Sunday, December 03, 2006

On Gifts

I have a difficult relationship with gifts. Somehow, I got the idea that the gifts I am given reflect how well the giver knows and loves me. When I receive a gift that I don't care for, if it's from someone close, I feel betrayed. It's a horrible feeling--a sort of falling in the pit of the stomach. Worst are gifts from my mom, the person who I "think" (in quotes because while I know intellectually that this isn't so, some deep primal part of me hasn't figured it out yet) should know me the best. When I receive a gift from her that I don't care for, I feel guilt, betrayal, and sometimes even anger. What an awful emotional state in which to receive a gift!

The feelings are worst at Christmas, less so at my birthday. They're familiar and as I noted above, almost primal. I remember these feelings from childhood, especially the guilt. Guilt that I disliked a gift from my beloved father. Guilt that my first reaction to receiving a gift is hesitation.

I have been working on this, really I have! What I am trying to do is to remember that the gift is merely a symbol of the giver's love or caring for me. It's not the sum of their love or even the sum of their knowledge of my preferences. It's merely a physical manifestation of a fact: that they were thinking about me and wanted to give me something. The thing doesn't matter! It really is the thought that counts.

4 comments:

M said...

I came to the same realization after my mother-in-law got me an ironing board cover for my birthday. A month prior, we had been talking about replacing things we had since we were first married and I mentioned I needed a new one. I just had not found one I liked. She was truly being thoughtful. :)

Ginny said...

It is the thought that counts, but there are times when family members don't really think and just buy, for the sake of it's Christmas we need to spend x-amount on each person. My husband and I are really struggling with that. I read recently that "searching for the right gift unmasks the reality that sometimes we do not know our fmaily (and friends) as well as we would like to and should." It is really a revelation. I also feel slighted when asked for a list. I would rather recieve an iron board cover because someone remembered that I had said I needed it, than another green creamer to put on my shelf!

Tiredbuthappy said...

Aren't gifts just fraught?

In my family, there are a lot of fights at Xmas and birthdays where the gift receiver says "I'm so hurt that you thought I would like this."

I HATE IT. It makes me never want to give gifts to certain people again. After a particularly bad episode many years ago, my brother and I made a permanent no-gift pact. I love that pact. I cherish it.

As much as I hate it when my sibs do it to me, I do it too. I recently had a birthday and my thoughts were like this: "How could my mother not have noticed by now that I never wear pastels? Doesn't she ever look at me?" and "My sister gave me this bag because she hates the one I carry. I should continue to carry my old dirty one just to assert myself, even though I really do like this new one." and "My father gave me a check. Couldn't he even be bothered to go to a store or get online to get me something?" and, shockingly, "I wish my partner would splurge a little more."

But I'm working on it too. It helps me a lot to get gifts for folks throughout the year when I see something that moves me, and then save it for Xmas. And I am embracing the whole list idea. Hey, why not get exactly what I want?

Interesting post. Thanks for making me think about this. And interesting blog. I'll be back!

Clutter Buddy said...

ok, here is what i have discovered over MANY years of struggling with this issue...what always gets me is the expecations! i always expected that the people who love me would be able to somehow read my mind and find the perfect gift...well guess what? they can't! now, i give lists to people who ask, just with a few small things i would like...and i don't think about the day being about gifts, i think of it as a celebration, a time to spend with family and friends...i think of any gifts as simply being icing on the cake...also, if there is a gift that i don't really care for i simply place it in my give-away pile with a thought that it will bless someone else as much as is has me...because although it wasn't something i would use, the thought and time the person put into it means a lot to me...

and i have to add this one last thought because i think it applies to a lot of people...i think you need to think about the possibility that you don't like getting gifts because deep down you don't feel you are deserving?!...HUGS!