Sunday, 25 January 2009

Monstrous Ingratitude

I have stolen the title for this post from a poem I read a long time ago, by Boris Parkin which appears in The Faber Book of Christmas. It describes a situation which i'm sure most of us have found ourselves in, where getting the wrong gift from someone who should know better, is almost worse than getting nothing at all.

And so it has been for me this weekend, when I received a late birthday present, which rather than extend my rather wonderful 40th birthday just a little more, has left me feeling at best resentful, and at worse, rather empty. It has been one of those times which spawns a plethora of thoughts about the ways of the world, and how microcosms reflect macrocosms, which boil down to profound statements that could actually describe what is wrong with many aspects of humanity, and it has prompted me to examine quite closely the type of person that I think I am, or would hope to be.

I think I am quite a simple person really. I have what may be considered to be 'alternative' beliefs, likes and dislikes, which sometimes make me appear different or perhaps even difficult , but at the bottom of everything, despite my penchant for glamour, there's no place i'd rather be than at home in the bosom of my family, wearing wellies in the allotment, or flip flops in the kitchen. My little home is as chemical free as I can make it, cleaned with vinegar and water for the most part, my bathroom cupboard contains one shampoo bar without the trimmings and a batch of home made soap. Our TV is small and covered most of the time, I don't have expensive taste but appreciate quality. I love nature, I want to live lightly. We dont eat processed food, nor do we pine after luxury holidays or cars or other goods, in the way that many people do. And this is how it's been around here for the last 20 years. Simple. I could probably write a whole new blog about it, and have included many references to my way of life and my ideas about things, right here on this one.

And so when something arrives which is neither appropriate, nor particularly nice, with lots of hand wrung excuses and a request not to open it in the giver's presence because 'it's a bit embarrassing', I wonder what fuels the motivation of that person.

Intention is the fuel of motivation. Intention is born from the first spark which lights the fire in our bellies. It's what makes life tick. It comes from the darkness of our phsyche, and manifests itself in our actions, for better or for worse. Hence the saying, "Actions speak louder than words". This is one of the key beleifs of my existence. I try to live with an egalitarian outlook - and although I may be over critical sometimes, I try never to judge and endeavour to treat people the same as I would be treated myself. Prince or pauper it doesn't matter, we are all human souls finding our way through the winding paths of life as best we can.

My way is through creativity. An aspect of myself which has always been there, but now, at the grand old age of 40, has become an absolute necessity for life and one which I have delved deeply into for the last 18 months, still with the feeling that i'm not even skimming the surface yet.

Like all of you who create and who are lovely enough to read my blog and look at my work, I don't make gifts to save money. Who does? It's often much more expensive in every way - materials, time, emotion - to create something perfect for a loved one, or a family member. And too often the things we create for the unenlightned are seen as 'cheapskate' because they are home made. What do they suppose all their designer gear is if not 'home made' at some stage in their origin? Haute Cotoure clothes are hand sewn by skilled people, and whilst I do not have the skill or resource of a French Atelier, the things I create are made with just as much care and attention. I once read a statement which sums it up - "When I give you something I have made with my hands, I give you my heart".

I do not give to receive, but still it is particularly sad, when all the time and devotion spent creating bespoke gifts for a person and their family, is acknowledged with a gesture that is not motivated by lack of finance, or lack of time - such as the excuses which were given - but lack of care.

And that is the crux of the matter.

It's lack of care which hurts the most.

Monstrous Ingratitude
by Boris Parkin

Gifts as gulfs ...
Thoughts prompted by one
from ice ages ago:
a lime-green cardigan,
a garment I've never worn
and never will wear
I hid it in a drawer
and mainly it stays there,
except when, as today,
on the trail of a lost sock,
I dig it up and feel once more
that sundering shock.

With kept creases
and buttons still done,
it invariably releases
the same terror as when
tearing the posh paper,
I saw at a glance
how little she understood me.
Well, I covered my inner silence
with mumbled thanks;
yet the rift persists
and even now
pride prevents me
from trying the thing on, somehow.


Jo Power said...

I know what you mean. If only people put thought into things and didn't waste their money on things they know we wouldn't use. A donation to charity on my behalf would be better than something I simply will not use.
Just keep smiling.

Miss T said...

I'm sorry that this gift has made you feel rather low. I know that you give a lot of thought (as well as effort) into choosing gifts, and indeed into your whole way of life.

It's always galling to receive a gift that shows that the other person either i) doesn't know you at all or ii) hasn't put any care into their choice. It's worse than nothing at all.

Far better was my lovely, late Grandpa's way. he always gave money, and said with a twinkle "if you don't like it, you can always exchange it for something you prefer."

Just remember that there are a lot of people who think you're fab...

Kitty said...

I think there is something in the air. This month seems to have created a contemplative mood in so many - me included.

If someone had given me a lime green cardigan that I didn't like, I think I'd unpick it and use the yarn for something else - and sod them if they didn't like it.

I hope that whatever's happened doesn't prompt you to doubt yourself, because from where I'm sitting the yourself you are is rather fabulous. It's always disappointing when someone we love and/or care for prompts feelings like this.

Look after yourself. x

Indigo Blue said...

