Holiday paranoia & other fun traditions
Well, it's officially the holidays.
Can I tell this from the lights all around? The near omnipresence of the word "Christmas"? The bell-clanging Salvation Army volunteers?
Okay, all that helps, sure. But what really tips me off that Christmas is here is my annual panic.
Tonight, I wrapped most of Tim's presents (read: all the ones that have arrived). As I looked at the stack, the only thought passing through my little head was, "THIS ISN'T ENOUGH!"
It was pure, undiluted panic. A small voice in my head told me I had been thrifty to a fault. That I had avoided spending and, in the process, short-changed Tim on presents.
The stack of gifts looked meek and unassuming. It looked vastly inadequate. The feeling was so strong, I nearly jumped onto the computer to start plotting what else I could afford.
It was all I could do to keep from dashing out the door, credit card in hand, and materialism unchecked. Instead, I focused on calming down and tried to visualize the list. When I had looked at the list, the items seemed like enough. But as covered, unknown shapes, the offerings seem paltry.
I also reminded myself that a couple more gifts are due -- this wasn't everything. Somehow, though, I doubt the additions will make the panic vanish. Especially since this happens every year, regardless of how many gifts I have.
What is it about covering gifts -- which should add mystery and inherent value -- that makes an otherwise worthy pile seem downright miserly?
Is it that I've simply internalized the retailers' message that love equals material possessions? Is it because I am always careful about staying on a budget, even for holiday shopping? Is it a fear of disappointing people? Or is it simple guilt because I'm excited to receive gifts, and I'm trying to overcompensate with generosity?
Honestly, I don't know. Probably each plays at least a small role.
Unfortunately, I think a large part is that I've been sucked into the rampant materialism of the season. I sometimes forget that Tim knows I love him, regardless of the presents I give. I forget that presents aren't about proving your love for those close to you. It's about showing generosity and thoughtfulness because you love them.
The other big part is that I like giving people gifts. I enjoy the surprise and happiness that come when the recipient unwraps the presents. It's fun, and it's great to be able to show people that you care about them and know them well enough to get them what they want. The fact that we can't afford a whole lot right now, well it's frustrating.
Of course, it's not exactly fun to live carefully all the time. But during the holidays, when so many gadgets and clothes and books and jewelry are dangled in front of us, it's a major shackle. Yes, there is an element of fun in figuring out crafty ways to afford gifts: DIY, MyPoints, shopping sales.
But, by and large, it's irritating to be forced to scale back, to separate what I would like to give to Tim from what I can afford to get him.
And when every other Sunday ad features a $200-$400 gaming system, I just get so frustrated. Together, Tim and I may spend $400 on all our gifts. To spend it on just one? It's hard not to be jealous.
So is that all there is to the holiday-gift anxiety? I doubt it. I'm pretty sure everyone has at least one moment of similar panic. Even those people who do get the $400 gaming systems.
Maybe they've just internalized the materialism more than I have. Or maybe we are all just neurotic. I'm not sure there is a clear source of this panic. Or an obvious way to avoid it.
Rather, I'll simply have to win the lottery. That way, when the panic strikes, I can have the driver take me out to buy more -- which I'll call 'propping up the economy.' Or, if I'm too tired, I can send my personal assistant out for me. Heck, if I'm rich enough, I bet they'd bring the store to me (or, at least, parts of it).