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Friday, January 8, 2010

Some holiday reflection

The holiday season has come to an end and for the first time in many, many years, I'm sorry that it is over. Usually around mid-October I begin experiencing holiday related panic attacks, stress headaches and night sweats (alright, maybe not the night sweats, but you get the idea). After the holiday season of '08, however, I vowed to do things differently this year. I wanted a relatively relaxed, peaceful and stress-free holiday experience, and for the most part, I'm happy to report that I accomplished just that! So what was my magical solution? What mysterious remedy did I discover to banish holiday related stress? Well, I didn't buy a single Christmas present this year. Not one. And I didn't feel the least bit guilty over it.

As the years move on, and my immediate family gets older and continues to expand, the number of gift recipients keeps multiplying. I have four sisters and a brother and when you add in their significant others, their children, parents and step-parents... you can see how quickly things can get out of hand. This year I declared, NO MORE! Now, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit this decision wasn't entirely made as a result of my gift buying frustrations. It just so happens I'm in graduate school finishing up my thesis and trying to survive on the measly income I receive as a graduate assistant. In other words, I'm dead broke, which contributed significantly to my inability and unwillingness to purchase Christmas presents this year. I very well could have used my {gasp} credit cards to buy some holiday joy for my loved ones, but I didn't. (I am quite proud to say that I have 0 credit card debt, thank you very much)

In place of gifts I decided I would spend more time with my family and help them out with their holiday stress as much as I could. BEST. DECISION. EVER. I have never felt better about myself nor the holidays than I did after helping my mom wrap Christmas presents, or after staying with my sister for a week and helping her in any and every way she needed (she had three boys, all under the age of 5 and fueled up with Santa-fever, to manage), or after preparing an entirely homemade, from-scratch Christmas dinner for 12+ family members. Never has a last-minute, purchased gift, wrapped in over-priced paper made me feel as generous and giving as I did this year. I felt useful. I felt appreciated. Most importantly, I felt a renewed love and joy for my family that I haven't felt in years.

Will I buy Christmas presents next year, when grad school will be over and I'll be (hopefully) employed full-time? I don't know. I do know that if I do, I will put more time and thought into my gifts rather than rush through the stores, carelessly checking people off my list. I also know that I'm going to take more time for my family and offer to help them out as much as I can.

Happy New Year!

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