Lately I’ve been rediscovering the joy of giving. Nothing grand, just giving gifts to family and friends. And no, nothing to do with Christmas. Well, ok, maybe a little.
On a selfish level, it has been a way to not think about myself but it has also helped me realise a few things.
- I really really hate receiving those bloody heartless cards, whether for Christmas or other occasions that just highlight how little the sender has invested in the giving. Yes I regard cards as a gift if the sender has spent some time and poured some feelings into writing it.
- I’ve been rubbish at giving presents and this has got to change
Let’s start with 1, shall we?
Even though we haven’t celebrated Christmas in the past, I have always sent cards to wish people all sorts of good things for the new year. I include some news and personal messages for each recipient (yes it does take a while to do and recipients may expect their card sometime in January, occasionally February!). A lot of the time, we receive the same from friends and family with a few exceptions. These exceptions bug me. They didn’t use to, I just brushed them aside and responded with more thoughts that perhaps was warranted. Now, they just bug me.
You know what I mean: the generic card bought as a bundle (especially for Christmas), which says:
‘Generic message already printed on the card’
You know what that card tells me? You know what I read in all that space left blank? Here is what I read:
You are part of my long list of self-inflicted obligations. You might be an acquaintance, an apparently not-so-close friend or even family but really I don’t know nor care to know much about you. Yet I am dutiful if nothing else so I will fulfil that duty, go through my little list, pick a card at random, and write the bare minimum I can get away with. Then I can go back to whatever it is in my life that I actually care about.
I have to fight the temptation to send one in return saying: seriously, save yourself the price of a card and stamp, and don’t bother. So I send a card too, individualised, with some text, sometimes even a photo. Why?
Well, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to stop responding to these altogether – or to make the point above in a more diplomatic way maybe. Would it really matter? Maybe not, but I still want to be ‘nice’ to people because I don’t think they see anything wrong in what they do. Perhaps nice’ is the wrong word. Polite?
We all have limited time to do the things we love and/or care about (precisely why these cards are sent I guess, we’ve come full circle), so that courtesy might just have to fly out of the window. And hey, they’ll strike us off their list too! Win-win, surely?
Anyway, on to 2.
I’ve been pretty rubbish at giving presents.
Part of it due to indecision. Is this gift good enough? What if I find something else? I can’t possibly choose now, I will come back to it later/never.
Part of it was making it too much about me. Will they like it? If they don’t like it, what will they think of me?
Part of it laziness, a lack of paying attention, a lack of wanting to spend the time thinking about, researching, planning, finding.
Part of it not wanting to just ask, because a gift must be a surprise, right? You have to somehow know their heart’s desire and transmute that into THE gift that they will love.
Many times, I simply didn’t buy the presents, didn’t write the cards. Sometimes because I didn’t care enough about the people in question to make an effort (and I don’t see the point of doing it half-arsed, I find it offensive – see 1. above). And sometimes because I was in my self-centred bubble and took family and friends for granted, thinking they would forgive the lapses, that I would make up for it in a vague and unformed future. A future that would feature a ‘better’ version of my self. Sadly, the future is now and my improved self has not materialised in lightning and a puff of magical dust… Most disappointing. It would seem I’m going to have to work to achieve it.
I’ve made a start.
Recently I was given the gift of time. Time off work to recover from ‘things’, emotionally more than anything. A pretty unwanted gift, that came with a heavy price tag and a heartwrenching loss, but a blessing in some ways too.
I had opportunities: a friend’s little one breaking his leg, wanting to send presents to my cousin’s kids, because we’re re-connecting and it feels good, a friend’s forthcoming 40th birthday.
I found a willingness to ask. What might that little boy want? I don’t know him so well and he is not a generic 9 year old boy, he is his own little self. Let’s just, you know, ask.
And a willingness to make the leap, to give a surprise present and just hope. Sometimes it goes well and that feels great. Sometimes, it’s obvious I got it a bit wrong. Yet the act of giving – not just the actual gift but the spontaneous gesture of thinking of someone and giving them a gift, just because – still makes the recipient feel good and that’s what matters. I can just dust myself off and learn so I can do better on the actual gift next time.
It has felt good. I’ve traipsed around local shops, I’ve explored options- on the internet, handmade – I thought and thought, and I chose, and gave, with courage. It takes a little courage to give a gift, I find. You put a little bit of yourself in it, you open your heart a little. It can be scary. I wrote cards too. Not too long – though I’m still now sending ‘Christmas cards’ which have turned into ‘New year, I’m thinking of you cards’ instead. Cards that say, here is this from me to you (a gift, some news, a photo), because I care about you, because I am glad that I am getting to share a little of this life’s journey with you and I hope this card/gift will make your heart sing with the joy of knowing that you matter to me in your own unique wonderful way (of course I don’t write that although admittedly I have been close on occasion!).
I’ll finish off with a couple of pictures. These are bitter sweet for me. I took them in the days after the miscarriage, but what I remember the most when I look at them is not the pain, the emotional and physical pain.
What I remember the most is the warmth of being enveloped in my family’s love. The warmth of spending special moments with Little Miss.
She didn’t questioned why I was spending so much time in bed. She simply, sweetly, kept me company.She ‘helped’ me knit. We spent time reading, cuddling, and bouncing (well, only one of us on these occasions).
Warm memories, that I will cherish forever.