My emotional weather has been similarly mixed for the past week. There’s been fun and laughter and joy, silliness and relief and just plain contentment; there’s also been discomfort and uncertainty and the sharp tang of sadness. There’s been some anxiety and a little bit of stress; some worrying over things both inconsequential and not. A wintery emotional mixture, for sure.
My family, and the recent changes to it, are of course topmost in my mind right now. I was reminded of how thorough this change is this morning, and it wiped away every vestige of joy that I had started the day with. Then I got a sexy, sweet text from a new friend, and that made me smile. When I got to work I saw that one of my coworkers had left a Christmas gift on my desk, a beautiful amaryllis growing in rocks and glass, and the thoughtfulness of the gift floored me, as well as the the kind words she had written on the card.
On the other hand, giving gifts to (and receiving gifts from) coworkers always makes me slightly uncomfortable, and can be an issue in a large office, where who gets what from whom and to whom you give gifts can get sketchy, and end up making people feel left out, or obligated in ways they shouldn’t be. For that reason, we always had kind of unspoken rule about not doing so, then last year that was broken (to my embarrassment) when the four of us in my department went out for a holiday after-work drink and two of them had brought gifts for everyone. It was distinctly uncomfortable sitting there while they gave the other two of us gifts. That my admin had also given everyone in our group a gift earlier this week points to the fact that this is now going to be a new tradition, and thus, it is now an expectation, and that makes me both uncomfortable and crabby, because it makes me uncomfortable.
I have a love-hate relationship with the whole holiday gift-giving thing anyway. I love to shop and/or make things for the special people in my life. Finding that special something that is just right, or that makes a person I love smile is so much fun. I love making gifts–finding just the right pattern and colors, then sitting down and crocheting a scarf or a hat that I know that person will like is relaxing and just feels right. But I don’t ever want someone to feel obliged to give me a gift just because I gave them something. Obviously, though (as is evidenced by my own feelings of obligation now that about the coworkers thing) giving someone a gift oftentimes makes people feel that obligation, and thus puts stress or anxiety on them, something I never want to do. So I almost feel guilty when I give a gift, like I am making that person feel obligated to something, when I truly, honestly don’t expect anything in return. I like presents, sure, but that isn’t why I give them, to be reciprocated. I just love to know that I did something to make someone I love happy.
I am not a seasonal stress person. I refuse to buy into all the activities that people wind themselves up about. I don’t kill myself to do the most, do the best, to decorate or even put up a tree if I don’t feel like it. I do only the things that are fun and that I and my kids like doing: one year it might be to decorate up a storm, another to put just twinkle-lights up, one time I may put up a whole tree, the next just the little table topper. Or even (gasp) nothing at all. I also don’t kill myself to travel all over the place visiting 12 different relative’s houses just because it’s what everyone does. The knowledge that probably every one of those people are bitching and complaining about “having” to do a big brunch/dinner/party/whatever makes the prospect unpalatable to me. I remember the dread with which I attended the required Christmas Eve dinner at my ex-dragon-in-law’s house, and know that even my ex hated it, and I am quite certain the inlaws didn’t enjoy it either! And that is a refrain I hear all the time, from everyone, “I have to go over to my (insert family member here)’s house for Christmas. Ugh!” Or, “I have to go to three different houses for Christmas, my whole day is going to be spent driving around!” Why do it then? If you don’t truly want to be there, why go?
On the other hand, I do love cooking for people at the holidays, and oftentimes have an “after the holiday” open house on Christmas Day for dessert and drinks and invite everyone and anyone to drop by if they need a break from family–no obligation, no specific time. This probably comes as a surprise to those of you who know me, and know my aversion to the kitchen. But that one meal, or the one at Thanksgiving, I love to do.
And all those people that hate the crowds at Christmas? Not me! Maybe because I don’t get frenzied, I love the hustle and bustle and crowds at the mall this last week before Christmas. I save any shopping until this week, specifically because it is one of the few times that I enjoy the crowds and craziness. I even had fun at Walmart, a place I typically loathe, shopping with Ad for our white elephant gift exchange for our office party. This is the kind of gift-giving at the office that I approve of, or did. I love trying to find the goofiest, oddest thing at home or at a store for this game. Until yesterday at lunch when our newest employee asked what sort of gift everyone had brought for the exchange. Practical/real, or odd/strange? I hadn’t even considered that a question. Of course it was the strange things, right? That’s the definition of a “white elephant” exchange, right? Apparently not. Everyone was giving REAL gifts for the exchange.
Well, I hadn’t done that. I got a reindeer that poops candy, and a cow that moos Jingle Bells, and other little candy-filled oddities. I thought they were all great fun, and totally silly and appropriate for this sort of thing. Apparently I was reading the wrong invitation. Oh well.
Edit: So I just got back from the gift exchange. And the one person that I knew would laugh at and appreciate my goofiness was the person who got my gift! And she loved it.
And I had voicemail from W, who I am already missing and it’s only one day into his 10 day trip. And Ad texted me to say he loves me, and my internet friend IM’d me and I got a sweet email from someone with whom I have felt deeply out of touch for awhile.
So there. Maybe I should have faith that it will snow and not rain after all.