Monday, 29 November 2010

Obligations and Festivity

I've been heartened by how well received my honesty has been within this blog. I think I am about to find my honesty being rather less appreciated in this post though!

Firstly, let me deal with the first part of the title. Obligation.

One of the areas I've had to refine and improve since I got ill was my likelihood to try to do things out of obligation. This isn't to say that I wasn't already trying to remove obligations from my life before I got sick but it has recently become vital that I take it all a few steps further.

Now let's introduce festivity. I've always been seen as a bit of a grinch when it comes to pre-defined celebrations. Without wanting to roll around in self-pity or sound like I've just settled down on the sofa with Oprah, it's probably related to childhood. Life was scary and miserable most of the time but, because it was Christmas Day or my birthday, I suddenly had to 'be happy'. Naturally, I mostly failed at that ;) I hate that expectation being attached to how I feel or act.

I've also never been a huge believer in Christmas cards (i'm not religious) or Mother's Day etc. To me and my grinch personality, it seems obvious that we shouldn't need specific days to tell people they are important to us or that we are thinking about them. I therefore tend to avoid sending them and discourage others from sending them to me. Somehow, birthdays are slightly different for me as I've always felt it's important to acknowledge that individual day of significance. So, my rules are both grinchy and inconsistent.

It's that time of year when others are starting to ask for addresses to be exchanged and, although I have no problem with people knowing my address, I'm struggling a bit with the concept of exchanging cards with everyone. The obligatory "it's nearly December, better write out some cards" just doesn't sit right with me.

And thus my dilemma. I'm aware this makes me sound like a joyless curmudgeon who sees Scrooge as a role model. I'm also aware that people are being amazingly considerate and sweet in adding me to their lists. I honestly don't want to offend anyone or remove the pleasure they get from 'giving'. Maybe I should just swallow my principles and join in the customary practice but then I'll end up feeling restentful. I'm not sure I can think of a perfect solution to this personal dilemma.

So, now you all know I'm a grinch. In spite of that, I still seem to care enough to identify it as a potential problem. Now, dear readers, this is where you come in. I'm really keen to hear the views of others on this and any advice you wish to dispense will be gratefully received (even if I don't end up following it!). Because alienating everyone I know each November and then starting all over again in January doesn't seem like a smart strategy somehow, lol.


  1. you had me laughing at the first paragraph! christmas has never been hard in that sense for me, although i have issues with the once a year card/letter - 'what we did this year' type thing from people you're not in touch with otherwise. not my cup of tea. and all for non-birthday presents here...absolutely to the letting people know how you feel all the time rather than on designated days. (oh, do do the mothers and fathers day things here but in an equal-opportunity way, they both get presents from me both days...tell dad it's celebrating his feminine side and vice versa. gives me a laugh anyway)

    sometimes i think you have to come to a point where you realise that you are giving a gift in not trying to control everything and letting people give to you. struggling with this and a birthday myself but i know how much joy it has been giving me to be the 'giver' and how 'grinchy' is that to take away from others?

    on another level of obligation though i do find that knowing i am expected to celebrate etc on a specific day when i'm not sure i'm up to it creates a certain amount of anxiety. luckily i have a family who is very understanding, no strict timetables. and with all extended family overseas most of the day is spent lying around in the summer heat napping, eating and on the phone to overseas.

    now, there you go...think i managed to make that all about me?!

  2. PS - give me your address and i promise to NOT send you a christmas card!

  3. Thanks KP :) can you summarise what your advice was please? lol x

  4. afraid not - no idea what i was on about! stop casting yourself as a grinch and let yourself feel what you feel without judgment, but allow others the joy of giving (how was that? not much better i'm up now)

  5. Thanks. The theory makes sense but I also know, by allowing myself to become the receiver, I then risk making myself feel bad as a result of not returning the giving. I'm aware how pathetic this all sounds, lol.

