I’m a terrible shopper. I get all excited to go browse favorite stores, usually don’t have much of a problem finding a few things I’d like to buy, but almost always end up talking myself out of buying anything at all.

Usually it’s because I already have something at home that works perfectly well, and I don’t really need whatever it is I’m lusting after. Or I realize that it looks much cuter on the rack than it ever would on me, or that I just can’t justify buying myself something frivolous when I have too many bills, too many responsibilities to take care of first.

So the prompts about gifts are interesting for me to ponder. I realize that gifts aren’t supposed to always be practical, but in my world they usually are. I’m often embarrassed when I secretly wish for, or even receive, gifts that aren’t practical in nature.

I spent part of my holiday week clearing out clutter; ghosts of birthdays and anniversaries and Christmases past that have lingered far longer than they should have. There was one that struck me, though. It was a book from a high school friend that was a surprise because this friend and I typically didn’t (still don’t) exchange gifts. 

This particular year, though, he gave me a book. It was a journal, actually, with a now long-lost dust jacket that proclaimed it to be ‘The Book of Anything’ or ‘The Book of Everything’; I don’t remember anymore. But I still have the book itself, now with a sloppy coffee ring stain on the front cover where the jacket should be.

I remember the card my friend included with it, though that’s been long gone, too. He wrote about how he doesn’t normally give gifts, but that this gift was special because it was a book that I would write in my own way. I don’t remember the exact words, but basically he said ‘you can create your life, write your story, live however you want. Your canvas is blank. Don’t let it stay that way.’

He gave me this gift 20 years ago (roughly). I’ve carried it over state lines twice, from apartment to apartment to apartment and stored it in basements, boxes and bedside tables. I’m not sure why I’ve gone out and bought journal upon journal and empty notebook upon empty notebook when that one is still sitting here, blank and waiting for a mark from me. But I do.

20 years later and that journal remains empty.

Of course my life has been anything but empty. In that time I’ve been an unwed mother, a wife, a divorcee, a single mother, a paralegal, an entrepreneur, a sales person, a speaker, a writer, a coach, a mentor, a friend and hopefully far too many titles to list. I’ve traveled, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve failed, I’ve grown. 

But that one journal, those particular pages, is still blank.

I wonder why I’ve kept that book sacred; in and of itself, it isn’t special. The pages aren’t heavy and thick, the cover isn’t unique or even pretty. Still I’ve saved it, like the lacy unmentionables and the “good” china that I’ve kept packed away for special occasions and pivotal celebrations. 

I was feeling guilty as I cleaned this week, wondering if that blank canvas would be a disappointment to the friend who gave me the book. Then, as I sat sipping tea and watching the lights on the tree twinkle and change color, I that that perhaps the real gift of those blank pages is the reminder that, no matter where I go or what I do, the potential to write my story is always there, always receptive, always waiting for me to say go. 

P.S. That tea was such a cool gift from an even cooler friend. Gina gave me a gift set from Teavana, which is beyond awesome. No holding on to this one for a ‘perfect’ day; instead I’m enjoying this one every day.

P.S.S. I'm thankful for the reminders–big and small–of just how blessed my life is. Even the 'My Year In Status" from Facebook reminds me that the real gifts in life aren't wrapped with bows; they're the little moments that take place in kitchen or during reading time or when I least expect them that truly matter most. 

I'm loving the #reverb12 prompts from Meredith and Kat, and the #cultivate12 prompts from Meredith and will be sad to see the prompts come to an end in just a few short days.