The energy of a handmade gift is different, I thought to myself as I was ironing pieces for shirts I am making as a Christmas present. The values that we hold as important and fundamental to our well being and mental health change as we grow. Which is as it should be. The things that are important to a 6-, 15- or 20- year old should be different from those of a 40-, 50-, or 60-year old. But I also have noticed that collectively, our values are changing. Who is not experiencing interruptions in their lives due to the pandemic, or the breakdown of capitalism, or climate change, or social change? Who is not absolutely fatigued down to the marrow of their bones right now? I am exhausted. I am tired of feeling inadequate, I am tired of buying crap, I am tired of never feeling like I am enough. My entire existence, every aspect of my body and mind, has had value placed on it. From hobbies being turned into side-hustles, social media turning into ad revenue for social influencers, we are constantly being barraged with messages of how we can be better, with the subtext always being that we are not enough.
Every year, I think about these things as Christmas approaches, and I vow to spend less money and more time, to making gifts instead of buying gifts. And then I look at my little kids, and see how much they want, want, want. In our house, we call them the "wannies." The more they get, the more they want, and they are never satisfied. But I get caught up in the rush of Christmas shopping, and think about how disappointed they will be if they don’t have just the right number of gifts to open and play with on Christmas morning, so I buy more each year.
Handmade gifts take a lot of time and effort. There is no plan B most of the time with a handmade gift, either. You get what you get. Time is the most valuable thing any of us have, and the ruling class figured that out a long time ago. That is why you trade your life, your time, for their money. Money is a physical representation of time taken, traded, or stolen. You can’t borrow time, because you can never get a minute of it back. There is no “time bank” to store up time for a rainy day.
Most things that are cheap are that way because the time being spent to produce them is not valued. Mega factories in Asia use “cheap” labor. Products are produced “efficiently” because the lives that the time is taken from to produce them are not valued, and neither are the resources that the raw materials come from.
When you make or buy a handmade gift, it costs time and money. It takes more time than going to the store or BigNameOnlineRetailer, because the production process is not efficient. The rotten thing about all of this is that time is invisible. So when I give my children a gift I took time to make, they only see a “thing” in front of them. I have trained them to equate the quantity of gifts with the quality and quantity of my love. They don’t see the hours and hours behind the scenes that goes into making them pajamas or toys. They only see the final product.
Let me come back to my original point. When I make a gift, I spend hours thinking about it, planning it, making sure I have the right supplies and materials to do it, and taking them time to actually make it. Sparrow’s Fox Family that I made in the Spring took me a hefty 40 hours to plan and make.
Abby’s Cat Family that I made took another 25 hours. Dave’s handknit socks probably took me closer to 100 hours because I designed them from scratch before knitting them. During all those hours of making though I am cherishing thoughts of the person who is going to receive the final gift. They say an adult-sized pair of handknit socks in “sock weight” yarn has approximately 20,000 stitches in them. Those 20,000 stitches are really 20,000 tiny “I Love You”’s. I can buy a pair of socks from the store because I think a person will like them, but when I say I love you 20,000 times and then hand them a pair of hand-knit socks, the gift just has a different energy to it.
If you love someone, and you really want to show them, take the time to show them they are loved. Give them a gift that is precious, even if it looks mundane on the outside. If you don’t think you are crafty enough to make a gift, there are lots of great options:
Buy them something handmade (maybe a piece of pottery from the Jami Lynn Creates store?)
Take a class together with them through your local continuing education or Adult Rec service: cooking, art, etc.
Plan a special day for the two of you to spend together: take a day trip, plan a picnic, go to the museum you both keep talking about.
Most importantly, please remember to get out of the consumerism cycle, stuff =/= love.