Iknow exactly what yoy mean about homemade being seen as cheapskate and if I know a person feelslike that then they are not bestowed with any of my creations. if they prefer cheap shop crap then fine. I will not watse my money on that if I can help it so vouchers are often my way out. I have a near relative who buys what she likes and does not even ask if I have any ideas. To support my claim she gets my present in August and muy birthday is in December!! I often pass on presents that I feel are inappropirate and clearly show that the sender could not be bothered to think about it or give it to a local charity shop. This years classic was giving me a bag that is clearly suitable for a 16 year old girl not a 39 year old women who makes and sells bags!! That may sound ungrateful but I actually ask what someone might like, find useful, add to a hobby. have several ideas so that it is still a surprise for them. I am deparate to know what it is, could you and tell me. i thought it may have been the dreaded swap for a minute.

Indigo Blue said...

Gosh my typeing is rubbish today! Could you email me and tell me what it was. Even I could not tell what that sentence said in my last comment!

Veronica Darling... said...

I have felt this on a number of occasions, and it makes me get the guilts that I'm not a grateful person! But when I've been so vocal about waste/the environment/sustainability over the past 5 years . . . I sometimes can't believe that family are still fine with buying junk for presents.

Christmas 2007 was the last straw for me, and so Christmas 2008 was present & gift free.... food and fun and lots of laughs with the parents and in-laws instead.

We don't have any children in our family though... so perhaps over the years this may change... but! I'd love to keep pushing that handmade does not mean crappy craft!

Kathi D said...

That poem is right on!

I know from reading your blog that you are quirky in all sorts of interesting ways, yet a simple soul who loves her home besides. I can't imagine anyone knowing less about you in "real" life.

I only do homemade for people who I know will appreciate it now. I am lucky to have a few people in my life who would rather have the simplest homemade thing than the grandest gewgaw. The others get gewgaws.

And I know about the ones who put no thought or effort whatsoever into a gift, in which case, why bother at all?

Anonymous said...

Intention is an interesting concept - one which I return to frequently in my own thoughts and actions as much as in others. Someitmes the gift-giver is just completely incapable of empathy. They can't put themselves into your place to consider your wants and needs. They can only see themselves. Is this judgement or ignorance? It is difficult to know sometimes.

dottycookie said...

I'm sorry you've been so upset by this; it's always a shame when these things happen, especially with people we expect to know us better. Chin up, though - we all think you're marvellous and have great integrity so I am quite sure you handled the situation perfectly.

Gina said...

I know exactly what you mean and how you must have felt. But I'm sure you handled the situation well because you are lovely and true to your beliefs. Shame about your friend though!

Tracy said...

Oh, Julia...I'm sorry that what gave you pleasure in making and giving turned to a sour feeling. Not good... This surprises me greatly, that someone would not love what you created with your heart and hands. For you are an exceptionally gifted artist, and create so many things of beauty--each a gift to the world. And I am so with you on all your say about intention and giving...Wonderful quote to get us thinking and caring. Thank you! I hope this incident is very much a one-off...Take your new and sew again, my friend. :o) ((BIG HUGS))

jennyflower said...

This has really got to you hasn't it? These 'gifts' say far more about the giver than the recipent. Simons Mum constantly gives me gifts that are 'off' and more hurtfully they tell me about the person she thinks I am, or should be. I bought her something I thought was specal this year and she hated it, so I guess I've learned something too.

Fancy Elastic said...

Oh, I know how this is... I received a gift this Christmas that made me so so cross. It summed up everything about these sorts of 'gifts' that I hate. A waste of time, money, and most of all resources. It is still sitting on our hall shelf (an out tray of sorts), the back of the box facing out so I am not reminded so often. I am struggling to think how I can pass it on in it's current state, without breaking it down into its componant parts for recycling.

I can certainly see how this makes you feel hollow.

Oooh, you have hit a nerve!

Primrose Corner said...

I can feel the hurt in that post. Don't let it get to you... just remember that you're brilliant. I like it when folk are brave enough to live according to what they really believe. A lot of folk don't.
As for the gift - I know a lot of people who really feel that homemade is something cheap and offensive. I made the beaded scarf out of Amy's In sitches book for a friend - she looked horrified. Won't make that mistake again. And, I constantly disagree with my mother about homemade food she only believes it's good if you buy it ready made... she just thinks I can't afford it.... which of course equals 'failure' . But then we don't tend to get the stomach problems she does...... It's a strange mixed up world we live in...

The Coffee Lady said...

perhaps a way through this is to try to feel some empathy for the giver, who clearly struggled with the choice to the point where they were unhappy to even watch your reaction. Gift giving can be hard; obviously I don't know the person but maybe they lost confidence in their own ability to choose without giving offence.

twiggypeasticks said...

I totally sympathise too, I have erm.... friends who think that throwing money at me makes up for gifts that are VERY late. When a quick email/phonecall on the day to say have fun, would have meant much,much more. Hey ho. I only make stuff for people who appreciate it now, same goes for handmade birthday cards. They don't know what they're missing.
Twiggy x

Moogsmum said...

I think you know by now how I feel about this - righ there with you!!
I would rather receive something very small and simple that has involved some thought than anything just grabbed at the last minute.
I'll never forget the notebook I was given a few Christmas's ago - with a photo of onions on the front and bearing a 15p price tag - just soooo me ;-)


Florence said...

Oh Julia, whatever it was sounds like a hurtful choice of present - particularly galling when (and I know from being on the receiving end of one of your wonderful gifts) you will have put so much time and thought into the choosing of your own gifts. Some people just don't seem to get it though...what an opportunity it is and show that you have recognised what might make a person happy. Depressing, but ultimately their loss, for it can make the giver so very happy to put together a gift that they think the receiver might love, they are really missing out on something. x