I couldn’t believe I did this to my dear Aunt Cleo. But I did, and it was for quite selfish reasons. My parents weren’t happy when I divulged what I had done, but they understood.
Have you ever experienced a time when you gave something away, but then you regretted your decision? Well, that’s what happened to me. In my defense, I was only 8 years old. But I still knew better.
My parents and I had enjoyed a fun-filled day at the zoo — all the sights, sounds and interaction with the creatures. And I fell in love with one. His name was Willie B., and he was the Atlanta Zoo’s famous silverback gorilla.
The moment I entered the gift shop after touring the zoo, I knew what I wanted: something to commemorate my visit with this beloved primate. I found the perfect souvenir — a ceramic plate with a picture of Willie B. on it.
Now I had a tangible memory of him. On our way home, we decided to visit my dear Aunt Cleo. After she treated us to some of her delicious sweet iced tea, she turned to me and asked, “So, what did you bring me from the zoo?” I didn’t realize that she was joking with me.
I panicked. How could I have been so thoughtless? I didn’t buy her anything. The only souvenir I purchased was the one for me. Not wanting to disappoint her, I quietly went out to our car and grabbed the bag that contained my Willie B. plate.
When I walked back inside, I forced myself to smile and said, “Here you go!” I was proud to be giving her something but was also sad to be parting with my only reminder of Willie B. Our visit continued, and the more I thought about going home without the plate, the more upset I became.
And then, I had a not-so-brilliant idea. Aunt Cleo had taken the plate to her room and placed it on her dresser. I politely excused myself, my purse in hand, and told everyone I was going to the restroom.
You can probably guess what happened next: I retrieved my Willie B. plate. It fit nicely in my purse. When I walked back into the living room, my parents were saying their good-byes. I hugged Aunt Cleo and told her I loved her while thinking how awful I was to rescind my gift.
On the drive back home, my parents could tell something was wrong with me. I divulged the whole sordid story to them. They knew how much I had wanted to keep that plate and knew I hadn’t realized Aunt Cleo was joking with me about bringing a gift for her.
Nevertheless, what I had done was dishonest. But I was so torn between my desire to remember Willie B. and my desire to do something sweet for Aunt Cleo.
This kind of scenario has played out in my adult life, but not with tangible items. I’ve faced situations when I wanted to please other people and ended up making decisions that ultimately hurt me. It was decisions as innocent as accepting an invitation to go out with a friend when I didn’t feel well enough to go.
And I would inevitably experience regret. Why couldn’t I just say “no” instead of pushing myself beyond my limit, coming home sick and exhausted, and requiring a couple of days to recover?
Those of us with chronic illnesses usually have different energy levels than our friends and loved ones. We often need to be judicious and make our time count. And when multiple people come at us with multiple requests, it can be overwhelming. Which one(s) do we disappoint?
Thankfully, I’ve matured quite a bit since I retrieved my Willie B. plate from Aunt Cleo’s dresser. I’ve learned how to take responsibility for my actions and to say “no” when I don’t want to or can’t give something away. I make every effort to offer my time, energy and love in an authentic manner in which my heart truly embraces but my body can also follow through with.
I don’t ever want to be in the situation of regretting a “gift” again, and I take great care to ensure that I think of myself and my health before making any decisions.
And just so you have some closure, Aunt Cleo wasn’t angry with me at all. She appreciated my apology and accepted it wholeheartedly.