By Michael Kimmel
After my last column titled Loneliness is Normal (thewordsd.news/loneliness-is-normal/), people asked me, “I feel especially lonely at Christmas and New Year’s, why didn’t you talk about that?
Good point. However, loneliness isn’t just something that haunts us at this time of year. For most of it, it’s a challenge all year-long. But, responding to requests, I have addressed the Holiday Loneliness question by including it in a column I was already planning to write.
This is that column.
At this time of year, many of us feel obliged/motivated to buy gifts for people. Retail establishments count on us to buy lots of stuff from them so they’ll make record profits. And that’s fine, I guess. But, isn’t there a better way?
There is: give yourself.
When you give yourself as a gift, you satisfy both: (1) The desire to give someone a gift, and (2) The best way to feel connected/not lonely at this time of year.
Most people want to feel loved and cherished…especially when you hear all those Christmas songs 24/7, many of them designed to tug your heartstrings and make you cry. Lots of us feel like crying because our lives don’t meet those high-bar Holiday Fantasies.
By giving yourself, you strengthen connections with people you love and who love you, and you can build new connections with people you would like to know better.
Here’s how to Give yourself: Every gift that you give has YOU – in person – as the centerpiece. You get to custom-tailor the YOU that you give and how you’ll give it. For example: you give a friend/family member a card saying, “Good for one lunch at any restaurant you choose” or “This card is good for a hike in the Laguna Mountains on any weekend you like. I’ll drive and pack a lunch for us”.
The possibilities are endless: you can give a child you love “a trip with me to your favorite toy store and you can have any toy that costs less than $25” (or $50 or whatever your amount is). Yes, you can set limits!
Don’t give yourself in a way that you wouldn’t enjoy and don’t spend more than you can easily afford on your gift of YOU. If you can’t afford symphony tickets with your classical-music loving friend, find an event that you can afford and that both of you would enjoy.
Not only will this “Give Yourself” strategy let you get closer to people (and feel less lonely), it will also:
- Save you lots of time and effort shopping in stores
- Solve the dilemma: What do I give to the person who has everything? The answer is: You.
- Let you give a gift that the other person would really enjoy, not just another gift that they’ll thank you for and promptly put at the back of their closet. Important Note: please don’t give someone a gift of YOU at an activity that they wouldn’t enjoy. You may want them to go hiking with you, but if they really don’t want to, don’t give them a gift of a hike. That’s manipulation and will not make you or your friend feel loved and happy. And your friend will feel manipulated.
- Enable you to spend time with people you love doing things that both of you enjoy. Who doesn’t enjoy eating out at a nice restaurant? Or going for a walk? Or sharing a movie that you both want to see?
- Allow you to only spend money that you can easily afford: if you have little money, give them a card worth “a gelato and a walk through Balboa Park”. It’s not about the amount you spend, because YOU are the gift, not the money you spend.
Most of us have plenty of stuff…too much stuff, in fact. But how many of us have too much love? Too much friendship? Too much good connection with people? This year, focus on giving yourself, your time and your kindness. I guarantee that if you give this a try, you’ll definitely feel more loved and appreciated, and your gifts will not be dumped in the back of a closet!
P.S. If possible, please include LGBTQ businesses in your gift. How about giving a friend a night at Rich’s? Lunch at Gossip? A drink at each of their three favorite Hillcrest bars? See what I mean? You can give of yourself and give to our community at the same time!