing. I am willing to hold on. I am willing to do hard things. I am willing to find a better way. I am a person who is willing to be wrong and to try again, and to say all the things and invite everyone else to say all their things, too. Those sound kind of like gifts, I guess.
What else? Well, I am a person who believes in our own connection to one another—I believe deeply that we are all the same, that we are made of the same stuff and have the same capacity for love and the same need for belonging—and I believe that understanding and acting on that oneness will open up a little piece of heaven on earth. That belief is a gift. It makes my life better, at the very least.
So what if all the clean clothes in my house live in laundry baskets? So what if I haven’t replied to all the email? So what if I have to set actual reminders on my phone to tell me to go outside and get some fresh air once in a while? So what if I cannot work a calendar, and get cranky in the afternoon, and have not solved any global crises single-handedly? Okay, well. I have other gifts.
The bad things do not cancel out the good things. I can do some things, and I can’t do others that I wish I could. This maybe should not be shocking, given that everyone has a mix of good things and not-so-good things on the inside.
Owning your gifts is another way of saying, This is me. I know who I am, and I am grateful for this chance to be myself.
And when you do that, you make room for the people around you to accept the whole of themselves, too. You teach your kids that this is just how to be in the world: that a whole person is good at some things and not at others. We don’t have to pretend to be all-perfect, and we don’t have to believe we’re all-terrible. We can be exactly who we really are.
This isn’t just about accepting yourself—this is about celebrating who you were made to be. I don’t have to be good at everything. I have other gifts.
Jessica flashed a smile at me and then got back to doing what she does best, which is creating a circle of human connection. I did not take the calendar, but I did take a deep breath—and then I practiced using my own gift for not making eye contact, so as to avoid accidentally volunteering for anything else. People are like that. We have flaws and gifts, and one does not cancel out the other. We are both/and. I don’t know how it all works. It’s a mystery, and I do not understand everything about all the mysteries. But that’s okay. I have other gifts.
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