Happy New Year! I’m one of those people who loves resolutions. I make like a million a year. I make them in January. I make them on Tuesdays and in the summer, and in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Part of the reason I think I like making resolutions is because I also love breaking them, and because I forget about them without an ounce of angst. So I make them and leave them behind, willy-nilly. If you know me, you know that willy-nilly is sort of how I am in a lot of ways.
I have a few goals for the year—mantras, phrases, guidelines. I have some fresh starts and intentions, and like everyone else in America, I did tell myself in no uncertain terms that I must go to the gym today.
I won’t pretend that this little phrase is my deepest or most urgent resolution of the year, but it is one thing that I’m trying to run through my life, like yeast through dough: burn the candles.
You know the ones I mean—that fancy one that your friend sent you, in a beautiful box. Or maybe for you it’s the lotion, the special kind that someone knew you loved. Maybe it’s perfume or wine or jam or mustard. Maybe it’s a lovely brand-new journal that sits on your dresser while you scribble on bent and frayed index cards.
I know all about this. I have fancy lotions that have gone unused for years, given to me by people who know how much I love all things lavender-scented. Instead of using this fancy lotion—slathering it on my cracked and dry knuckles, smearing it on my neck or elbows, I keep it all untouched, and I use the bottom of an unscented bottle of hand cream I bought at the grocery store who-knows-how many years ago, or a tiny bottle from a nameless hotel so many months ago.
Listen, I’m not saying be fancy and spend crazy money on candles. You’re talking to a girl who keeps hotel soaps. What I’m saying is that when people give you things—and most likely, in the last month, people have given you things—allow yourself to receive them.
Burn the candles. Not just when people come over. For you, because someone gave them to you. Open the wine and have a glass tonight while you fold laundry. Wear the perfume, the pretty scarf, the whatever that you have tucked in a box, too fancy for you.
For Christmas I bought Aaron a subscription to Blue Bottle coffee, his favorite. And this is the magic of it: a whole bag arrives every two weeks. He has to brew his coffee, or we’ll end up with a delicious-smelling hoarding problem, a glut of coffee we don’t know what do to with. I love this.
Because it’s not about candles or coffee. It’s about believing that you’re worth the good stuff, that someone wanted you to feel loved and seen and known. I bet that someone didn’t want you to hoard your candle or your fancy tea or your beautiful lotion. I bet they would love to know that you’re drinking fancy tea all day and all night, reveling in the feelings of being loved and noticed. That’s how I feel, when I give someone a gift—I don’t want you to put it on a shelf for when someone else comes over. I got it for you, for you to feel loved and seen and known.
My dear friend Emily and I went to London together this year. It was a milestone trip for all sorts of reasons, marking an important finish line for me, the last of a long season of trips for me. It was the longest she’d been away from her darling girls, and across the ocean at that.
On a Sunday afternoon we wandered through Covent Garden—a stop for champagne & cheese, poking in and out of shops. We stayed forever at the Jo Malone store, smelling their heavenly perfumes. Honestly, I wanted to buy one, to mark the moment, to celebrate the milestone, but it felt extravagant, so I didn’t. And then last month the most beautiful box arrived, and it in the candle in the fragrance I’d fallen in love with (oud & bergamot—a heavy, other-worldly, spicy dream of a fragrance), and a thoughtful note from Emily.
I was delighted. And I immediately wanted to put it high on a special shelf, all the while burning whatever old candles I got on clearance at Target.
Not this year, pals. This year, let’s burn the candles. What are we saving them for? Who are we saving them for?
This year, brew the good coffee, wear the sparkly jewelry, crack open that fresh journal. Gifts are to be loved, to be burned, to be eaten and used up completely, reminders that someone loves us, that someone thought of us.
What would would it look like for you, this year, to burn your candles, to allow yourself to be as loved and worthy as the people around you believe you are? What are you hoarding away for another day, for someone else, someone more deserving or special or fancy? What have you been given that you won’t allow yourself to enjoy?
Open the jam, the journal, the wine. Slather that fancy lotion all over your feet. Put on those sparkly earrings even if you’re just going to the grocery store. Because someone gave them to you out of love. Accept that love. Burn the candles.