  6. fair enough...know these things are easy to say. everything is valid - you don't sound pathetic, simply like you may have been taking lessons in overanalysis? i love it that you're so aware of everything and trying to work through it - suspect this may be one that you can only really observe 'as it is' for now though? (did i say i was giving up? really should have...) do realise of course that there are other ways you give besides the material? more intangible but infinitely more valuable. maybe that's more where the gifts lie? sure someone else will actually manage to make a point here that a/makes sense and b/ can shift your perspective a little. apologies for the utter rambling...

  7. PS - like it that the word i had to put in for security there wa 'comic'...the universe is definitely playing at the moment.

  8. Barry,
    I am sooooo with you on out of obligation or expectation of return just isn't pure giving.....I am not doing Christmas this year....not because I don't like giving....I love it...but I don't like doing anything that begins with 'I should....' being unwell taught me that it's ok ...I love to give when I know I can do something unexpected and I really want to...that's the joy!

  9. Dearest Barry, once again it's like reading about myself! I am not doing Christmas cards this year, for one I am without the energy, two every year I end up with a pile of undelivered written cards that I haven't had the energy to deliver or post, three I am on financial hard times, four I don't agree with the whole 'obligation' to write a card to people who haven't asked after my wellbeing all year, five - they should be banned for wasting paper, even if they are recyclable, we can all live without them, six - they clutter the house up necessarily so I will join you in starting the let's ban Xmas cards campaign! Looks like I've just joined the grinch club! Xxx

  10. Thanks for the solidarity, Rebecca and Vicki :)

    Hmmm, maybe I should just be a bit more accepting of this being how I am and this being the way I'm going to handle the whole thing. Glad I'm not alone in 'Grinch Land' :P

  11. Its all OK Barry. You must do as you feel and I completely recognize the dread at having to be 'happy, happy, happy' because the calendar says it's a particular day which makes that emotion obligatory......Xmas or birthday. Couple that with the fact that you (and others here) have limited energy or resources or both and it makes sense. OR it may just be that you simply dont like Xmas and dont want to 'play': it's OK. Don't need excuses or explanations and if other people find all that difficult then that's their problem and not yours. You and others may be in the position where this is easier to pull off then for others e.g. those of us with children but then seeing the children enjoy it makes the effort worthwhile.

    In any case I was SO not going to send YOU a card :O)) I only wanted your address for reasons outlined elsewhere !

  12. Don't worry Cusp - i'm not hard to track down with a name like mine :P

    Oh, don't get me wrong - I'm not against Christmas completely - just don't like observing the conventions attached. If I had my own children I'm sure it'd be a glorious time that I'd look forward to immensely :)

  13. You wont want to be a shepherd in my online Nativity play then ? You can hold a toy lamb and everything and I'm thinking of asking an Oztralian Artiste to be the angel :O)

  14. ok, so you, oprah and i could really chat it up about our miserable childhoods=holidays suck! although my mom, her father being a minister, was so into christmas...every year it crashed and burned. i think it is deep w/in our limbic brain.
    as cusp says having children you must buck up and go forward, but i had always resented christmas b/c of the obligations.
    the past 2 years, for the first times in my life, i boycotted christmas leaving my mother angry and baffled. i stayed home w/ just my husband. it was really nice. so low key and go w/ the flow. just what i needed.
    this year i'm more in the spirit of celebrating. my mom is cancer-free and i have a new granddaughter. i am planning to be w/ my entire family at my mothers. the greatest thing is...there are no longer expectations put on me. i stood my ground and now my family realizes that i can say NO without the guilt:) a joyous feeling.
    so...if you need to boycott, i strongly recommend it!!! relish in your grinchness and maybe there will come a day when you actually want to celebrate and maybe that day will never come. either way, give yourself permission to show the grinch a thing or two.
    ps first year since i can't tell you when that i am sending cards...because i want to show off my growing family;) not b/c i am supposed to.
    ~cindy lou who

  15. Cusp - was that his face pasted into that pic? The likeness was spooky!

    Elise - I thought you'd relate somehow :) I actually don't make a big deal of it most of the time but for some reason I got a bit worried about upsetting people this year. Increased sensitivity again :P I enjoy giving charity gifts and am always happy to accept them from others as I know it's all for a greater good (this will be the first year that M.E. Research UK will be uppermost in my mind when people ask about gifts). And, of course, I enjoy getting presents for our nephews.

