After Christmas my mum would always encourage me and my brother to write thank you letters and as an adult I've begun to realise that this practice is not just about saying thank you or showing gratitude to others but it's a really good way for us to pause and recognise we have people in our life who care about us and just how lovely that feels.
Christmas day itself this year was a mixed bag for me. I had a great morning with family and got to see my little nephews excited about Santa's snowy footprints in their hallway and hear about all the places the elf had been in their house but the afternoon and evening were a washout. Pain and fatigue hit hard and for a while the merry was definitely taken out of Christmas for me and this was despite a brand new bottle of Baileys (courtesy of my lovely neighbours) and a tub of cookie dough ice cream being on hand at all times!
When I woke today, Boxing Day, I knew it was going to have to be another rest day but that it wasn't going to be as painful as the day before. While I rested in bed this morning I went on Facebook and had a nosey through photos and updates, enjoying pictures of friends having fun, their kids excitedly playing with new toys and kittens and puppies just being their usual adorable self.
There was however one post that jumped out at me. It was from a group I was invited to join recently. I won't mention the group by name as it's not really about the group itself; let's just say it's a predominately female group (probably 100% actually) and the main topics are fashion and make up (yeah, I know, not my strong suit but hey, they seemed to talk about bargains and I do love that!). Anyway, the post that caught my eye said this:
"Starting the annual Boxing Day google search to find out where all the f*cking soap the in laws got me is from so I can go and swap it for makeup! Anyone else do this? I want to be pretty not smell like f*cking pina colada."
Yip, lovely right! And most (although not all) the responses were equally thankful and full of the Christmas spirit:
- "I got 3 boxes of smellies from my in laws (9 f*cking shower gells)!!!"
- "Soap...I got an Impulse Gift Set! I'm not f*cking 13 trying to cover up the smell of fags"
- "Someone did this to me too!"*
- "I recycle presents I'm not keen on. Keep them in a box and pass them on to poor unsuspecting folk lol"
*they DID this to you? Is this a new sucky, self-indulgent, first-world problem definition of the word "gifted"? Urgh, what's that, soap? Yeah, I got gifted!!
Oh and there was another comment, I don't have exact wording for this one, but it was about the horror of receiving a Boots 3 for 2 gift and the lack of thought......oh the humanity of it all!
I did consider replying but it wasn't where I wanted to spend my energy so just left the group instead. That however didn't stop it niggling away at me. Did I mention I'm a member of over-thinkers anonymous? In fact this blog wasn't even meant to be about this particular topic but I guess my subconscious had other editorial plans!
Now, don't get me wrong. We've all had presents we wouldn't have picked for ourselves or gifts we've even disliked and perhaps regifted or exchanged, it's why gift receipts were invented, I guess! We've also had those presents that have left us baffled as to what the person buying for us was thinking. But you know what, none of that really matters and I hate it to break to the ladies quoted above, but I bet at least one person they've shopped for hasn't been exactly ecstatic about the gifts they bought for them. I know I've made shopping disasters in the past. My niece was certainly not impressed with my purchase of Enid Blyton books (she did try to cover the disappointment, bless her) and my married friends looked utterly baffled when I thought it would be fun to get them walkie talkies.....I know, I know, nobody is perfect, leave me alone.
So what does all this mean? Well for one thing, obviously focusing on the actual gift is a mistake. We all know this anyway but also trying to read too much into the "thought" and meaning behind a present and it's reflection on how that person views us, doesn't help anyone either. Yes, sometimes the gift is special and means a lot and shows they know us and get us and truly care about us but come on, let's give each other a break, that's a lot of pressure to put on our friends and family.
Have you noticed how stressful Christmas shopping has become? In fact how stressful Christmas has become? There's so much pressure on everyone and it seems each year more and more traditions appear, making our to-do lists almost as long as Santa's! There's a reason there's so many jokes and memes online about folk (Mums in particular) being run ragged at this time of year and how we all need a drink to survive or get through it. Un-fun fact: apparently 45% of us lose our festive cheer because of the burden felt around gift giving. Even less fun fact: I'm surprised it's as low as that!
This year, due to my ME relapse and a general desire not to let a time that's meant to be wonderful and happy become stressful and unmanageable, I cut out a lot of what I usually do (and I don't usually do half of what others do). Having to choose what I would do and what I wouldn't, really made me think about what these activities and things actually mean to me and to the others in my life. It allowed me to really see where the meaning was and try, where possible to focus on the most important things. There's still lots of things and nice extra touches I'd have liked to have managed that I'm sure I'll add back into the mix when I can, and I know we all have activities and traditions we love to do and there's nothing wrong with that but from now on, one thing I won't let myself lose sight of is taking a moment to think about, and be grateful for, the time and care others spend on me, particularly at this busy time of year. So I don't care if it's a text rather than a card, a Boots 3 for 2 (seriously what the hell is wrong with that??), a chat over a cuppa rather than gifts, just a nice message on my facebook post or a weird present I'll never use or even understand. You thought about me, I mattered to you and you made time to let me know. How amazing is that!
And as for the women in that group? Well, after thinking about it, I'm glad I left them to it. The people buying their gifts will either never know what they actually think or they do already and that's why they bought them "9 f*cking shower gels" so in the end all they've done is spoil the experience for themselves. They are the ones carrying around negative thoughts about how others see them, they are the ones who see that something has been "done" to them and that they now have a problem they have to deal with. So leave them to it. It seems at the end they have got exactly what they deserved.