They don't call it Holiday Madness for nothing. I'm sure that many people feel, deep in their bones, that there is an insanity involved with stretching your finances too thin, or going into debt, to appease some force that drives you to meet unrealistic expectations of generosity and abundance. It is as if we all jumped blindly into the pot of cold water with the frogs and as the heat slowly rose, just blinked dumbly until we were cooked.
I can say these things this year. I could not say them last year. Last year I was all in. Spent a grand or more gladly, not knowing that my job would end a few weeks later. Wishing, at the moment I heard I was losing my job, that I could run around and gather my gifts and return them!
This year it's different. No abundance. No generosity. Just yarn and paint and love... and cookies. No tree. No land line. Downgraded cable. And a pile of bills I can't pay. But I'm happy. So happy. Happy to be knitting scarves, mittens, hats. Happy to be drawing and painting... and blogging. Happy to work for a good company that makes a difference in kids' lives. And if I can't afford stuff for Christmas it's fine. We all agreed (all but my oldest, John, who insists on spending money on the rest of us) that we would make and not buy our gifts this year. We're having a ball. We love it!
But there's a secnodary effect I did not expect. As I walk down the street and see the passersby with shopping bags overflowing with stuff and tissue paper, as I go through my mail every day and see the catalogs and the coupons and the special offers, as I overhear the conversations on the subway about the coats and the laptops and the sound systems... I am overwhelmed by a sense that I have been liberated from a terrible mental illness to a bright clarity of thought, freedom from pressure and stress, and it delights me... thrills me... as I realize I do not have to worry about finding the money to meet the high expectations of my family... expectations that I myself created.
As my kids and I talk about what we're making (or keep it a secret!) we are practically giddy with excitement and pride. We know our gifts will be appreciated and celebrated. There is, very unexpectedly, a strong sense that you can't go wrong when you put effort into making something. Maybe because we are all artists and we know it will be worthwhile work. Maybe because you really can't complain about a gift when you know someone offers it with deep, true love in their hearts for you, rather than a sense of obligation. And all of our gifts are being made with love. I can see it and hear it when we discuss our projects (or our thoughts about them). And giving because of love rather than obligation, fear of dissapointment, fear of criticism... what a huge, huge difference.
I look forward to writing about Christmas, and how all of this plays out. But have a strong feeling that it will be as wonderful as I expect. My expectations now are: a lot of love, laughter, and some fun stuff we may or may not need, but will really enjoy receiving.