Like most people, I hate the commercialism of the holiday season. A lot of people I know with younger children have curbed their gifting-free-for-all spirit and are pursuing saner something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read type guidelines.
But I’m a mom with my own spending issues. I have very fond memories of Christmas mornings and the kids going to bed with not a single present for them anywhere in sight and waking up to a huge pile of wrapped packages and overflowing stockings. That was a wonderful feeling.
Now the kids are grown, and for the last 15 years at least I have gone back and forth between buying them gifts, maybe a lot of little gifts wrapped individually, or one gift to wrap with cash or check inside. This year we are going back to our minimalist ways and doing just a check and a card, maybe; hopefully I’ll find a really cute card or be inspired to write a nice note. My kids are accustomed to my holiday mood swings. They do not particularly care about the gifting either, although I know they have financially goals and it makes me feel good to contribute toward them instead of yet another pair of jeans or some useless something they may enjoy yet not really need.
But I wander through our routine shopping and find myself in the giving spirit. There is a toy drive at the gym and it’s very tempting to buy a few things to put into it, but I cannot quite bring myself to do so. I am not so much in a Grinch-y state of mind so much as it seems so inadequate. Those most in need – what exactly do they need? My practical side is apparently far stronger than any and all tenderness I might feel for children in need and the joy a new toy might bring to them.
I am also not a believer in only giving during the holidays. Most of our charitable giving goes on throughout the year. With my life and history, I am sensitive to the serious illness of children and the mental/emotional anguish of children raised or recovering from abusive situations. Because I am so aware of my weaknesses in this regard, it makes me thorough in vetting charities and situations seeking financial support. Because honestly, I cynically realize that my giving is in its way all about me, and it is important to my own ongoing health and wellness and recovery to do what I can to make the world and my own impulses within it make sense.
Last night was holiday bonuses and the bosses were extremely generous. I don’t know how to feel about that, except gracious and grateful, so very grateful. Yet at my core it makes me a little uncomfortable – I do not feel deserving of such high praise as expressed with their checkbook – but as usual that’s me and my stuff. I rarely to never feel deserving of any bonus dollars not negotiated up front or the many kindnesses and gifts clients send my way. I remind myself we each present gifts for our own unique reasons, and I continually relearn the “accept graciously” lesson along with the not be embarrassed about giving away things I receive and know we will never use. Booze is a prime example – I collect a fair amount during the season and am offering it to friends left and right.
But back to the toy drive and my struggle with that. While I would love to buy a few toys for the toy drive barrel, it will feel inadequate and not quite enough. There is so much need in the world, so many whose holidays will not be the big and bodacious holiday joy-fests the way marketers try so hard to make us believe. It is painful for me to think about less fortunate too much, too deeply, or to allow my emotions to fully engage toward children born into less than ideal circumstances.
I have to just say no and have faith that the charities I do support will be wise and fair and spread the bounty as far and as wide as possible.
Though the years I have found that Christmas is still magical, but for reasons that have less and less to do with gift exchanges or big giant holiday meals. M and I have been at home without our own Christmas tree and decorated home, or we have foregone the decorations completely and just enjoyed the relative uncluttered, unfettered feeling within our own home. But we love walking or driving through our neighborhood and seeing what everyone else has done, enjoying their light displays and Christmas trees from afar. We have had the kids over and ordered pizza on Christmas eve and we have a house full of friends and extended families and cooked and baked until I am so thoroughly sick of the smell of food I don’t even feel like eating.
I do not find a strong preference for either. It is the people I love, that they are safe, happy, healthy in their own lives and spaces that make the holidays feel special for me.
I know it’s not the same for everyone, and the relentless marketing produce a feeling of inadequacy with what is missing during the season. I am super fortunate to not have that. No matter where we are or what we end up doing this season, M and I will be together in our adventure.
C and A leave on Wednesday for the drive to Florida. Their belongings are already on the way, and they are spending their last days in California in a mostly empty apartment sleeping on an air mattress borrowed from us and trying to finish eating from their pantry before their departure. Has made for some very interesting meals this last week. Last night was our last family dinner for awhile, albeit with my associates and bosses and their dates or significant others. Still, it was a very fun and festive evening. We are imagining next we are all together breaking bread will be in Tampa or at Disney World when we go visit next year. Sad because we will miss the close proximity and exciting for the new sense of adventure at the same time. We all console ourselves that we live in the internet age and that keeping in touch is not as challenging as it once was.
My holiday bonus check this year makes it all more poignant to me, that we are among the “haves” versus the “have nots.” As is our custom, any windfalls like this get divided up at 50% into savings, 10% given away, 10% frivolity for M and I, and 30% to be decided on a case-by-case basis. This year I think the 30% will be mostly earmarked for family vacation at Disney World next year.
I don’t know if I feel in a mild funk about the season, overwhelmed with the generosity of bosses and associates, a little anxious about C and A fleeing the state on Wednesday, or simply fatigued from watching CIM today. Or perhaps body is simply jonesing for some structured exercise, having missed pilates, yoga, and the gym in favor of CIM festivities and then laundry, grocery shopping, household chores, work-work.
Or low blood sugar – at 71 when I checked and trying to remember when I ate last. The morning protein shake and peppermint mocha at the race does not provide enough fuel for a full day of actually going about my day.
At the time I checked (about 30 minutes ago), my maiden voyage with the pressure cooker bbq chicken. I had my doubts getting started, but it was actually quite delicious. A little too much bbq sauce this time for the volume of chicken, but good flavor. Next time I’ll cut it back and see if we like it any better.
A few final chores tonight and I can settle down with my current book. All in all, it has been a good day. And I do feel better with some food in my stomach. Chicken and broccoli – my fall-back meal.
Hope you all had a terrific weekend.