By Claudia Luiz/ Local Columnist
I am writing about one of my old friends and presents at the holidays. I think it’s nice to exchange gifts, no matter how small the gift. She told me that since her husband is out of work, she really doesn’t have the money this year, so could we please not exchange gifts. I don’t have a problem with this, except that every time I call over there, they’re going out to eat. For a family of four to eat out three times a week seems like a lot of expense to me. She is a very old friend and I feel kind-of hurt that she doesn’t even have $10 for a fun, token gift and I know she is exchanging gifts with another of our friends because I saw her buy a little recipe book and she told me it was for this other friend. I don’t want to seem like a big baby and I don’t want to add stress to her. I know she is truly having some difficulties. But I also can’t seem to let it go. What would you do?
Gift-giving can be a sign of love or caring - you’re right in feeling uncared for if she’s an old friend, giving gifts to other friends. The problem is: how you can possibly say to someone “look, I want a gift from you?” You can’t. Or, come to think of it, why can’t you? Why can’t you be a “big baby” with this friend?
The difficulty in relationships – real, close ones, that is – is accepting each other’s imperfections. A lot of great friendships are lost because of this lack of acceptance. Your friend is certainly imperfect. She seems a little self-absorbed. And you are certainly not perfect in her eyes – she might think you’re a big baby. So what is wrong with that? There is nothing wrong with her being self-absorbed, and there is nothing wrong with you being a baby. As long as you can tolerate each other lovingly, you can continue to remain close.
It is easy to feel unloved sometimes. People around us being selfish, not enough people giving to us or thinking about us, imagining other people have it better or may be getting more…all of these ways of feeling deprived happen sometimes. What do we do?
The best thing to do at these times can be to spell out for everybody exactly what we want and need. Sometimes this is a very effective path to take. Unfortunately, it is not always the answer to the problem. This is because people may not be able or willing to give us what we want. Or they give it to us, but they do it ungraciously so we feel bad for asking.
So as you negotiate with your old friend that you want something from her, and that she might think you’re a baby, accept that life is bumpy and that while there are gleaming moments of nice, happy times that are working out just right, there are also times when we are faced head on with the shortcomings - – in ourselves, in others; in the way the world works.
One way to accept life’s deficiencies and inadequacies is to remember that all of these deficiencies don’t have to mean that you are not loved. People often make the mistake of thinking that real love is an action. While it’s true that actions can speak louder than words, a lack of loving action does not necessarily mean that you are not loved. Ironically, when there is the most love is when people start to take each other for granted. It takes work to be mindful not to take our close friends and family for granted. So in your case, being a “big baby” and helping your friend be mindful that love is an action, could be a great idea. Tell her you’ve decided to buy her a little something. Ask her to get you that box of chocolates you love and bring it over for a little party. Maybe she’ll be into it.