You’ve a week left, seven days of shopping if you’re convinced that it’s shopping you need to do. I’m sure you have a list, I’m sure you’ve checked it twice, I’m sure you know exactly who is naughty, and exactly who is nice. You’ve probably counted too, haven’t you? Each person an equal, or semi-equal amount of gifts, and if not in number than perhaps in overall and inherent value? A week left, the clock is tickin’ friendo, not many hours of daylight left to make sure what’s destined for the wrapping under the tree is all tied with ribbons and bows and you feel the peace that probably comes in knowing your shopping is done, finally done! Hell, if you’ve done all the above, you probably had that list checked off months ago, probably did the thing where you slap your hands back and forth together, sliding them off as though brushing dust from your fingertips and said “Good, now that’s checked,” well before you even put the turkey out for Thanksgiving. You’re probably not the type that complains when Christmas stuff is out on store shelves before Halloween, when Easter candy lines the checkout aisles before New Years Day, and that’s fine, that’s totally fine, all are welcome here. Today, however, seven short days before Christmas Eve and the cessation of all that commercialism (until the next holiday, of course), I just want to propose an alternative scenario that you can decide to adopt, or tell me to piss off and that you’re pleased as punch with your list and your stocking stuffers and your well-wrapped presents.
What if we shifted the focus? What if we said no to the rampant capitalism that the holidays have become? What if we stepped back, took a few necessary deep breaths, and realized that there’s another way, another path? What if the holidays don’t have to be entirely about presents, about the checking of lists, the justifications we convince ourselves of for the whats, the whos, the whys, of all our purchasing, all our wrapping, all our panicking? Psst. They can.
I’m not going to preach, not this late into the year, not this close to a celebratory holiday that I’ve no business preaching about anyway because I still DO the things I mentioned above, but I’m just going to postulate, just hypothesize about how we might feel if we stopped focusing so much on the material goodies that we tell ourselves we just absolutely must buy, and instead focused more on something less tangible, but infinitely more valuable. Time.
Of all the gifts, none have ever been more important, have they? Never, in any history I’ve seen recorded, has anyone lost a loved one and then thought to themselves, “Man, I wish they would have got me those new shoes last year for Christmas.” It’s time, it’s the intangible but invaluable human creation that we cannot manufacture more of, cannot bargain for, cannot add to our Santa lists. It’s the one thing that once taken, we’ll never, ever stop missing, it’s the one thing that if not gifted, we can possibly regret omitting from our holiday gift lists. It’s time and it’s always been time and it will always be time.
I propose a shift, more memory, less materialism, more hours spent making those memories, less time spent off and away shopping to spend the money you were off and away earning so you can then waste more time being off and away to replenish the stores you were off and away wasting. Oof. It shouldn’t take loss to learn this lesson, it shouldn’t take funerals or cross-country moves or breakups or anything else, it should be as fundamentally known as the eternal rotation schedule of holiday decorations in the stores we frequent. It should be instinctual.
For many of us, the holidays are a time of this lack, this time we cannot recover once taken against our will, and might not ever feel as celebratory as it once did. The gift that will never be wrapped up nicely under our tree will be that of the time we’ve lost with those that have left us, and no shiny new something will ever replace it. For those of us, we know, and we know not why others don’t know like we know. I’m happy for those who do not know, for those who are still blissfully unaware as the soft-colored lights bounce off the metallic paper below the crispy tree needles. I’m happy, but I’m hopeful that there’s still enough of that rare gift, time, for them to understand the lessons they’ll one day learn, I’m hopeful they can know without the learning, before it’s too late.
And so, without preaching or sermonizing, I just ask you gently: Please, understand that for those who love you, it’s never, ever, been about the presents, it’s never been about what you choose to wrap, it’s just you, it’s just that you chose to wrap something at all, that you were there, beside them, to watch them open it, that you were there, beside them, to share that memory. If they aren’t those people, and they do care more of what’s been gifted, they aren’t those that love you enough anyways, and the point is moot.
It’s time, and it’s always been time, and it’s the only thing you should ever truly worry about gifting. Be there, be there beside those you adore, and let them have the unbelievable award of your presence.
Be there, and worry not of the days between now and the Eve to come, be there, and be there, and be there, and be there.
There’s only seven days left, after all.
Of all the presents
wrapped under the tree, the best
has always been Time.