I am historically bad at accepting gifts from anyone who is not my mom or dad.
I get a little shy. I sometimes feel a little ashamed that I didn’t first give them a gift. I sometimes feel obligated to get them a gift after receiving theirs.
So, opposite of when I was a child, I often find myself wishing I wouldn’t receive gifts.
That’s a sad story.
And it really smacked me in the face how sad it was this morning when the wonderful writer at BulgingButtons—one of my newest readers—nominated MBTTTR for Blog of the Year 2013, not unlike my nominations about a month ago for Most Influential Blogger and Most Versatile Blogger.
And my initial reaction was to express my deepest gratitude, and leave it at that.
Because at first:
It felt egotistical to accept.
It will force me to nominate blogs for Blog of the Year, also. Which is not a problem. The problem is, I feel shitty thinking that people I care about might be wondering: Why doesn’t Matt think I deserve a nomination? Asshole!
The hard truth is, I don’t read a fraction of the great writing floating around WordPress and other corners of the Internet as much as I’d like to. I have a really hard time working 40+ hours per week, writing every day, being a single dad 50 percent of the time, and not letting every other facet of my life suffer. All that other stuff competes with my reading attention. Which is bad if you wish I’d spend more time reading your writing. And I’m so sorry. Because I feel deep within me the inequity that exists when many of you give more to me than you get in return.
Like a thousand micro-metaphors of the first seven years of my now-failed marriage.
I was going to thank BulgingButtons for the flattering nomination and simply leave well-enough alone.
And then I read something.
I’m quoting this, word for word, from TheWannabeSaint.com from this morning.
“It was said of Abba Zeno, that from the outset he never wished to receive anything from anyone at all. Those who brought him something came away hurt that he had not accepted anything. Others came to him, wanting to receive some token from a great old man and he had nothing to give them so they too came away hurt.
The old man said, ‘What shall I do, since those who bring things are hurt just as much as those who wish to receive something? I know what seems right to me: when someone brings me something, I will accept it and I will give it to anyone who asks me for something.’ So he did that and was at peace and satisfied everyone.”
So, I instantly recognized that me and Father Zeno suffer from the same illness—misplaced… I don’t know what… humility? Fake unselfishness? I’m not sure.
But I know this: We hurt people’s feelings when we don’t accept their gifts.
I love to give gifts.
And I’m often impatient about it, too. One of my favorite things about this time of year during my marriage was that we celebrated both my wife’s birthday and Christmas this month. Two opportunities to give her gifts.
She didn’t always love them. She hated an aftermarket car stereo I bought her one year. But mostly, she did like them. Tickets to live theater. Jewelry. Spa day gift certificates. Pretty, yet comfortable, things to wear around the house.
And those were some of my favorite moments. Buying her gifts. Giving them to her and seeing her smile. And mostly winning her approval afterward.
It’s not okay to deprive people who care about you of feeling the joy of giving.
They’re not giving because they want anything in return. Except one thing. You accepting their gift. Because that gift is a piece of them. Whether it’s a drink at a bar. A thoughtful card. An act of kindness. Or something much bigger.
I’m shitty at accepting gifts. One of the many accidental wounds I inflict with kindness efforts that miss the mark.
I’m always trying to be better.
Learning to accept gifts, compliments and love with graciousness is another leg on my journey.
Blog of the Year
I’m in the very early stages of learning to love myself again.
It’s laughable to me to have such a loftily titled award associated—even loosely—with what I’m doing here.
This still feels like a selfish exercise. Writing stories in the first person.
But in many respects, me giving myself to the keyboard is a bit like giving myself a gift. Present-day therapy. And long-term, perhaps my tiny little mark on this planet. My “I was here” sign stuck in the ground for wanderers—both hopeless and hopeful—to find.
In the end, I don’t get to decide how good or bad this stuff is. You do.
And instead of trying to discredit people who like my work, I should instead use their generosity to lift me up. To push me harder. To propel me further.
I don’t like nominating people for things for fear of offending the rest.
But if I’m going to be something like courageous, I’m going to have to be that here, too.
I’m also going to cheat.
1. Because I don’t always follow rules.
2. Because I care about truth (when it’s not too embarrassing for me to admit).
3. But mainly, because these are the blogs I don’t miss.
Only one of these is on WordPress, and I’m almost afraid to mention my blog crush on her because EVERYONE has a blog crush on her.
But, in my estimation, no one’s doing it better than Aussa right now.
“But Matt! You just like her because she’s a pretty redhead with piercing blue eyes!!! Typical male!,” followed by lots of eye rolling and judging.
Believe what you want. She’s good. Really good. I can’t even really pinpoint what’s so good about it. But I want to. Because I want to capture it, bottle it, drink it and incorporate it into what I do.
But that’s impossible.
Because she is as unique and authentic as they come.
Her writing is good-natured. Hilarious. Filled with gobs of humanity. Excellent storytelling. Adventure. And it has captured the hearts and minds of 17 trillion people after only being in existence for nine hours. (She seriously launched the blog less than three months ago, I think. It’s beyond remarkable.)
Aussa is kind. Smart. Courageous. Loyal. Loving.
I feel like I know her because she lets us in.
She’s immensely talented and entertaining and I can’t not read whatever she posts next.
Blog of the (quarter of a) Year, yo.
I don’t think the rules state that I’m allowed to nominate hugely successful bloggers and published authors outside of WordPress. But I don’t really care. Because James Altucher is the most-important thing to ever happen to my writing.
He helped me find my voice. I read everything he writes. And I’m a better person, and hopefully, a better writer, for doing so.
Subscribing to his posts via email is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.
No one is more human than James.
I’ll always love him for that.
No one is less needing of blog traffic than Seth. He has one of the most-popular blogs in the entire world. He is probably the most-brilliant marketer on the planet today. He writes several posts a day. Sometimes, they’re only a few paragraphs.
This guy sees the world through a prism that I wish I could clone. Because he really knows how to ask the right questions.
Questions that can make us better professionals, but more importantly, better people.
These three brilliant writers wield a lot of power. Aussa, you’ll get there soon enough.
And they wield it for good. All in their own, unique way.
The reason we need to receive gifts is so that we can in turn give to others.
For those of you unfamiliar with these three writers, I’ve given you a gift.
And these writers? They are gifts.
People who give to the world.
Making us laugh.
Making us think.
Making us feel.
To paraphrase Cousin Eddie, they are gifts that keep on giving the whole year.
And you can open these before Christmas.
Thank you, Aussa. Thank you, James. Thank you, Seth.
You make me want to be better in every facet of life.
The perfect gift.