holidays used to stress me out. The angst and impending sense of
doom started just after Labor Day. When most were thinking about
their late summer barbeques, I was already panicking about how I was
going survive the holidays with my sanity and health intact.
worst part for me was shopping for holiday gifts - it was like
torture. I stressed about finding those perfect presents that would
delight and please the people I gifted. I stressed about spending
the right amount of money – enough so the person felt valued
but not so much that I would end up broke. I stressed about fair
and equal gift giving, trying to make sure that the gifts I got each
person were equivalent in value and also similar in number to open on
the big day. The more I stressed over gifts, the more I viewed gift
giving as an obligation and came to resent the tradition.
weren’t the only terrible obligation demanded of me this
season. There were also the sweets, candies, cookies, and pies that
everyone loves to make and give; of course I had to accept these
gifts and eat them in order not to offend or disappoint. It was
brutal and wreaked havoc on my delicate system. Then there were the
holiday events where I was supposed to be light-hearted, joyful and
merry. Instead I was usually tired and grouchy; with one of those
strained fake smiles that makes everyone else nervous and tense.
surprisingly, my health would decline this time of year after months
of tension and anxiety. I would be exhausted and achy, suffering
from indigestion and some kind of upper respiratory ailment.
January would finally come, and I would collapse into my bed for as
long as possible, like the Grinch in his hidey-hole secretly plotting
how to stop holidays once and for all.
One year, I just couldn’t go through with it. I wanted a break, and I refused to shop. Lo and behold, my husband ended up taking care of all of the presents. It turned out not to matter that he bought them all just days before Christmas, and they weren’t strategically planned to please and delight. He enjoyed himself, and nobody could tell the difference between a gift bought spontaneously and a gift chosen deliberately with much debate. I saw the distinct difference of enjoyment between a gift giver giving from his heart, and a gift giver giving out of obligation. It was one of those “ah ha!” moments for me.