Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why I love/hate/love the holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes, but Christmas always has me swinging between states of giddy/panicky, animated/weary, cheery/cranky, as I juggle my work (December's our peak season) with my social commitments (one barkada gathering after another). Not to mention I have to finish crossing out names on my shopping list and try valiantly to control my caloric intake (deli gift baskets and boxes of baked goodies pile up in our kitchen as my parents' friends make their gift-giving rounds). They say the holidays heighten stress levels for most adults, and I can see why: just trying to maintain your sanity while shopping for presents, attending company Christmas parties, and slogging through holiday traffic is enough to take its toll on anyone.

Saturday morning, my sister and I dragged our butts out of bed bright and early so that we could hit the Greenhills tiangge ahead of the crowds. After the 2 hours we spent there, all the cash in my wallet was gone (urk), my shoulders were sore from lugging around our purchases, and my feet ached from all the walking around we did. Every year, it gets harder and harder to shop for all my friends and family, because there are just so many of them, and I can't find personalized gifts for everyone, let alone the ideal gift for each. Plus my budget has to keep on stretching annually. It's difficult enough keeping track of who's on my list-- at one point, I had to call my best friend to ask her to remind me what I had given our high school barkada last year (I almost bought them the exact same things this time).

However, despite all the aggravation of Christmas shopping, I do enjoy it (and I'm not just being masochistic). Each name I write on my gifts-to-get list represents a person I value and care about, a person who has brought meaning and joy to my life, so the longer the list is, the richer I feel (ironic, considering the poorer I become after buying so many presents). Also, as cliched as it sounds, finding a nice gift for a friend or family member makes me happy, particularly when I get them something I just know they'll love, or are dying to have.

Of course, wrapping presents is a totally different matter. Thank goodness for my sister, who helps me wrap all my gifts (except the gifts I get her, of course :p).

Aside from the enjoyable/exhausting task of shopping, there's all the lunches/dinners/parties that fill up my calendar. Meeting up with old friends is always a treat, especially when a big barkada gathers and almost everyone makes it (case in point: today's lunch with my LM peeps). But
organizing barkada gatherings is tricky: reconciling different schedules and getting everyone to commit to a date and time, picking a place accessible and agreeable to the majority, texting everyone to inform them of changes in plan or to remind them to show up. However, going through all that is well worth the warm familiarity of being in the company of old friends-- friends with whom you share the hilarity of running jokes, with whom you exchange the latest updates on one another's failed/flourishing romances, to whom you rant about your job and rave about your latest TV addiction. It's times like these I am most strongly reminded of my favorite lesson from The Little Prince: it's the time you waste on your roses that makes them so important.

At Christmastime, I am acutely aware of all the people in my life who matter to me, and if only for that, it is my favorite time of the year, and certainly the most wonderful. I may be broke and sleep-deprived and bone tired, but during this season of love, I'm never running on empty.


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