It’s Christmas shopping time, for normal people, at least. And the more I see those “Buy your wife a car” or “Your kids NEED this toy” commercials on TV, the more I realize that I didn’t do Christmas shopping this year the way other people do. Maybe I never have.
My Christmas shopping? Has been done since before Halloween.
That means those hyped-up holiday commercials have no effect on me. Which is just as well, because I couldn’t afford to buy anybody a Lexus with a red bow on the roof (even if I wanted to), and I don’t have any kids screaming bloody murder at me to get them this year’s fad toy (whatever that is—I’m out of the loop and grateful for it!).
Even back when I was married and making plenty of money at my old job (before the economy fell apart and I got divorced and lost everything), I was never exactly an orthodox Christmas shopper.
I hate crowds, I hate parking lots, and standing in line for anything at any time absolutely makes me cringe. Honestly, if I needed a kidney and it required waiting in line outside a Best Buy for more than three minutes, there’s a decent chance I’d opt for death.
So, back when I had tons of people (and dozens, if not hundreds, of gifts) on my Christmas list each year, I made sure to get my shopping done early and (if possible) online.
The last time I remember being in a mall at Christmastime, I was around 21, had a high fever, and kept my mom entertained spouting lines from Christmas Vacation (“What did I say, nipple?”) while my sister waited in an endless line to buy a scarf for our grandmother.
I learned my lesson and never did it again.
Usually, like this year, I would have all my gifts bought and waiting in a closet by Halloween, and I was ready to wrap by the day after Thanksgiving (any earlier and you pretty much become one of those people who starts celebrating Christmas in July, and I have to draw the line somewhere).
Over the years, between divorce, death, moving, and the thousand little complications that bring people in and out of your life, the number of people on my list has grown shorter (which is a good thing).
In fact, this year, by mutual agreement with friends and family, the only person I had to buy a gift for, besides my ten-year-old niece, was—myself.
You read that right. I am the only person on my shopping list this year.
Hear me out. I assure you, I’m not a heartless monster or some kind of “Bah, humbug!” Scrooge who hates Christmas.
Quite the opposite. Christmas is my favorite time of year—always has been, probably always will be.
When people say things like “Christmas is for children,” I want to punch them directly in the throat.
Because Christmas? Is for ME, no matter how old I get! It’s for everybody, as long as they carry the magic of the season in their heart. (See? Now I sound like Scrooge, but AFTER he meets the Ghost of Christmas Future.)
The reason I’m not shopping for other people this year is a simple one: It’s been a tough year—financially (like it always is for a freelance writer in a world that no longer values the written word), physically (I took a bad fall running over the summer and am still sporting an UGLY sore/scar on my knee), and emotionally (both of my sweet little dogs died this year—one of them after being viciously attacked by a neighborhood jerk’s dog).
If anybody has a right to feel like skipping Christmas this year, it’s me.
But I realized even before the summer was over that I DIDN’T want to skip. Not at all.
As sad as I find the idea of spending the holidays without my beloved dogs for the first time, I could never let the season pass by without savoring all my favorite things about it: the decorations, the carols, sending Christmas cards (even if I rarely get one back), the food (especially the cookies), and of course, the presents.
But doing all those things takes money, and it came down to a choice:
Buy a crappy little token gift for everybody I love and forget about all the rest of the things I love about the holidays, or let everybody else off the hook, focus on enjoying time together (instead of just stuff—which we can all just buy for ourselves anyway), and only spend money on the things I wanted most this Christmas.
Maybe it’s selfish, but here’s the thing: So what?
The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to take care of myself first. It’s one of those “Put your oxygen mask on before helping those around you” kind of situations. I’m of no use to anybody if I’m not healthy and happy.
And this Christmas? I intend to be happy.
And I wish everybody out there the same!