Gifts make me nervous.
It’s hard to even write that knowing that people who give me gifts are going to be reading this, so I’ll clarify. A lot of things make me nervous. It doesn’t mean I hate gifts. It’s complicated. It wasn’t always. Packages used to pass both ways easily. Things used to be different.
Maybe it was the broke high school friend who made me promise never to give him a Christmas present since it would make our friendship lopsided. Or my college boyfriend who–regardless of the gift–barely reacted.
A college friend of mine was a fantastic gift giver. He knew exactly what he was doing. One time, he accompanied me on a trip to the store, and weeks later I unwrapped the teapot and mugs I’d been admiring.
“You remembered!” I exclaimed, close to tears of gratitude.
“I pay attention,” he said.
Since developing a phobia of (both receiving and giving) gifts, I’ve read the Five Love Languages book. I now know that many people (including my husband), don’t care much for gifts. You’d think this would remove undue pressure, but it hasn’t.
Why do I freak out about it? Why is it such a big deal?
We want to connect. To love and be loved. To be appreciated. We’ve all gotten or offered parcels that weren’t great. It’s how life goes. It’s what happens.
Except, we’ve also all received that one totally amazing, absolutely wonderful Thing. Everybody gets a Velveteen Rabbit, even if it’s not velveteen or a rabbit. And that rabbit becomes real. You take everywhere with you. It sleeps with you. You love on it constantly and keep it until it’s unraveled and caked with nasty germs.
At which point it graduates to a memory. It’s a sort of friendship bracelet. When you say, “I love this. Someone very special gave it to me.”
We all want to be the Pied Piper of shopping. We live in an age where a few clicks and buttons can give us anything we want at any time. The internet has infinite possibilities, so it feels like we should know more. Do more. Buy more. BE MORE.
None of us want our present to end up at a thrift store or in the recycling or whatever. We all want to be Magic.
I love the comradery of holidays even though they can be emotionally and physically overwhelming. I give my family very specific ideas so those presents are usually minimally stressful. Once the hunt has been completed, the fear is still there but is more of a buzzing than a full on shriek. Once everything has been opened, I’m ready to pass out from all the fuss.
My mom worried when she told me that Christmas was gonna be low-key and was surprised when I sighed with relief and said, “That sounds great!”
True story: my husband and I get excited for toothbrushes in our stockings every year from her.
Every occasion, I catastrophize that a gift not well received will result in a severed connection. That by not loving everysinglething anyone anywhere gives me that we’ll make like Fleetwood Mac and go our own ways.
Will I ever stop feeling this way?
God, I hope so.
I try to show affection and friendship in other ways.
This year I started a separate journal just for compliments. It’s hard sometimes for me to discern and define them. Yet, Words of Affirmation are a big deal for me. I cherish them.
I couldn’t tell you what my parents got me for graduation, but when I went up to accept my scholarship award, my mom yelled, “YOU GO GIRL!” really loudly from the back of the auditorium.
Not sure what I got for my 18th birthday, but my dad wrote me a note saying that he was proud of who I’d become and that I was one of his best friends.
In a world where minimalism and capitalism collide, here’s my advice–try to reach each and every person you love in multiple ways. Remind them of their good qualities when they’ve forgotten. Hug them when they need it (and when they might not). Smile a lot for small reasons. Do the dishes when your spouse is weary from work. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Treasures don’t all come in a box with a bow, but we carry the important ones in our heart always.