Presence over Presents

When I planned my topics for December, I had intended to create an ethical gift guide one week. I then realized how many people put out gift guides, and that some of them are really fantastic.  My favorites were Cali Wolf’s gift guide featuring Indigenous companies and artisans, Catherine’s Feminist Gift Guide, and Scraping Raisins Ethical gift guide. They really covered it guys. I’m going to keep bucking the system, and talk about Presence instead of presents. My feelings around Christmas have changed a lot since I’ve become an adult.  I’m not sure when the tide turned, but at some point in my adult life my emotional association with Christmas went from joy and hygge to overwhelm. I’m still processing why this is, and carefully tracing the themes of joy and connection through my holidays.  Last year, I was at the peak of my seasonal depression, and looking at making a major job change. I mentioned last week that the entire gifting process was incredibly overwhelming, and that’s true. What I loved the most about the holiday was packing up and visiting my family for what we call “Thristmas”, a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas that has come to be celebrated the weekend before Christmas. ​ Visiting my family is a time out of sorts.  Everything runs on a different timeline when it takes twenty minutes to get to the grocery store.  There is nothing else for me to do than what I’m doing right that moment when I’m there. There is nowhere else for me to be. The more I’ve been able to integrate the challenging parts of my childhood and adolescence, the more I’ve savored going home.

I think we savor each other more now too.  My book will go into more detail about some of the challenges we all faced when I moved out (shameless plug), but with all the life we have lived, just being together (usually) feels like an exhale. The biggest gift they give me is their presence. They allow me to feel safe and seen. I get a two to three day window into my growing nieces and nephews, and the worlds they are unfurling. I treasure making memories with them.  Seeing their art, projects, reading them books, baking cookies, and cuddling.

Low hummed carols, and late night catch ups are presence to me.  Sharing mediocre coffee at the diner we’ve gone to for years is presence to me. Hugging mom and dad after that six plus hour drive, that is presence to me. ​  ​ My first Christmas morning with Chris in our apartment, with the fire crackling on our flat screen thanks to Netflix, did have some gifts, but I mostly remember feeling warm and held.

​My first Christmas away from home, my mom sent me twelve days of Christmas packages that made me feel remembered and loved. (side note, if you’re living away from home for the first time at nineteen, just go home for Christmas.)

There’s something about the question “do you have a wishlist this year?” that cheapens all this presence for me.  Wish lists aren’t bad. Presents aren’t bad. But I’ll take presence over presents every time.

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