I see a lot of discussion about self-care now, which is great, so I wanted to write about a self-care tradition I started last year without exactly realizing it.
2017 was a bit of a rough year for me. I won’t go into details, but my girlfriend of seven years and I split, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression for the first time in my life, and I was increasingly feeling aimless in my pursuit of a doctorate. My birthday, in mid-November, felt especially lonely and like something of a low point. Well, another low point.
As a collector of many things – video games, movies, books, toys, etc. – Black Friday is a great opportunity to pick up a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t buy normally because of cost or interest or whatever. I scour ads ahead of time and make lists of limited-time deals to look out for online or which stores are worth hitting up on Thursday or Friday. After all is said and done, I usually have a pretty nice stack of goodies that I won’t have time to watch/play/read for a while.
Christmas 2017 was going to be the first time I’d actually spent that day alone in my life. So when the packages from my Black Friday excursion started showing up, I had an idea: why don’t I wrap the things I bought and then open them on Christmas morning? I love wrapping and opening presents, and it would give me something to look forward to, aside from waking up and wondering what other people were doing with their families and friends and loved ones. So I put up my skinny apartment tree, wrapped the various movies and games and such, went out and bought some toys and treats for my cat, Bellatrix, wrapped those, and threw it all under the tree.
It turned out so much better than I’d expected. I was hoping it would be a distraction, at best, but I found myself giddy when I woke up on Christmas day. I couldn’t remember everything I’d wrapped, so opening the things I bought a month before was so satisfying, and knowing that I had all of this fun stuff to look forward to consuming in the coming months made me feel… hopeful. What made it even more magical was that Bellatrix was totally into it as well. I was expecting her to sit at a distance, watching and wondering what the hell I was doing. But she sat right next to me, sniffed curiously at every gift I opened, and tried to play with her new toys as I unwrapped them. What started out as a practical way to spend a holiday turned into something that made me feel the kind of warm holiday emotions I hadn’t expected to feel again for a very long time.
So, this year, I went all out. I started saving new purchases as early as September and hid them as soon as I could so I would at least semi-forget about them. I put my tree up on November 1st. I bought a bunch of new nerdy ornaments. I picked up a ton of deeply discounted movies and games on Black Friday. And, of course, I bought a slew of new toys and treats for Bellatrix. Over the course of three months, I had quite a stack of gifts to wrap, and when I wrapped them I only used my peripheral vision so I wouldn’t actually see the covers. I bought lots of fun new wrapping paper and fancy bows, and stuffed Bella’s little stocking with clearance cat toys.
This is a selfish tradition, yes. I don’t feel guilty about it, though. I’m not rich, so it’s not exactly like I ran out and blew a big wad of cash on this stack of presents. I bought them over the course of three months, most of them deeply discounted, and some of them are things I bought to use now and ended up wrapping out of excitement (like a pair of slippers that I need for laundry time on the freezing concrete floor in my basement, which means I’m suffering for an extra few weeks just to have one more present to open). The only thing I really splurged on was wrapping paper and bows, but I’m okay with that. They look so pretty under the tree that it seems worth it. And even if it is selfish, it keeps me excited for what would otherwise be an isolating and depressing time for me. I don’t know how normal this is, or if it would actually benefit anyone, but I wanted to write about it. Thanks for reading.