What kind of reaction do we have when we are given a gift?
A gift is usually a surprise. For me, I get that momentary pause of taking in a deep breath.
I’m a sucker for a beautifully wrapped gift. Sometimes I can get so focused on the wrapping, I can lose sight of the surprise that’s inside the box.
Giving a gift is also a big part of the experience. Yet, I’ve been guilty of deflating the giver’s joy by saying, “You shouldn’t have.”
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO RECEIVE?
Life has a way of shaping how we react to things.
I grew up in an extended Italian-American family in Brooklyn, NY. I not only had to deal with the discipline and structure from my mother; but my aunt and grandmother, as well. They had free reign to stop me in my tracks. I couldn’t get away with anything.
It seemed like I spent more time getting punished than getting rewarded.
My grandmother called me a “ruffiana” or a free spirit. I had a vivid imagination and wanted to express myself creatively. My family called me the little actress, as I wanted to spend time pretending and acting out characters and stories.
That did not go over too well in house grounded in structure and discipline.
I was spontaneous and didn’t want to be tied down to things as tedious as school and chores.
I felt like a cannoli on a plate of biscotti.
Even though a cannoli is rich, flavorful and considered a special dessert, I felt I didn’t fit in; and I wasn’t good enough.
How can someone who thinks they’re not good enough receive anything?
There were moments, when my mother told me she was proud of me or I did a good job. I found it difficult to receive her compliments. She always seemed to have a scowl on her face.
I figured, if she meant what she said, she would have had said it with a smile.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that I was born the week before Christmas.
My family always made sure we celebrated my birthday on my birthday; and my mother insisted there were separate birthday vs. Christmas gifts.
But I learned early that having a birthday party around Christmas doesn’t fly.
When I was six, birthday invitations were given out to my classmates. The plans were set and in place. I was so excited; but my excitement turned to disappointment.
No one showed up. I saw it as major rejection. How can anyone who believes they are not liked be able to receive anything from anyone?
That was the only time, as a child, a birthday party was planned for me. After that, family only.
IGNORING LIFE’S SURPRISES
All the discipline, structure and rejection took hold in my life. Because I wanted to fit in, I became a biscotti.
My spontaneity was limited to spur of the moment vacations.
My natural inclination toward acting was buried deep within by the need to be responsible. As my mother once told me, “acting doesn’t put food on the table.”
I became a planner. I planned everything. There was no room for chance. My contingencies had contingencies.
That kind of thinking certainly doesn’t allow much for embracing surprises whether good or bad.
I, also, decided somewhere along the way that it’s better to give than receive. But, not in a good way. Rejection can cause someone to need to buy love.
I had to learn…
Unfortunately, rejection crept in and took hold. I was able to receive negative words and believed everyone else was better than me. I just couldn’t believe anything positive, so I didn’t receive.
EMBRACING LIFE’S SURPRISES
Sometimes life forces us to sit up and take notice.
I was the workaholic corporate marketing drone. I was good at what I did; but I felt I needed to go above and beyond. I worked long hours and ran myself into the ground.
It got to the point I couldn’t take anymore – LITERALLY!
In October 2001, I was rushed to the emergency room from work with an oxygen mask on my face. I thought I was having a heart attack.
Thankfully, it was only a panic attack, but that scare was my wake-up call.
I realized I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Trying to be a biscotti was certainly not the answer.
One month later, I walked out of corporate not knowing what was next.
I took a class for fun on commercials for real people. I figured I’m a real people.
One thing led to another; and I started to pursue acting.
I was given a gift out of what seemed like a tragedy. That panic attack opened a door for me that I never would have gone through, if I didn’t embrace one of life’s surprises.
I’ve been pursuing my dream of acting for over 17 years now. Without question, it’s been challenging. But, isn’t that true of anything worthwhile?
Then, I received another of life’s surprises.
In January 2010, I sustained a serious concussion from a major car accident.
Was this a tragedy or a gift?
At first a tragedy.
I needed to bounce back from the fallout of not being able to read or memorize.
THEN, A GIFT!
That concussion unlocked my ability to be vulnerable and the creativity to write.
The vulnerability has enabled me to tap into the emotional depth needed as an actress. It has also been the key to expressing myself in my own voice and in my own way.
I AM A CANNOLI
By embracing life’s surprises, I’ve come to the place of being able to receive and accept who I am.
I am a…
I’m full of life; and like the cannoli, I’m full of flavor. I’ve realized that, just as the cannoli is a special dessert, I am special because there’s no one else like me.
I believe that’s true for everyone.
We are all different.
We are all special.
We are full of flavor uniquely our own.
It’s time to receive the understanding of the blessing we truly are to ourselves and to others.
I believe it’s time to embrace all of life’s surprises, good and bad. That’s how I discovered…it’s never too late to go after your dreams!