I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming holiday season. In this week of Thanksgiving I want to be present, thankful, focused on spending time with my loved ones. I’m finding myself also beginning to plan for gift-giving (and to realize I’m already behind…). My family celebrates Christmas, but maybe you’re thinking about Hanukkah (already here!), Kwanzaa, or another end-of-year gift-giving occasion.
Gift-giving is exciting. I love giving gifts. I love holidays. I love making the people I care about happy. Hooray holidays! BUT WAIT, gift-giving is also stressful. To give gifts I need to make a list of everyone I’m buying for, think about what they like, plan ahead for those gifts that require mailing, shop… oh right, and actually buying the gifts means spending money! Gift-giving gets even more stressful when money is tight, time is tight, there are complicated relationships, you aren’t sure what expectations about gifts are, you feel your gift needs to measure up to a certain standard… I could go on (and I bet you could too!)
And then, of course, there’s the matter of what the gifts are. How many gifts have you received that you’ve never used – that someone spent their money and time buying for you, but just wasn’t the right gift for you? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been making an effort to reduce clutter (and not just clutter, but possessions too – material items tend not to make us happy). I want to appreciate gifts I’m given, and I am definitely appreciative of the thought, time, and effort put into them, but I also really don’t want things I won’t use. It is tough enough to keep life moving along smoothly without more stuff to manage! (Incidentally, here’s an interesting guide for clutter-free holidays!)
So, what many of us have is a situation where we want the holidays to be happy, stress-free, about love, and about togetherness. We want to give gifts that others love and that they use. We don’t want our loved ones to stress or to spend money they don’t have. And yet, the reality is that we are stressing ourselves by spending a lot of time, effort, and money (time, effort, and money we may not have!) on gifts that very often aren’t used. (If this isn’t your situation, I’m impressed, and I’d love to hear how you do it, please do share!)
The two big thoughts for me this year are money and clutter. I’m trying to figure out how to show my love to my loved ones on the budget of a graduate student, and I’m trying to figure out how to both give gifts that are useful and to communicate with loved ones to avoid them spending their resources on gifts that aren’t useful to me. I’m worried – I feel that gifts are a representation of my love for the recipients, and I want the gifts to be good enough. How can I possibly do that if I don’t give gifts or spend lots of money on gifts?
This brought me to the question of the season: “What do I have to gift for the holidays?”
I don’t have as much money or time as I wish I did, but there are still things I have, and I can gift those things. I have a heart full of love, an ability to write, some time that I can choose to spend with loved ones, a gleeful spirit that likes to be playful, knowledge I’m gaining through graduate classes, and a talent for baking. I don’t usually think of these things as gifts, but they are gifts when I share them. And, in fact, if the goal is to make the recipient feel loved, the Five Love Languages tell us that “receiving gifts” is only one way humans feel loved. Many prefer to receive “words of affirmation”, “acts of service”, “quality time”, or “physical touch”. And even if people do prefer receiving gifts, gifts still don’t have to cost a lot, or anything at all, to be loving gifts. (Read more about what each love language means here!)
So, what do you have to gift for the holidays? How does that match with what those you love need and want? What would you like your holidays to look like? How can you choose to have happy holidays?
Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net has written a lot about moving away from buying gifts for holidays and has lots of great ideas about how you can gift the ones you love without the traditional buying frenzy (including how to discuss this change with them!) You could make handmade gifts, bake, wash a car, babysit, clean, or volunteer at an organization your giftee cares about. You could also spend time together (maybe playing games, caroling, cooking, or volunteering together). You could even write a story about an experience together or a letter sharing your feelings.
If you (or others) do want to spend money on gifts, you could donate to an organization the giftee cares about (one of my favorite gifts!) or find items that are truly needed or wanted. You could, like me, keep a year-round online wish list of items you want but won’t buy for yourself. (For me, that’s a Buddha Board – Amy Smith has one in her office and it is a super cool way to watch your worries melt away! Oh, and my loved ones? I think my parents may have claimed that gift idea!)
This holiday season, my goal is to give of myself. I plan to love and respect myself by not overextending my budget and to love and respect my loved ones’ resources by clearly communicating my needs and wants. I plan to gift heartfelt, handwritten letters and to choose to spend my time with those I love. I hope that these things will be seen as the gifts which I intend them to be.
Will you join me in giving of yourself? Together we can challenge the idea that a newly-purchased gift is the best way to celebrate a holiday!
If you’re having a difficult time dealing with the stress of the holidays, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378. Marriage counseling with Cindy Fabico or Risa Bos can help with stressed relationships, or you could work with Amy Smith and her Buddha Board in individual counseling.
Happy Thanksgiving! ~Krista Bringley