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Piece of Mind: A season festooned with gift-giving anxiety

November 28, 2012|By Carol Cormaci

There's a nervous catch in my throat, a slight buzzing sensation that starts every year during the week of Thanksgiving and sticks with me until about Dec. 26. It's rooted in a fear that the holiday gifts I select won't delight their recipients, the brief notes in my Christmas cards will either bore or not contain enough juicy details to suit friends and relatives, the English toffee I make will somehow turn out wrong and my voice will be off key if I attempt to croak out a carol in public. This is the season when my self-confidence seems to take a vacation, and I'm convinced my many imperfections are visible to all who care to spend a nanosecond giving them any thought.

In truth it's that first fear mentioned above, of not choosing just the right present for someone (and in time for the holiday!) that terrorizes me the most every December. What can be more satisfying than seeing eyes light up and a smile broaden when an item you have selected especially for its recipient is a hit? And how disappointed do you feel if it doesn't seem appreciated and gets set aside a little too abruptly for your tender sensibilities? It would be so great if everyone I knew could pretend that any gift they receive from me is the most perfect one they've ever laid eyes on, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Sometimes I feel a little bad that I've let them down.

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The real land mine we might step on during this season, the one that really sets my nerves on edge, is the group holiday gift-exchange. You know what I'm talking about: Someone in the workplace, or in a group of friends, suggests we all bring a gift that doesn't cost more than a set amount. Said gifts, gaily wrapped, are then piled on a table, and people take turns choosing from among them.

If the price limit set for the gift is too low, you can find yourself picking up something that's downright embarrassing for its cheesiness factor. If the price is a little bit more generous there's greater leeway, but still, you don't know who is going to end up with whatever you've chosen. For a party filled with all varieties of people, you go generic, right? Unless you're creative, or very lucky, the gift can fall flat.

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