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4 Things We All Want To Learn From Hobbits About Birthday Presents

4 Things We All Want To Learn From Hobbits About Birthday Presents

Hobbits are described in The Lord of the Rings as a merry folk who loved to laugh, eat, drink and “they were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted.”

No wonder they are popular creatures! But should their birthday traditions exist in Tolkien’s fantasy world only? Trying some Hobbit customs might give our own celebrations a refreshing twist. Here are four truly inspiring aspects of treating birthday presents as Hobbits do:

1. Hobbits give presents only as they can afford.

‘Not very expensive’ was a basic rule for birthday presents so the giver “could accommodate his gift to his purse and his affections without incurring public comment or offending (if anyone) any other than the recipient”, as Tolkien explained in a letter to a fan (Letter 214 in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter).

And no, a cheap present does not mean it could only be lame by definition. There are very cool gifts that hardly cost anything.

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2. Birthday presents are given in private.

As explained in Tolkien’s letter, Hobbits handed over the presents one-on-one, in person and before the party. We can see clearly that this allows undivided attention on both sides. If not practiced properly, it might be embarrassing to some, but it also allowed a wonderful opportunity to show the other person how much they cared about them.

Presents were not just simply handed over in private as “it was very improper to exhibit them separately or as a collection” – to avoid showing off (Letter 214). And if you have ever experienced the embarrassment of a situation where someone was given two identical gifts by different persons, then you know one more reason to value the Hobbits’ traditions.

3. Hobbits having their birthdays give small presents to others.

When Hobbits threw a birthday party (and they usually did), all guests were presented with a small gift (even those who had not given anything to the Hobbit celebrating his/her birthday before the party). The tradition has been elaborated as “a form of ‘thanksgiving’, so it was taken as a recognition of services, benefits, and friendship shown, especially in the past year” (Tolkien’s Letter 214 is the source of the quotes in this section if not stated otherwise).

Hobbits started the custom as small children, giving their parents gifts that they had “found, grown, or made.” Things “belonging to or produced by the giver” were absolutely ‘correct’ presents among adults too. Presents could be new or used things, some “had circulated all around the district” as we can read in The Lord of The Rings (that is probably something not to be learned from Hobbits).

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As we know from Bilbo’s not necessarily typical example (of his farewell / birthday gifts, in his case anyway), presents could even refer to the relationship in a serious or a joking manner.

For example, Bilbo gave a gold pen and ink-bottle to someone who never answered letters or a large waste-paper basket to a relative who “had written reams of good advice for more than half a century.”

As we read it in The Lord of The Rings, this tradition ensured that everyone received lots of presents throughout the year, and Hobbits “never got tired of them.”

But we can see another perspective too: the hobbit having a birthday practiced gratitude. So altogether, this was really wise as many small, good things contribute to everyone’s happiness better than fewer, even though bigger, positive events (frequency beats intensity), and practicing gratitude also makes people happier. Consequently, there is not much risk in saying that this Hobbit custom can create an absolute win-win situation.

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4. The celebration itself is more important than the gifts.

As we learn from Letter 214, Hobbit guests expected the small presents they were given “as part of the entertainment” and “secondary to the fare provided.” If you have come across Bilbo’s party in The Lord of the Rings, you might have an idea that all Hobbit parties were huge. but mind you, that party was rather exceptional. (For example, fireworks displayed by Gandalf were obviously not part of the usual customs, and the presents given to the guests were “unusually good.”)

We can imagine the atmosphere of that party as probably typical though, with elements that – if practiced regularly – might also help us make our lives a celebration.

There is another custom to be learned from Hobbits that highlights the importance of celebration. As Tolkien explained in Letter 214, “sometimes, in the case of a very dear friend unable to come to a party (because of distance or other causes), a token invitation would be sent, with a present. In  that case the present was always something to eat or drink, purporting to be a sample of the party-fare.”

Hobbits made sure that all thier friends were in some way involved in the celebration.

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Which of these customs would you like to try or have you tried already when celebrating your or someone else’s birthday? Your ideas and experiences are all welcome.

Featured photo credit: small presents via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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