Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The Zen of Re-GiftingThis is a tough season. It takes the usually simple pleasure of showing people whom you love that you care, and puts a gun to our collective temples forcing us to show everyone we know, how much we care, all at once.
It's expensive, time consuming and frankly annoying. We all vow to plan ahead better next time, or make everyone a little homemade gift from the heart (I'm sorry, but who has the time for that?) or save up so we spend within our budgets (yeah, right). And every year it's the same old thing.
It's a form of societal blackmail. I'm going to get something for you and present it to you, usually in public, for you to open (also usually in public). You are going to gush and thank me and, in turn, give me something back. I will then gush and thank you and then we go our separate ways, knowing what we knew before: that the other person likes us. Except this time we have something new to put away into our bursting cupboards or garages and we're incrementally poorer.
To make things worse, it comes for everyone at the same time, heightening everyone's irritation with the institution, with each other, and with the world at large. Making most presents gestures of required reciprocity, rather than true outpourings of love.
Now, there are presents and there are presents. For me, presents that give me an experience or further deepen our friendship are the the best. If anyone wants to give me a trip to the spa, please feel free to contact me and I will publicly recant everything I've ever said about the perils of the season. Or, you know, a trip anywhere. Or a meal that we can share together. Or a good conversation. I want deep, I want experience, I want the nectar: I don't want anything I have to make space for.
Recently, however, I've discovered the joys of re-gifting. Yup, you heard me. Re-gifting. The most socially loathsome, spat-upon, low-life practice that one can do. To hear people say the word you'd think we were talking about incest, bestiality, stealing old ladies' purses. One does not say the word in polite society. And one definitely does not ever admit to doing it.
But I have.
And I am going on record and stating it publicly:
Not every present, naturally. Not even most presents. But there are some presents that just do not need to stop with me. Just as there are some energies that need to pass through one's life and onto another's, there are some things that I just don't need to own. I've realized that moving gifts through space until they find an owner that will truly appreciate them is an act of balance and equilibrium, rather than laziness and cynicism.
It's a martial arts philosophy: taking the opponent's energy and making it your own. You take the motion coming at you, let it pass through you, and use it to accomplish your aim. It's not a bad thing, it's a useful thing.
And, when you think about it still another way, it can be a beautiful thing.
Consider some of the other gifts we are given -- the gift of laughter, the gift of love, the gift of health. What if we were to start considering re-gifting those things as well? If, for some reason, the universe blesses you with a day in which you feel happy (it can happen) and you send it down the pipeline with a smile to the person crossing the street in front of you... you've just done a form of re-gifting. And what's cool about this type of re-gifting is that you don't lose the original gift... you actually enhance it. It gets better as it goes along, rather than worse.
I stood outside my house the other night, in the cold, in the dark. I needed some space away from the stuff that needed to be wrapped, the faltering balance in my checkbook, the list of things still yet to do. I had a terrible attitude about this whole season, honestly, and I just wanted out of the house.
I stood outside and looked up at my little Christmas lights, shining in their primary colored way against the black sky (and I'm sorry... I have to interject this here... does anyone else HATE those weird dark purple/blue/green lights that seem to be cropping up all over? I mean, YUCK... Christmas is about primary colors, brightness agains the dark... but I'm getting ahead of myself.) So I'm looking up and I'm reminded that this whole season is about the light in the darkness.
Whether you're talking Hannukah, Christianity, or "please oh pagan-god-of-choice make the days get long again" -- this is about getting through the dark times. We raise our little human candles at this time of year, our little beams of defiance and faith, and vow to make it through another winter. We give offerings to our gods of choice -- whether Best Buy, Amazon or Macy's -- in hopes that material abundance will translate to spiritual replenishment. We shiver together outside and then gather together at the table. And together we make it through another season.
So let's re-gift that feeling of being together while the snow falls and the frost crackles.
Let's re-gift that hope that summer will come again.
Let's re-gift with abandon all the things that are truly great about being human.
And let's re-gift the light that we manage to find where and when we can.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 7:00 AM 0 comments