Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gifting Insecurity

I'm currently looking at my calendar for the fall season. With a newly acquired part time job, studio art classwork and all of my wonderful friends with events coming up, it's turning into a bit of a pain in the arse to schedule.

What's got me troubled more than anything else, more than money even, is the gift giving. I've got a number of birthdays and weddings and showers to attend this upcoming autumn, and I'm having serious doubts while thinking up gifts worthy of their recipients.

Come to think of it, I do this every holiday! Why do I work and fret so much when most of my family and friends just ask for a list of what I need, or call my sister for advice? In a world of gift cards, why am I so worried that my gifts aren't personal or valuable enough?

A lot of it is my own psychology, I'm sure. I'm a poor artist who constantly undervalues my own work. I don't sell what I make, I give it away. Lack of ambition? Low self worth? Lazy work ethic? Who knows? All of it! I'm complicated!

A large part is the fact that other, more commercial gifts have an obvious price tag. It's easy to gauge a person's perceived esteem for the recipient, and their level of intimacy and affection, since everyone will know exactly how much money was spent. How can a crafter compete with that? Especially if the gift occasionally doesn't turn out just as you'd prefer (i.e. it's a bit lame)?

Is it the cost of being friends with an artist that you get handmade gifts of questionable value? Should I just assume all of my friends and family know it's part of the deal? How does an artist or crafter know that the gifts they make are appreciated for their time and thoughtfulness, since there is no status imparted by accepting, as there is with a store bought item? Is it faith? Confidence? Blind devotion to ideals?

I've got horror stories of where my handmade gifts have ended up. I've also got a surprising number of things I've made that are kept in much more prominent locations than I'd ever anticipated. It reminds me that I'm making what amounts to thoughtful or silly decoration most of the time, and I really dislike giving people something they'll feel obligated to display.

I have no answers to these questions. I have some insight, but no sense of practical wisdom when it comes to my concerns on this topic. The Buddha doesn't have any thoughts of gift giving that I've read, so my usual source for generic insight isn't an option. I don't think Jesus was particularly concerned with the confusion that can surround gift selection and acceptance, though I honestly haven't asked. He's not my go-to guy when it comes to most things. Martha Stewart might have some input, but I just don't trust her to be reasonable.

I wonder what Leroy Green, after his self actualizing "I'm the master!" moment, would say about all of this.


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