The best gift ideas of all!

It’s easy to get besieged by the sheer volume the holiday season brings with it. And while much of what we are actually celebrating and why gets buried underneath our “list” (which seems to grow each year, and not always in proportion to our bank account), there’s plenty of time to resurrect the Joy the season has to offer by revisiting what it actually means to give! Janice is one of us. She has two sons and a meddling ex-husband (who plays “Who’s the better gift-giver/parent?” every Christmas), a new husband and 2 stepdaughters (who celebrate Hanukkah) in a now-gigantic blended family who all expect her to perform magic this time each year: being the perfect hostess, shopper, decorator, baker, and bank for her relatives who conveniently never have two pennies to rub together this time of year. Oh and she has to look great, while making this season one to remember for them all!

Then there’s Marcus, whose sister is single, which drives his family crazy, and for the last ten years is the focus of their family’s loud discussion at the dinner table over latkes and kugel. Is she bringing someone, will we like this one? What does he do? The last one was no good, the one before was too young. She’s getting old, what about having children? Do we get whoever she brings a gift, and if so, what? Every year Marcus contemplates moving to Iceland, joining the Peace Corps, or placing a personal ad in search of a husband for his sister in the Alaskan gazette.

And then there’s Trudi, whose being gay doesn’t bother everyone in her family, just the ones who are politically Christian, or come to visit from certain parts of the Deep South. Yet none of them seem to mind when it comes to gift-giving…or receiving. This would be fine except Trudy’s list has gotten out of control since her girlfriend, now life partner, has this amazing but enormous Hispanic family who insist on celebrating Christmas like it may never come again. Which too would be fine, except Trudi’s self-employed and hasn’t had the year she would have liked and isn’t at all comfortable asking her new bride to carry the load.

Any of this ring a bell? If it does, it’s likely because these are snapshots of how many of us feel when staring down the holiday track and thinking maybe it would be best to jump in front of the proverbial train than deal with “it all” over again.

Okay, take a deep breath. Really. I mean it, a good, deep, audible one and then find some pen and paper. (Automatic writing is magical and amazing and best in your own handwriting.)

1) At the top of the page, write “Giving is about” and then take the pen or pencil and put it in your non-dominant hand and go. Let whatever comes up, come. Doesn’t matter, even if at first it seems like gibberish. Write for at least 3-5 minutes. Repeat if necessary to get it all out and down.

2) Next make a list of all the people that you would want to be with if Christmas was the last time you would see them.

3) Then next to each person’s name ask yourself, “This holiday, how can I be of service to (insert loved one’s name)? What offering will contribute to their joy, wellbeing, or feeling loved and seen by me?” And just sit quietly and see what comes forward. Then write this down next to each one.

It’s amazing how when we come from that place, that real and true place, the answers just come. Its stops being about what we should give or that we have to give, and returns to the holiday’s original intention, what can I offer and share with you in love! All that usual judgment about it being “right” or “good enough” will most likely diminish, ‘cause that’s what happens when we give from our whole heart and soul!

Here are a few similar holiday self-inquiry questions to sit with; see where these may lead:

What am in service to this holiday season? How can I serve you? What are some of the ways I can express my caring this season so you might feel more loved, more safe or seen?

And a few feel-good creative gift ideas:

Sending letters to our folks in the service; one place is  http://adoptaplatoon.org/site/

Baking, sewing, knitting, planting, painting your love, and offering it to those who have no family at an old folks home or homeless shelter!

Start your own private warm coat or clothing drive and make a night of it, invite friends to come and bring a gift that you can all donate!

Start a prayer circle for folks whose families who are ill or struggling.

Pick a local family who needs your help to celebrate the season!