As a child, all I ever wanted for Christmas was a puppy.
I wrote a letter to Father Christmas each December. In retrospect, it's a bit heartbreaking to recall the conviction with which I believed I would get one. Thinking about how many years I sneaked off and cried at my puppy-less situation is even worse. I never did get one, for the simple reason that it was not feasible.
What I actually wanted was not a puppy, but what one represented. Unjudgemental companionship. I spent most of my time alone with a stack of books. Speaking to people terrified me. I struggled to relate to my peers, preferring the company of adults or fictional characters. A puppy felt like a solution to my unending solitude.
That's the thing about the items we all crave.
It is rarely about the physical item and more often about what it represents.
We think a new planner will make us more productive. A new pair of trainers will make us fitter. A new juicer will make us healthier. A new dress will make us more confident. And so on. I fell for that idea many times in the past.
This year I am spending Christmas alone. One of my mice, Millie, recently developed the same cancer which killed her sister a few months ago. I have chosen to stay and look after her. She's doing well for now.
So far, it has been surprisingly nice. Everyone else in my building has gone home so it is silent. I love it. I have spent the day writing, playing Conor Oberst out loud, exercising and playing with my mice. That was my gift to myself; time to breathe. It has been a somewhat minimal Christmas. No decorations, no fancy dinner, no crazy shopping sprees. The gifts I gave or received were all practical, consumable or experiences.
When it comes to Christmas presents, I think it's useful to consider the actual desires behind them.
The same goes for giving presents. We don't (usually) think the other person actually needs a tea cosy or bird house or pepper grinder. It is an attempt at expressing something which is hard to put into words. That we care deeply about them. That we want them to be happy. That they make our lives better. That we love them a lot. Sentiments like that can be difficult to convey. So we give presents and hope the meaning is implicit.
Perhaps it is.
Perhaps it isn't.
Perhaps it is a better idea to just say it.