I’m finding Christmas particularly stressful this year. There are cards, presents, and events for a lot of different people, and I’m overwhelmed and low on resources. I was pondering what of the great Christmas task list I might be able to drop, and it occurred to me that some of these things I actually enjoy, some the recipient actually enjoys (obviously these two ideally overlap), and some are just obligatory on both sides. I’m having trouble figuring out which things are which (primarily because I don’t know for sure what the recipient actually thinks since I’m not in that person’s head). Does everyone who gets a Christmas card perceive it as kindness? Probably not. If my only contact with a person on the Christmas card list *is* the Christmas card…does that make it more, or less important that I send it? I really have no way of knowing, so I just have to go with how I’d perceive it (which could very well be wrong). None of this overthinking has actually resulted in a smaller to-do list, by the way, though it does have me considering that I ought to balance kindness to myself along with the kindness of gifts, social interaction, etc. And I’m not really sure how to let some obligations drop to enhance my own enjoyment of the holidays, which are at the moment just something I have to get through while executing a number of tasks, all with tight deadlines, most of which are set by tradition and/or other people.
This got me thinking in a broader way about perception of kindness from the point of view of the giver versus the recipient. Ideally, those perceptions would be similar, but they aren’t always. How do you make sure that your kindness is aligned with what the recipient thinks is kindness (this is obviously easier with close friends and family than with strangers)?
And back to my original thoughts, how do you balance the demands of kindness to others with kindness to yourself?
3 thoughts on “The eye of the beholder?”
Clearly we need to have a more open and honest conversation about all of the expectations around Christmas. We should set up a poll in February asking our groups what works for them and what doesn’t. We may all find that the issues that we struggle with are a commonly held problem and we can all agree to adjust accordingly. This would be a very kind act to oneself and others.
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Romy, that is a practical suggestion, wow! I have struggled for years to do Christmas without resentments. I was going to blog a bit about Christmas, but my thoughts aren’t coherent yet.
For me I’ve noticed that I try to keep on with too many people. I get desperate in my need to have lots of acquaintances to the point where I wind up short-changing friends. From a merely geometric argument, there are a limited number of people that I can be close to. I freak out because I worry that I won’t have enough (I even wrote about it: https://smallkindthings.com/2016/11/26/abundance-vs-scarcity/).
One technique that I’ve found helpful on this is checking my motives, especially when I’m overwhelmed. I get a whole lot of ‘I just gotta …’ that it turns out that I’m doing in order to impress someone whose opinion doesn’t even matter to me. Sigh.
Some day I’ll grow up about that, until then I try to be gentle with myself about checking my motives on these things.