I love hearing about how other people give and receive gifts. No holiday fascinates me more than Christmas, both because I’ve never celebrated it and because of what I’ve picked up about it by reading blog posts or hearing friends talk. I think I would be terrible at celebrating Christmas; perhaps not advent and the lead-up, but certainly in regards to the gift giving. I am a decent gift giver. I don’t think anyone really knows how they do at gift giving because everyone is supposed to receive gifts graciously therefore you don’t really know for most things how much they genuinely loved it and how much they didn’t really care for it but faked it. But I think I can safely say that I’m in the realm of decent gift giver (and who know, I may even be great).
Gifts come fairly randomly around here. My sister, for instance, got me a fantastic Hobbit sweater recently that I wear pretty much every day that I can because it makes me feel as if I’m in the Shire, but she also knows me very well and knew that a Hobbit-y looking sweater that contains orange is going to be a massive hit. But even my birthday doesn’t come with an expectation that I’ll be getting a pile of gifts. Do gifts come — yes. But they aren’t always from the same people as the year before, and I have no expectation of receiving one from anyone in particular. I could have a birthday and walk away with no gifts, and I could have a birthday and walk away with 15 gifts, but neither situation trumps the other. It just… is. And we don’t really have a holiday like Christmas where there is the expectation of gifts.
Actually, a lot of my mindset (and the reason I would suck at Christmas) comes from the fact that Voltaire’s Candide is one of my favourite books. I loved it enough to read it in French and English, and we own probably 6 copies of it. I don’t collect rare books; I collect printings of favourite books. And Candide is one of my Bibles. I know I’ve quoted Voltaire’s thoughts on the Pain Olympics here in the past, but one of his most important lessons — the one I take to heart the most — is that if you want flowers, plant your own garden. (Yes, that is a simplified summary of Chapter 30, but certainly one of the messages within to use your own hands and do the work if you want a certain outcome.)
It extends to not waiting for others to buy me gifts NOR to win things. Hence why I rarely enter contests or drop my business card in drawings (the one exception is writing contests because I’m not after the prize, per se; I’m after having my words loved). If I want a phone, let’s say, I know in my head which smartphone would work best in my life. I know what size I need it. Sometimes I even have a preference when it comes to colour or model. And then I wait if I can’t justify or afford to buy it for myself, or I purchase it and begin using it immediately. Which is why contests don’t work: they choose the size, model, and colour and hand you the prize, but maybe it doesn’t really fit my needs at all. So now I have this item that I wanted but it’s not the one I really wanted, and I’m stuck with this off-version of the thing I wanted and no way to ever get the one I really want because I can’t justify spending money on something I sort of already have. Someone hit it on the head when they said that if they wanted a big-ticket items such as a computer, they want it to be the exact make and model they need vs. having someone surprise them with it as a gift and have the item not be the exact one they want.
And some of it is plain-old-wanting-to-do-it-myself. To earn the money and spend the money on myself. Maybe that is why I had such a hard time wrapping my mind around infertility. In needing to have someone else help me with my hard work. Which is silly — I had no problem allowing someone else to deliver my child. But making my children? I wanted to do it myself. And that obviously isn’t how that gift turned out. Though I’m grateful, I’m grateful that those twin gifts came at all.
The gifts I want are all intangible and their cost is always another person’s time or skills. I want to be gifted with someone doing the laundry (my mother does this for us, especially when the kids were babies, and it was a much more loved gift than a bouncey seat or a toy). I want to be gifted with someone fixing my computer for me when it breaks. When I got my iPad, the gift wasn’t the item itself but it was the fact that Josh woke up early and went to the store to wait in the line so I could have the item before a trip. I want the gift of a lie-in or errand running or doing all the driving or letting me choose the music in the car. All things that could never go under the tree.
Even my birthday present is always experiential as is Josh’s when we give one at all. Rather than giving gifts, we put that money towards a yearly trip or a membership to a museum (I love belonging some place).
Are there things I covet? Of course. A good camera is one of those things. And would I be thrilled if someone handed me one? Of course. But I won’t wait for someone to give it to me. I’ll save my money and then go out and purchase it myself, and maybe even feel more excited that I did this for myself than I ever would if someone gave it to me.
Am I the only one who loves it when I’ve made it happen for myself more than I ever would if someone handed it to me?