Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Et Tu, Centeredness?

Ack! I can feel my oneness with the Universe seeping away and crabbiness replacing it. Stop me before I gripe again!

It's a bit holiday related, a time of year where I am in constant struggle with my inner miser, exacerbated this year by the fact that M has been un- or underemployed for several months now. I try to be good--we put together a big goodie box for M's friend in Iraq, and I donated two gifts to the Tree of Hope project here at work. But gift giving is a little charged for me too. It's not that I don't like giving and receiving, but having such a mass of it all at once is a challenge for me. So much pressure to get it right, and to relax my innate tightfistedness.

It started on Sunday, when I got together with some old friends for our quarterly outing. A year ago, the four of us had agreed not to get gifts for each other anymore--our gatherings would be enough. I stopped at the first friend's house, so we could carpool into the Bay Area for brunch with the other two. On her coffee table hunkered three identically shaped gifts. Were these for us? I of course had no gifts. We discussed our agreement. I didn't want to squelch her generosity, and how much more ungracious could I be to refuse a gift? But having nothing to exchange made me feel terrible. Especially since I had been the only one not to have gifts to exchange during our dates in the past. She decided she would bring them "just in case" the other gals had gifts.

Sure enough, over brunch at Bette's in Berkeley, one of the other gals brought out three bags of her homemade granola. Another discussion ensued, and I once again had the great good fortune to feel simultaneously ungracious, guilty, and inadequate. The fourth friend also was giftless, but I suspect it was only because she's remodeling her home and didn't have the facilities to produce pickles, her annual gift. Going with the majority, the first friend did not distribute her gifts after all. But the gift gauntlet has hit the ground again. I'm on the hook for next year. Or maybe I'll bring gifts at some other time of year, just to mess with them a little. Hah! Take that gift, you!

Why do I get my knickers in a knot about these things? I was (um, am) angry at myself for making a big deal of it, and for feeling guilty in the first place. Sigh.

I'm also gripe-y because work is very busy, and we should all be thinking pleasant holiday thoughts, not worrying frantically about deadlines. One of my colleagues is just bugging me. And I know that it's all very small, my crabbiness and tiredness is magnifying my irritation at his requests and suggestions, but that makes it harder to work as efficiently as I need to in order to ward off deadline-driven stress.

Finally, I'm grumble-y with one of my brothers. He's been saying that he and his family will be celebrating Christmas Day with me. His wife's sister lives here too, so they'll be here for a week before Christmas (they often visit, but I sort of feel like a visited afterthought--I can't play the kid card and like many of his gender, my brother just doesn't take the lead in planning). So I'm very excited about Christmas--a big day for me to entertain. Frankly, I'm surprised that they want to spend it with me. But then I learn that they're actually heading home that day too (a bit of a drive), and that his mother-in-law, who lives three blocks from them, may want to be with them on Christmas too, so they'll need to leave early. So my slice of familial holiday hostessing grows slimmer, and I feel a bit marginalized. I'm trying to be the good sister and remember that he has many obligations to balance. I'm trying...

*****

M woke this morning and turned to me:

Paw [he calls me Paw, I call him Paw. Don't ask. I don't know why, either], I had a bad dream. I dreamed I couldn't get to the wedding. I was stuck in traffic. And I hadn't written the vows either, so I tried to write them on the way, but they were terrible, trite. I got out of the car and started running, but I got caught up on a rose bush.

*****

Speaking of weddings, my dad and stepmom have been visiting for the last couple of days. We drove out to Korbel today to have lunch and take advantage of big discounts that I get though work. It was a lovely day, we ate outside. I came home with two cases of champagne, my first event-related purchase.

Dad and stepmom took M and me out to dinner last night as a Christmas gift--they said make it good, so we did. It's been a while since I've been to a restaurant with genuinely good service and above average food. It was truly a treat.

*****

What would I rather do other than work on my so-called novel?
Blog.
Knit.
Rake leaves.
Balance my checkbook.
Boil and bone chicken. And I'm a vegetarian.
Fold laundry.

2 Comments:

At 6:27 AM, December 17, 2004, Blogger Nancy said...

You have all my sympathy for the gift guilt. I swore off buying any non-family Christmas presents awhile back, but always end up feeling like the only Scrooge in the group, and also end up constantly making exceptions.

By the way, what do you do for a living? I'm trying to guess.

 
At 12:21 PM, December 20, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another nice chunky entry with lots to think about. :) I especially like the image of the "gift gauntlet" being thrown down, and sympathize with how difficult it is to navigate the treacherous waters of gift-giving, especially the never-quite-clearly-enough-stated unwritten rules of giftgiving ettiquette amongst friends. I myself enjoy giving gifts, as long as I don't feel "obligated" (e.g. "she always gives me one so I guess I should give her one") or impersonal (e.g. "I don't know what to get him but I'm supposed to get him something so I'll just get something meaningless").

And as far as doing other things besides writing...well, blogging is writing, so hey at least that's something! :)

Julia

 

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