Some years, when the holidays roll around, I decide I can't handle sending cards. Some years decorating is a chore to avoid. Some years I can't bear going to parties. This year it seems I am totally not into the whole gift-giving thing.
I'm not entirely OK with this. After all, I'm one of those people for whom giving a gift is like buying a new home. It requires thought, research, and plenty of shopping around. It has to be uniquely suited to it's recipient. If it's something they haven't asked for and aren't expecting, all the better. Even the wrapping is chosen and executed with care.
I also love to get gifts. That said, it's impossible for me not to hold others to my standards. And I'm often disappointed, especially when it comes to men. My first real boyfriend, who went on to become my husband, was a thoughtful gift-giver but didn't have great taste. So his ideas were A+ but his execution rarely rose above a C-. My divorce was followed by two long-distance relationships separated by a few short-term (and completely misguided) flings. To a man, they worked tirelessly to make up for their lack of commitment by showering me with ridiculously fabulous presents. Some of them still give me pleasure: the Lisa Jenks bracelet from Peter, the scent Richard turned me on to, memories of the trip to Spain with Luis. But the men are long gone, and their piles of perfect presents paled in comparison to their parting gifts: loneliness, disappointment, heartbreak.
One sure way to avoid any possible let-down is to ban gift-giving so there can be no receiving. But as I write that I know that fear of getting a crappy gift or two is not the reason for my lack of enthusiasm. I think it's more about being out of sync with the emphasis on material things at a time of year that is meant to be about celebrating hope, faith, joy, and peace. I'm in the process of reconnecting with my core values and clarifying what's important to me now. Living a genuine life. Connecting with people in an honest and soulful way. Being a source of light and positive energy. These things matter. So does steering clear of those who use gifts as stand-ins for love.
I'm in a relationship now that is the most satisfying and fulfilling I've ever known, and gifts seem so superfluous. The experiences and values Jim and I share--these are gifts with weight and meaning. So far we've celebrated the holidays by hiking in Ramapo; driving through snow-covered farmland in New York; strolling the quaintly decorated streets of a small town in Pennsylvania (followed by impromptu wine and cheese in a cozy inn); and enjoying a great burger and fries at Burger Joint, then checking out the Christmas tree in Manhattan. And it's only December 16!
Jim and I have agreed to enjoy these "experiential" gifts in lieu of wrapped presents this year. My friend Maryanne and I also came to a consensus on a gift moratorium. As for everyone else, I will be giving in to the giving. Engaging in my family's Secret Santa tradition. Exchanging small tokens with friends as expressions of mutual gratitude for our presence in each other's lives. Using the holidays as an excuse to "treat" my son. But my heart's not really in it. My heart is somewhere else entirely. And I'm very OK with that.