You know how when you’re a kid, and it’s close to Christmas, and adults don’t really know what to talk to you about, they ask, “So, what do you hope to get for Christmas this year?”
This is actually a good question to ask a kid who celebrates Christmas, because they’re almost always bursting with ideas of things they’d love to have. My son, for example, used to create a list three pages long, single spaced, full of stuff that I couldn’t even pronounce. So it’s generally a safe bet, if you don’t know a kid, to make conversation by asking what they hope for under the tree.
But one year, when I was about nine, I couldn’t think of what I wanted for Christmas—at least, not the one-word answer that adults seemed to want. In fact, what I really wanted that year couldn’t be put under a tree at all: I wanted to be treated like an adult. Unfortunately for me, my parents thought that was sort of ridiculous; this was all just too difficult to explain to outsiders.
So I made up an answer. When adults asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, I told them I wanted a bike. Not because I wanted a bike, mind you—just so I wouldn’t have to talk about it anymore.
What happened next might not come as a surprise to you: on Christmas morning, I woke up and came down to the tree, where there was a new, pretty, yellow bicycle for me.
It was a good present, overall, and I was a lucky girl to get it. The thing was, I didn’t know I would get a bike, because I hadn’t really wanted one. And yet I was telling people I wanted a bike, acting as if I did want one, and I guess my parents overheard or asked someone what I had said, and—in that Christmas mystery that happens for children and adults alike—I ended up with a bike. It wasn’t bad, for sure, but it wasn’t what I intended, because I was asking for something that fit in with what other people expected to hear, and not for something that I wanted from my own heart.
When I think back to that time, I resolve to do a couple of things—not just around Christmastime but in my everyday life. First, I’m careful about what I ask for. You might think I’m still talking about the stuff you might find under a Christmas tree, but I’m talking about bigger stuff, the things I want out of my life. What I am saying to people who ask me about what I want in my life, not just for Christmas? Am I asking for that which seems “normal,” even though it doesn’t reflect the real me? Am I taking the easy way out of the conversation?
This is important, because you never know who’s paying attention. You don’t, in life, want to be asking for something you don’t really want, because there’s a chance you might get it. There are plenty of voices in the world, for example, telling you how to live your life the “right” way, telling you what makes for success and what makes for happiness. Will you agree, just because it’s easier to? What will happen if you ask for the wrong thing—and you get it?
The other lesson I learned is that the things that you announce that you want have a way of finding you. If your heart is longing for something that seems silly or impossible, and you can’t imagine how you could possibly see that wish into reality, then it will help—I promise you, it will help—if you start telling yourself and other people what you’re hoping for. You don’t have to know how it will work out first.
You probably won’t say, “I want a bike.” But you might say something like this:
I want more time with my kids.
I want more time with my parents.
I want to forgive my father.
I want to get along with my sister.
I want to live my life more simply.
I wish I had more free time to just play.
I want to devote my life to a cause I’ve come to believe in.
I want to tell my parents that the only subject I like in school is art.
I want to do that work that has always called me, even though I’ve got education and experience doing something else.
Say it. Just start saying it and see what happens for you. It might not come the way you expect it, but I believe that wishes of the heart are answered one way or another. Try it and see what happens for you.
Bikes that are asked for do have a way of appearing under our Christmas trees. Make sure, both at Christmastime and in other times, that you ask for that which you really want. You may be very surprised, one morning, at what you find under your tree…and in your life.