I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. Giving cash (or often, gift cards) shows you don’t care. You don’t feel like taking the time or trouble to pick out a “real” gift.
Let me tell you a thing.
Once, years ago, a friend had been trying to find something to give me for Christmas. I was in rough financial straits at the time. It seemed silly to give me something useless. I had bunches of books and movies already, and also he didn’t know what I might want. (This was in the days before Amazon wishlists. Or at least, before I had one.) I had just moved from a good-sized house to a tiny apartment, so I had no room for anything more than I had anyway.
Anyway, as the situation dragged into January and he got to feeling worse and worse about it, he finally handed me $50. He told me I couldn’t spend it on bills–I had to get something I wanted.
Friends, I went to a discount home store and bought myself some curtains. My little white box of a living room got curtains, and my new place became much more homelike. My daughter’s room got purple sheer curtains, and I got to stop worrying about how she never remembered to close the blinds before changing. My bedroom got bright red blackout curtains–so I had a pop of color AND some additional darkness for days I got to sleep in. I even bought a little curtain for the …
Here we are, five days till Christmas, and it feels like time has just flown by. I can remember sitting at work on December 1st thinking, “wow, twenty-four days till Christmas. It will be forever before we get there.” And now, here we are, twenty-one days later. The mind boggles. (I have a conspiracy theory that time is actually speeding up and it’s not just our perception of it. Why, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s real.)
Last night, my accountability group was discussing people we’ve lost, and how it’s been affecting our holidays. And it made me think back to my childhood. And this morning on the bus, I tried remembering my grandparents’ old house.
Because when I think of Christmas, I am always hurtled through time to when we had Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. It was a small, two-bedroom house with a basement, a dining room, and a small kitchen. My grandparents had a beautiful tree with these antique ornaments on it (some of which grace our tree now) and a Santa on a sleigh that actually spun around the tree. It was neat. There was always mistletoe hanging from Grandma’s kitchen doorway. And, of course, there were other decorations as well. But that tree sticks in my mind.
So we’d all go to Grandma’s for Christmas Eve — my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, and of course, the four of us — my dad, my mom, my sister, and me. Usually, they’d be someone there who didn’t have anywhere …
I think November’s been tough on a lot of us, and December isn’t necessarily any easier. Personally, besides the obvious stressors, I’ve also had a truly hectic month at work and came down with two colds in quick succession. Seems like a good time to review self-care. So here are some reminders, for myself as much as for you all…
1. Take the time to do something you love.
I was lucky enough to attend not one but two contra (folk dance) weekends away from home in November. Lots of exercise, friends, wonderful live music, the state of flow, and a natural high, not to mention the excitement of a road trip. (Of course, that’s probably also where I picked up both of those colds. Argh.)
2. Do something creative. If you’re a creative professional (like a writer), do something else creative.
I’m a big believer in “creative cross-training”. We writers love to talk craft and work on improving our craft, which is important. But it’s also important to go and try something else — something that doesn’t have the same stakes and expectations attached. For me right now, it’s Instagram, contra dance, and occasionally tinkering in the kitchen.
3. Try something new.
At one of the aforementioned dance weekends, I got to try English Country Dancing (a cousin to contra) and swing dance, both new to me (swing dancing has footwork, ack, but the music is so much fun…). At the other, I got to try dancing …