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Excerpted from The Gift of a Year by Mira Kirshenbaum. Copyright © 2000 by Mira Kirshenbaum. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Giving yourself the gift of a year has a magical impact on your life because it restores the natural, necessary balance between giving to yourself and giving to others."

  Mira Kirshenbaum, The Gift of a Year, Part 5

Restoring the Natural Balance

Why do you think depression is a problem for five times as many women as men? All you need to know is that women are five times less likely to say yes to themselves than men. Isn't that a recipe for depression? After all, depression can happen to us when the self gets worn out and discouraged from our not doing a good job taking care of it.

How can you think of yourself as a caring person if you don't take care of yourself? If you don't take care of yourself, you'll stop thinking of yourself as someone who has a lot to give. Instead you'll feel deprived. And you'll hate your life. How can you give others joy if you can't give yourself joy?

Giving yourself the gift of a year has a magical impact on your life because it restores the natural, necessary balance between giving to yourself and giving to others. There's no reason for you to leave yourself outside of the equation. In the ecology of your life, you're as important as anyone. If things curdle inside of you because you've neglected yourself, then ultimately they curdle for everyone.

Instead imagine a small life-saving miracle. You give yourself a year in which you say stop to the soul-eroding momentum of your life. You give yourself a gift you've never given yourself before. Instead of putting yourself last, by hook or by crook you do what you need to do for yourself.

Maybe it only takes a few minutes a day. Or an hour a day. Or, for some women, a bigger chunk of time. But you give yourself one year that will stand out forever in your memory as a year different from all the others.

That's the gift part of the gift of a year. A real gift has to be something personal, something with impact, something you care about, something that gives you pleasure. So does your year.

Time Is on Your Side

What about the year part? Of course you realize that I'm talking about whatever time you can find and afford over the course of a year. I will talk about time a lot—it's a big issue for us overcommitted women. And I'll prove to you that you will be able to find the time to give yourself the gift of a year that's right for you. For now, one brief example. An hour a day for one year is 365 hours. That equals more than nine entire work weeks. What can't a woman accomplish in that time?

It doesn't even have to be one year. Gifts aren't rigid. But I know this—it can't be a day or a week. That doesn't even come close. We give ourselves a few days here and there all the time. But come on. A little is not enough.

The point of talking about a year is that it's big and memorable. It does something substantial for you. If you went on a religious retreat or took a trip you've dreamed of or went to an artists' colony for two solid months, leaving everyday life to do it, well, that's huge. That's two months full time, and anyone would say that's the equivalent of a year part time.

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