Some thoughts on the stress of buying crap…

Did I say crap? Wait—I meant gifts…

Whenever I start getting close to the holidays (or a birthday for someone really important to me) one of the first things I start stressing over are gifts. What should I get them? How much should I spend? What if I don’t spend “enough,” even though money is tight this year? What if I spend too much? Is a gift card Ok or does that just feel like I wasn’t trying? What if they hate whatever I get them? (…Oddly enough, this is usually one of my last thoughts.)

“For who? What? WHAT!?” my mind speeds.

And the brain-tornado continues to whirl.

I float from online store to online store hunting for deals—for gift ideas—for people who don’t really “need” anything. Hunting for inspiration. Hoping that I’ll find a perfect “thing” for that someone in my life, and that perfect thing will really show them that I care—or at least that I pay attention—or have good taste.

(…Because that is also somehow an important thing to show in gift-giving.)

It’s right about now that my mania reaches it’s crazy point, with half-finished Amazon shopping carts wheeling through my head.

But this year I stopped. This year something felt a little different. This year I just had to ask myself: Why?

What the hell am I trying to prove to these people?

What the hell am I trying to prove about myself?

All this searching and worrying and hunting—what do I think I’ll find out there? Something that will make up for time I didn’t spend with them this year? For that fight we had about that thing? For ignoring their phone call because I was busy? A gift that will make up for how I’ve treated them?

Or a gift that will make up for who I am? Something that will make them love me more? Something that will show that person that I care?

… Since when did I start believing that stuff = love?

Last night I watched a documentary on Netflix about a group of college students who move to Guatemala to experience living in poverty, off of just one dollar each per day. I found that I didn’t really care about the experience of the college students—they, after all, know that they get to come back to well stocked kitchens and bedding that’s not riddled with fleas—what really hit me in the heart was the generosity of the people in the village.

Those people who were actually living off of a dollar a day where kind, loving, and so very generous with these college students. The people of the village showed them how to live, how to cook, how to negotiate at the market, even invited them over for special Guatemalan dinners.

One of men of the village told the students that they would always be welcome in his home, that he would always give them shelter and feed them.

(… It makes me tear up just thinking about it. Give me a moment… Ok, I’m good. I’m good…)

These folks live off of so little yet are more welcoming and generous than most of the people I know (including me). Can you imagine what an offer like that means to someone who lives off of so little? What kind of sacrifices would that family have to make to take in a couple of twenty year-old guys, yet they still offer it whole-heartedly—saying that here, in this tiny village in Guatemala, you will not be turned away. Here, in this tiny village in Guatemala, you are cared for, you matter, you are loved.

When is the last time you expressed those kinds of feeling to the people you love? A new serving platter from Pottery Barn just doesn’t seem to do it.

So how do we put aside the shopping-mania this season and focus, instead, on the people we love? Here are a few ideas to try on for size:

Write them a letter:

What are your first memories about this person? Which are your favorite memories? What was a super-funny moment that you shared? When were they there for you? What would miss most if they were suddenly gone?

Telling them how much they mean to you.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to us. Take a moment now to be thankful for all the love that you’ve received already, all the people who’ve been generous towards you in your life.


Show up when it matters:

Time. I can’t think of one thing that matters more to people than showing up. It’s the one thing that you can never get back or make more of so start being generous with this precious resource by giving it to those you love.


Express your love all year long:

For Others:

Put reoccurring reminders in phone to get in touch with people. Seriously. A quick text that saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about you,” can go a long way towards reminding the people you care about that they are not alone in the world.

For Yourself:

Are you someone who’s always looking after others? Do you constantly try to take care of things, fix things, plan things?


Take a deep breath.

Now go give yourself a bubble bath, pour yourself a glass of wine or buy that book you’ve been eyeballing on Kindle.

Generosity begins inside you, not outside, so be your own guinea pig and start practicing generosity on yourself.


Grow your capacity for generosity:

All those doubts, worries, stresses I’ve had about finding the right gift? Those are all expressions of my own doubt in myself, which means that I can change that. I can learn how to grow and accept and move beyond my self-imposed limitations. It all starts with wiliness… and research. (I love research.)

The wiliness is a choice—and the research? Here are a few suggestions for you (Most can be read in a long weekend): Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown; Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins; and just about anything from Wayne Dyer, Louise Hays, or Martha Beck.

Wanting something more hard-core Wild Woman? Go for Red, Hot, and Holy by Sera Beak (that book was a breakthrough for me!).

And after you read… do it! (This would also be a great time to schedule reminders/ actions into your phone.) The research is the easy part—living your life a little different from yesterday? That takes practice and persistence.

Remember: Generosity will grow from inside you but it needs to be water, given sunlight and nutrients on a regular basis. You can’t find it or buy it anywhere ready-to-go… You’ve got to grow this yourself.

So when (I’m working towards “if”) holiday gift buying stressing you out…

Start purposefully cultivating generosity; let it bloom inside you. And don’t forget to give yourself that bubble bath. (Everything needs water to grow.)

Now give yourself a big o’ kiss from me, my lovely!

Let your wild heart run free,

– Olivia –

P.S. If you want to help out someone who is living in poverty and trying to make a better life for themselves consider funding a micro-loan:

Kiva is a non-profit organization that lets individuals (meaning—YOU, you generous SOB!) lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world so that all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.