    I think you're absolutely right about this being a great year for celebration and family togetherness amongst your clan in light of recent developments :)

  16. ME TOO!
    I've been this way forever and the way I handle it is to tell all of my friends that I don't participate in Christmas. I let them know way ahead of time that I don't exchange gifts or send cards. Sometimes, they've given me things anyway and I've learned to just say thanks.

  17. blaming the drugs for everything written under this name yesterday!

  18. I like you more and more when i read these posts that are so honest. I also think you should do what feels genuine to you. Tell people you are not doing the cards etc and don't worry about it. If they choose to give you something then it is their choice.

    I personally love the excuse that xmas provides to give something to people i care about, but I make sure they know I don't expect anything in return, especially with ME-friends as i don't want to create pressure for them. The whole thing can feel like obligation and a bit fake with some people (especially family!)but you just have to navigate it as you feel comfortable. I just get something that will "do", send it and forget about them again. Just to keep the peace, but it's not genuine... I think xmas creates a lot of stress for a lot of people and you are not alone in wanting out of it all.

    Last year I told people I was not giving presents but would donate to charity instead and if they didn't specify which charity they wanted it would be ME Research UK. It went really well and some friends just wrote me a letter instead of giving a present which was really lovely. I love post! This year i thought i would "allow" people to give me presents again ;)

    As for the pressure to be happy and enjoy, I am lucky enough that this only became an issue when i got ill, not that every xmas was totally joyful before! I feel it more for birthdays as they mean more, as you say.

  19. kimlemoon - thanks, maybe I'm not so weird after all ;)

    KP - you make more sense drugged up ... haha, joking honey :P

    ashy - that's a relief, I'd be worried if you liked me less and less the more you read :)

    I agree, always been a fan of the concept of charity gifts but only implemented it a couple of years ago. Now it feels even more relevant as I have a cause that has become very personal for me (beforehand it was usually Oxfam or Save The Children as a generic choice).

    I used to be very focused on 'random giving' where I would send someone flowers just cos I felt they could do with a boost or whatever but, I must admit, I've gotten out of the habit of that. Something I should address.

    Thanks so much everyone - reassuring to know I'm not a complete freak ;)

  20. Not a freak at all - unless i'm one too. Oh, hang on, i forgot, i AM a freak, or at least i always thought i was, but the more i get invloved with people like you, the less i feel like one.( that sounds like an insult but is actually a compliment!)
    I have never done Chrimbo cards, as i think they are wasteful of the worlds resources and in the main not really sincere. I have enough going on in my life with a big family, M.E and money troubles.
    I dont really feel like a Grinch though. I buy presents or my husband and children ONLY, i cant stand feeling like you have to do something just out of duty. I tell you i have had it up to here (cant find a way to illustrate where here is but suffice to say its high) with obligation in my life. In fact i think we can safely say an overly strong sense of obligation has ruined much of what i woulkd have wanted for myself in my life.
    This probably isnt helping. What i think is that you seem like a kind, considerate and caring person. If you dont want to do cards etc then that is fine as far as i can tell. Although dont forget i am a freak so you may wish to ignore my mental ramblings....i am clearly spending too much time on my own.

  21. Hey Justy :)

    I'm glad I make you feel a little less freakish, hehe.

    You're right, the second part has to be accepting your decision and being content with it. I think I am - I just needed a bit of reassurance that I wasn't simply being difficult or contrary (I've been accused of both!)

    Thanks for your "mental ramblings" :)

  22. lol, someone has to listen to them! Might as well be a relative stranger.
    I hope you consider yourself very reassured.

  23. You know those cards that come with a dissertation about events from the life of...well now my Gritch wannabe........this has that look......think I might be enamored with you anyway..n its definitely the honesty factor......<3