Thursday, October 12, 2006

Presants: Sharing and Expanding Love.

One of the true differences between the dysfunctional and healthy life, is the noticeable absence of excitement. No more frantic emergency calls to medics, fire or police departments. No more screaming fights. Gone are those poignant moments of personal hysteria. Replaced with a sense of feeling 'lost' and even bored!

Healthy living is quiet, gently pleasant, but much more predictable. You are not functioning in that high-adrenaline state of crisis. For awhile in recovery, I'd start problems, just to recapture what I thought was a normal day of, what else? Emergencies!

Happiness is far different also. In my childhood, most of the time I was extremely unhappy and lonely. I never knew what would set my mother, or my aunt off on one of their screaming 'lectures'. My mother would recount how they thought I had died at birth and how wonderful (?) it was that I had actually lived. Depending on how drunk my mother was, determined how sad she became at the news of my "life". I just got numb and endured.

Then holidays would roll around and everything changed. Christmas was the most amazing transformation. No matter how angry everyone was, come Christmas, all was well and there were presents. Lots of them. Presents were great, and really good stuff. My birthday was always a mixed affair due to me being so close to an April fool's baby! Thank God I came in early on April 2nd. But the huge wrapped empty box was a yearly occurrence I always fell for. I had to hide how hurt I was in the name of family 'fun'.

Then, just as fast as it had arrived, Christmas was over and our family returned to the normal behavior of hating our lives and one another. But, that rush of presents. What a lovely feeling! To this day I love that process of thinking about, baiting the receiver and actually giving presants. Baiting the receiver is the cute number begun around September. "Boy, wait till you see what you're getting for Christmas!" This was the cue for me to play a sneaky game of twenty questions: "Can I eat it?" Much fun can be had with this answer, as almost anything can be used as an 'attempted' food item. This was one of the few games in our family that was truly a game and not a disguised way of hurting one another. Amazing.

Then there was the wrapping and placing under the tree. Everyone, kids and adults would scope out their gifts. Shaking, turning, squeezing and in any other 'acceptable' manner, exploring that box. It was truly fun and a clean exchange of positive feelings, that were not communicated at any other time.

Then there was the food. Not just the extravagant Christmas and New Year dinners, but exceptional breakfasts and 'snacks'. Can you read: cookies, candy, little cakes and strudels. It was truly like someone flipped a switch and all the rules disappeared! There were some really sweet moments at this time of year.

The down side, of course, was the drunken parties, ambulance visits for bombed guests who'd fallen down the basement stairs (still clutching their now broken glass!) The dead-of-night flights from Arizona to California, when my mom went into the hospital for cancer and the confusion of Christmas in a foster home. But more good then bad for sharing of gifts and expressing love.

At 53, I do not consider I have a 'blood' family. Oh, they are alive, but I've made my amends and peace with them. For my own sanity, I choose not to deal with them. Just after I got married in 1972 I bought a present for my Cousin and she got mad, because she felt she had to buy for me and she didn't want that obligation any more. Oh yeah, that one hurt, but hope springs eternal and it took me years to give up on ever getting her to love me. I don't think she has it in her due to her own childhood abuse.

So, I have friends who are the closest I have to family. I was sadly surprised at how many people absolutely refuse gifts. Since most of my friends are older married men from technical backgrounds, they aren't subtle. "No, I don't do gifts. That way I don't owe you anything". Some folks respond in silence. I find this sad, but it is the way of our world.

When I find a receptive gift receiver, it is fun. I have a game developer friend who is a book hound. So, a nice chunk of change sends him off to amazon.com to lose his mind in an afternoon of book browsing. He went on to unravel a windy tale of looking up his list of favorite books. Then chasing down amazon's recommendations. Finally, he'd see what other customers had recommended. By this point several hours had fled by and he'd forgotten his original desired book! Gee, he had to do it all over again! Now, that was a terrific email!

Then there are the people I'm really close to. Linda, though she can drive my crazy is also a giver. She listened to my description of the $150 radio I was exploring and offered to buy it for me on the spot! I accepted with the understanding that it was for both Christmas and my birthday. It is a great radio! She is like me, and this year is tantalizing me with the declaration that she has bought me a book for Christmas. But, not just any book... Well, that could be almost anything. I have expensive tastes in books, like I do with everything else. Sigh! It will be fun to gently try and pry hints from her as we near Christmas. For sure, I'll have my ears up, looking for the hint and wishes she has for her gift. She's another one who loses her mind at amazon.com. Oh, hearing about that will be fun!

Then there is dear Phillip. He likes eCards and prefers to forgo the gifts. For him it is an issue of money. He has four kids and most of his friends have four, or more kids and they'd all be broke attempting to buy for each other. Also, there is the financial pressure. Work has been a bit lean and I believe this is the main reason for a request for only an eCard. Having been broke ever since entering the Social Security System in 1982, I sure know how depressing it can be to get something from someone and know before you open it, that you can't give anything in return. Oh, that pain can be brutal.

So, when his fortunes turn around, which I have no doubt they will, I'll e-mail off a gift certificate celebrating "Happy Everything". A practice of my x-husband. He hated all tradition and refused to do anything at its scheduled time! So, we got and gave presents in the middle of February, or June, any time other then the official date of birth, marriage, or other holiday. (No rebellion in that personality!)

When I'm not playing macho-girl, I'm a sentimental soul. I like those cards that acknowledge a great friendship, mother, or how cool God is. The stuff you get embarrassed to read - but secretly are glad to receive. Goodness can never be acknowledged enough. Oh, I love letting that side of myself out! I used to hide it so well, I'd lost sight of it after awhile. Recovery is all about different levels of love. I am free to cut people some slack, because I'm learning I'm not perfect now, and don't think I'll get there by tomorrow either!

If I really love someone, I need to hear what makes their heart happy. Everyone is touched by something, but the "something" is different for different people. There is a fascinating book about people's "love" languages. Some people really feel loved from simple attention, or remembering them with a small token. Some folks only really feel loved behind the BIG gift. Some people are into touch and being pampered, or fussed over. My sweet Maria is like that. Making her a cup of coffee really does something for her. I enjoy it, but not in the same way she does. She reacts to pampering, like I do to my vacations!

When Phillip protested my teasing threat of "choose where your gift certificate comes from, or else you get amazon!" I was truly surprised. But, its his, and not my party. So I found a cool eCard and e-mailed it off. I enjoy watching my relationship with Phillip grow and change. It is subtle, but always apparent. Ever deepening levels of being real with one another. Making it safe to tell the truth when you know you are being a bit unreasonable, impatient, or peevish. We both like to talk, so text messages are part of the tapestry of many days.

I love the rough and tumble banter which always seems to develop. I give as good as I get. I know when I'm seriously being attacked, as compared to a verbal snowball fight. So many little moments of humor and creativity. This is the real deal.

No more do I need the drama of my early life. I am relaxed, engaged and intrigued with the people and events in my life as they unfold before me.

1 comment:

Mac said...

Ahhhem. Being the Phillip in question, even if I had a grand in the bank and nothing better to spend it on - I'd still want an e-Card! Remember my statement Jane dear, it's the thought that counts. I like getting the cards because I know that someone has been thinking of me on that most spectacular day of the year - my birthday! Ciao!