Unwrapping Gratitude

By Paige Nesbitt December 23, 2012 09:50 AM
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Unwrapping Gratitude

We all like giving gifts and we all certainly like receiving them, both of which are customary this time of year. For the holidays we try hard to pick nice gifts, useful gifts, gifts our loved ones will appreciate. But that creates a quandary. Do you give the gifts on par with something you would appreciate receiving, or do you give something that aligns more with your recipient’s wishes or expectations?

And what do you do about the loved one who honestly does not want or need anything? Do you find something to give them they would not have considered for themselves? Do you call their spouse, child, assistant or work carpool buddy for intel? Do you give them something generic and universal so at least they have a box to open? Or do you let it go with a verbal gift certificate for something you know they will want in a few months? And whatever you give your loved ones, are they grateful for the item you have given them? Or for the thought, effort and generosity – sometimes the sacrifice – those gifts represent?

These questions, and many others, can move through our minds right around now – right before we silence those superfluous philosophical distractions and focus. As soon as we have worked through the shock and denial that we are, yet again, running hard and fast into the holidays, we become proactive. Reluctantly or with great gusto – and sometimes both, depending on the day or the task – we confront the reality that we have to do something.
Something? We have to do everything to prepare for the holidays.

If you have a sibling or a couple of siblings to whom you are somewhat close in age and with whom you have a good relationship, this can ease everything just a little. Best case, you can split the labor. Right. Or you can brainstorm together about the perfect gifts to give your relatives. Oh, sure…

Or, provided you and your sibling(s) have a similarly close relationship with your relatives and would more or less agree on an appropriate gift magnitude for those relatives, you can feel confident that if you select the gifts, you and your sibling(s) will be willing to split them with you. There you go.

Isn’t one really nice gift from two or more people better than a couple of smaller, possibly less useful or unrelated gifts? Exactly. And once you agree on splitting the gifts, the gift magnitude and the logistics behind wrapping and delivering or shipping those gifts – i.e. once you have acquiesced to take care of all of the above for you and your sibling(s)… Now you’ve got it!

…You can coast into the last few weeks, days or hours remaining before your family’s holiday celebrations, knowing you have things under control. Unless you slam into that wall where you do not have any idea what to get a certain relative or two. You can suit up and show up at the store, and wander around hoping for that moment when “the” ideal gift for those last few relatives calls out to you, magnetically drawing you to its store shelf. And even then, having carved some extra time out of your thick day and mobilized to the store on that hope, you can still find yourself standing in the middle of your chosen retail paradise, unwittingly humming along with the store’s Carpenters Christmas Collection album, glancing from side-to-side like an abandoned puppy…paralyzed from the waist down by total cluelessness about what to do now.

In case of emergency, you can call your family’s matriarch. Or patriarch. Or that aunt who seems to know everything about everyone – or thinks she does. Any ideas are helpful, right?

A couple of days ago, I called our chieftain, “You know, Paigey,” the Queen Mum/Big Nance said, “Cousin So-and-So and his wife love grilling. Why don’t you get them a couple of spice rubs they can use on their grill.”

Oh…Huh…OK. Cool. Wouldn’t have thought of that.

A few weeks ago, I saw a greeting card with a quote that could inspire a lot of thought for many of us, especially this time of year. ”Gratitude is the heart’s memory,” it said. Huh. I took a picture with my mobile phone and looked it up later. It seems many sources call it simply a “French proverb.” Others attribute it to Jean Baptiste Massieu, an eighteenth-to-nineteenth century French educator who was also deaf.

Unlike most people we know who speak in platitudes, especially during this season, he certainly did not talk to hear himself speak. When we read that, I am pretty sure all of us nod or feel that internal click when we recognize an implicit truth. Unwrapping it, articulating what it means to us and why that resonates is what gives us pause.

How do you understand gratitude? Is it a reaction? As in “You gave me a gift, therefore I feel gratitude.”

Or is it an obligation? As in, “Wow, you did something pretty incredible for me. I owe you big time.”

Or does it exist in the head at all?

Does it bypass the head altogether and exist in a spotless sanctuary in our hearts?

If you agree with the latter, what do we give each other for the holidays if we are giving to fulfill the heart and not to please the head? Ours or anyone else’s.

Do we manifest our gratitude in the giving or the receiving?

Probably in both. Which might be why we may not always mind having to do something, i.e. everything, to prepare for the holidays. Not until next year anyway.

Happy Holidays to you and your family.