Sunday, December 16, 2018

Getting Ready for Christmas

My wife is equal parts impressed and (likely) disgusted by my organizational skills related to Christmas.  I can offer two examples:
  1. I buy presents months in advance.  This comes from times in the past when I simply didn't have an awful lot of money, so spreading out the cost of gift purchasing was a necessity.  
  2. I spreadsheet it all.  I maintain a year-over-year spreadsheet showing the gifts I buy for everyone, including their economic value(1).  I started doing this many, many years ago in order to make sure that, as I bought things for my daughters, they were all treated equitably.
Old habits are hard to break, which is why I still do these things.  What's more, I can see a point in the not-so-distant future when I scale my holiday organizational efforts back.  My life has been complicated enough, so why I continue to add to the burden, no matter how well-intentioned, is sometimes beyond me.

I just don't spreadsheet gifts for my daughters; the spreadsheet covers everyone.  I literally mean everyone.  Including people that aren't even with us anymore.


I had thought about modifying the spreadsheet to remove my late brother Chris' name, but I just don't have the heart to.  In fact, I get some sense of momentary pleasure to look back on the gifts I had given Chris over the years.  I always try to be very thoughtful about what I give to others; it's never about just gifts for the sake of gifts.  Getting back to my late brother, holidays were something of a difficult time for him in the two or three years prior to his death, as he would routinely just not show up for the Christmas dinner I would host, in spite of assurances to the contrary.  He would inevitably come up with an explanation after the fact, but the reality in hindsight (although suspected in real-time) was that he just wasn't well, and his abuse of things made going anywhere or doing anything just about impossible.  I know this was especially true at Christmas, which I know is a particularly hard time for those who struggle.  Anyway, as long as the spreadsheet exists, Chris' name will remain in column I, even though the cells will be sadly empty.

Christmas this year just isn't about the things on the outside.  Case in point:  I have a nasty habit of allowing things in my outside world (work and other pressures, as examples) to intrude into my inner world.  Christmas doesn't get a special pass when it comes to that stuff either.  This year I have three more specific things that are pinging around in my head like so many stray nuts and bolts placed in the fender of a mid-70's Chrysler(2).  The specifics of the specific things aren't important and they don't really add to this narrative, so cryptic I will remain.  Suffice to say, I'm trying to keep things in balance.

Part of keeping this in balance, at least for me, is having a plan.  The late Dr. Gordon Livingston(3) once said that there are three keys to happiness:
  1. Something to do
  2. Someone to love
  3. Something to look forward to
Planning, for me, takes care of items 1 and 3.  I can honestly say that I have item #2 covered, a fact for which I am truly blessed.  I do, however, need to plan...and act...more.  Case in point:  I read quite a bit about the benefits of disconnecting from things like social media, at least for some time frame, but I don't think that would work for me.  I can, however, make some small changes, including moving my cell phone off of my nightstand and into my office.

Finally, there's also some benefit for all of us in taking stock of the year as 2018 rolls into 2019.  One of the things that this far-too-fast-paced world takes away from us, as we instantly react to various sundry tweets and cat videos, is the time to really reflect on who we are, and what we're doing.  This is important because we can't know where we are going if we don't know from whence we start, and there are a lot of places we all can be going to in the months and years to come.

Here's to a quick Christmas sprint.



(1) Economic value is, by definition, more or less what someone is willing to pay for something.  From a practical standpoint, in this case, it's what something is worth, not necessarily what I paid for it.  For example, if I buy something that costs $75 but it is normally priced at $100, the value for purposes of equitability is $100, not $75.  I do, by the way, realize that this explanation is just about the least Christmas-y thing you will read all day today.

(2) Urban legend (likely based on fact):  Apparently as a way to show displeasure with their labor contracts or, just because they could, American auto workers would put random things in the cars they were building.  If you ever had a 70's or earlier vintage American car, you know full well some of the quality "challenges" that came with the vehicles.

(3) If I had to recommend just one book to anyone, it would be Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Dr. Livingston.


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