the walking writer

For many years, December was a very stressful time for me. Even though I had left Mormonism and Christianity, I still wanted to be part of the holiday season. Unfortunately, whenever the calendar turned to December 1st, I immediately felt stressed for a number of reasons, including upcoming travel back home and my desire to find the perfect presents for everyone in my family. It wasn’t pleasant to feel overwhelmed and it certainly took away any fun in the season. I’ve since realized a few things that have significantly reduced my stress to almost zero. This includes:

1. Round Robin Gift Exchange
For years, each member of my family felt obligated to gift each person a gift. This was a source of unending stress for me. I saw how thoughtful several of my family members were about the gifts they gave, and I wanted to reciprocate. This usually resulted in hours of online shopping and hours spent in stores. Since I strongly dislike shopping, especially when everyone in the store is suffering from some terrible plague, I really hated this. However, for the last couple of years, we’ve made it simple with a round robin gift exchange. Finding a gift for one couple is so much easier than what we did previously.

2. Stop Seeking the Perfect Gift
This is a problem that I’ve had since I was a child. I disliked it when someone posted a wish list on the fridge for Christmas gifts; I wanted to surprise them! Looking back, I realize now that while surprises are very nice, there’s nothing wrong with giving someone exactly what they want. There’s also nothing wrong with asking the intended recipient what they would like. When it comes down to it, as long as you put a bit of time and thinking into it, there really is no bad gift.

3. Your Nieces and Nephews Will Still Love You if Your Presents Suck
One thing I’ve long struggled with is shopping for presents for my nieces and nephews. In our family, we have the option to give gifts to the kids if we want to; there’s no obligation, and the kids aren’t part of the gift exchange. I spent many hours browsing the toy stores, thinking once again that I needed to get the perfect gift. But then one day I realized something. The parents of my nieces and nephews give their kids way too many toys. It’s something that irks me, but it’s probably best saved for its own post. The point is, my realization changed how I shopped for the kids. I tend to look for things that are activity-oriented, such as science kits or craft kits. The kids will have fun with them, and it won’t just be another doll that gets ignored after two days.

4. Avoid Travel if Possible
Visiting my family during Christmas is fun; I cannot deny it. Unfortunately, the travel aspect is less than pleasant. Every single year I’ve gone back home for Christmas, I’ve picked up at least one cold along the way. I’ve also had the misfortune of waiting hours upon hours for delayed flights and been stuck on planes that were completely full to the brim. After a particularly painful trip back and forth, my husband and I decided we would shift our schedules and visit family during other times of the year. This lets us have our own traditions and we still get to visit with our family through video chats. It’s not the same as being there, but it seems to work out just fine.

Eliminating sources of stress is always a good thing in my book, and I am very happy to have found some solutions that help me better enjoy the season.

I’m not terribly great at shopping. Christmas usually inspires total panic and dread as I anxiously shop online and at the stores for the perfect gift. It’s taken me years to let go of the idea of finding the most awesome gift for each member of my family and instead just find something they will like and actually want to use. One of my kitchen cupboards is unfortunately home to a couple of gifts that I’ve only used once and don’t know what to do with.

Fortunately, this year, I managed to convince my family to do a gift exchange instead of what we’ve previously been doing. Instead of buying gifts for every single member of the family, I only have to find a gift for one household. I had the bad luck of getting the one household that includes a family member who is impossible to shop for. What do you get someone who seemingly has everything he wants and also has very few hobbies? Bored and frustrated, I started Googling for gift lists for such people. I was not amused when I came across a list that include about a dozen ideas that cost thousands of dollars.  Helpful? No, not really.

So what do you give someone who seems to have everything they want or need? The best I can come up with is gift cards for activities (such as movie theaters) or tickets to special events. The important thing to remember is that it really doesn’t matter and it’s not worth stressing over. As long as you put some effort into finding a gift, your recipient will enjoy it.