I'm exhaling — heavily — just from reading my own post title.
Don't we all struggle, every year, with what to get at least one someone? Your dad, your boss (do you even do that? is that unethical?), your Friend Who Has Everything...?
I, for one, couldn't tell you what I got at Target yesterday, let alone what someone else got for me last Christmas.
So what's in a gift? What's the big deal with all this gift giving? I love getting people things I know they want, but will they forget next year, too? Don't you think what they'll remember is the party, the dinner or the fun Mommy gift exchange that spawned the actual gift giving and not what was wrapped up inside? So why give? Is there such a thing as The Perfect Christmas Gift if it's not a diamond ring for someone who's been waiting a year for the question to be popped, or a baby born on Christmas after a long and complicated pregnancy, perhaps the gift of hearing the words "cancer free" after 6 cycles of chemo?
I don't mean to get all morbid and anticonsumer, but I've been feeling a little lost since Thanksgiving. I don't want to spend my time shopping and wrapping, and although it's easy to get caught up in the rush of it all (Black Friday, anyone?), I struggle to find that deeper meaning in the Christmas season when my husband is not particularly religious and my kids are too young to understand Jesus and Santa alike. And in our culture of busy-busy-busy, do more-do more-do more, my time is already tight and my head is already in a thousand different places. Any potential meaning in anything at all is just getting lost in the added chaos of My Life on Christmas Steroids.
So what's in a gift? What's the big deal with all this gift giving?
It almost surprises me that I'm even thinking this way; after all, my #2 Love Language is receiving gifts. And I have gotten some great gifts from my husband in the past few years; I appreciate how he's learned what I like and don't like and how generous he is without a second thought. I wonder if it's just me worrying about what we spend that's bringing me down this year? Having a budget takes some of the fun out of it, yes, but that would be a real lame-ass excuse for not enjoying the Christmas season. I don't think that's what's really bothering me.
It actually sounds like I forgot the meaning of Christmas before, and now that I'm off the wagon (on the wagon? how does that metaphor work here?) it's a little lonely. I'm not rushing out to the mall. I'm not having a holiday party. In fact, the one time I did try to go to the mall with my kids to do some Christmas shopping it was a disaster, and it was a low-key family dinner I chose over a cocktail party just last week. So when these alternative choices aren't sparkly and glittery and fun like I imagine what I missed out on is, I second-guess myself. I doubt. It's a murky place to be in during the holidays, and it's definitely not sparkly and glittery.
However. (You had to have known a However was coming.) Something is telling me that I'm actually on the right track here. Deep down I do have faith that this new funny feeling I'm having about the holiday season is some sort of sign of what's to come (and no, I don't mean the end of the Mayan calendar). A wise woman once told me that "anything that is worth believing is worth doubting, sometimes." So although it might sting to hear how great that party was or the kinds of deals people are nabbing at Macy's this year, it will only sting for a minute. It's more bark than bite. And I'm not saying that Not Shopping is better or more noble or more righteous than Shopping. (I'm not even saying I'm not shopping; I'm just trying to get everything shipped to my door with a coupon code to boot.) I think what I am saying is that the perfect Christmas gift really doesn't exist, and we all know it. It's something bigger and more meaningful that we're all after — all year, really — but especially during the holidays when our expectations are suddenly through the roof, waiting to catch a glimpse of the proverbial Santa coming down the chimney.
So when you are out shopping, make it more meaningful than forking over cash for a blue knit sweater. Look the salesperson in the eye and thank him or her kindly. When you're driving to that holiday party, say a little prayer for the people out there who weren't invited anywhere this holiday season, that they may connect with someone in time for next year's festivities. And when Christmas morning rolls around and we all stumble out of bed before making our way to the foot of the tree, take a minute to be thankful that you have a bed, and a tree, even if there are only a few presents underneath.
Remember those kind acts and the smiles and the family dinners. They will get you a lot further than another blue sweater.