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Gifts I'm Giving Myself This Christmas

My mother didn't wait for or expect my father to buy her what she wanted for Christmas. She just went out and bought it herself. I think her logic was simple and still holds true: Why wait for or expect someone to not only determine your wishes but also fulfill them? I don't know about you, but I've never given myself a gift I didn't like.

In that vein, instead of waiting to be "surprised," for good or for bad, with a gift purchased for me, I'm giving myself the gifts I want this year. And they're not all monetary or consumption-driven. Sure, I went out and bought three Mulberry for Target handbags simply because I thought they were cute. I tried to score those Isabel Toledo for Payless Toreador pumps that keep selling out, only to become a victim of Payless' online inventory glitch and miss out totally. But the gifts I really want aren't all monetary, and I'm in the best position to give them to myself. They are:

The Gift of Boundaries. Too often I twist and bend my schedule, sublimate my desires, and make compromises to make others happy. I don't speak my mind in the face of audacious personal questions and outright rude statements in order to keep the peace and not rock the boat. This year, I'm giving myself the gift of boundaries. When confronted with the possibility of inconveniencing myself to make someone else's life more convenient without any acknowledgement of or appreciation for what I'm giving up, my new catchphrase will be, "No, I don't think so." When asked something that's nobody's business, my new catchphrase will be, "Gee, that's really personal. I don't think I'm going to answer that." When confronted with rudeness, I'll calmly respond, "How rude," smile and walk away, boundaries intact.

The Gift of a Room of My Own. Marriage requires you to share. A lot. Finances, a bedroom, a bed, cookware -- well, maybe not cookware, since I don't let BMNB anywhere near my All-Clad pans -- but you get the drift. Virginia Woolf meant it figuratively, but I mean it literally -- every woman should have a room of her own, her own place to think, create, or just enjoy solitude. I don't care if it's a cavern or a closet -- it just needs to be your own. I've had an office in our home since we moved in, but I haven't really configured it for my easy usage until now. BMNB and I have been working on getting our home cleaned and organized because we will have relatives staying with us for the holidays. The beauty of this cleaning and organization is that I finally have a usable room of my own in which to do all these things. I can actually walk to my desk or sit on my "throne" -- a five-dollar used, overstuffed chair and ottoman I bought from a thrift store in Denver, cleaned, and covered with a crimson slipcover. I plan to enjoy my space, by myself, over the coming year.

The Gift of Not Cooking and Not Feeling Guilty About It. One of the things BMNB and I went 'round and 'round about before marriage was domestic responsibilities. When we lived in Colorado, I moved into his home. In turn, I started doing most of the cooking and cleaning until I looked up and realized that I was doing most of the cooking and cleaning in addition to keeping up with the demands of my own job. At some point, we had an argument about it, and I said, "If this is marriage, why would I choose this?" It wasn't as if I hated cooking and cleaning -- it's just that I now had double the work and half the help to do it. It wasn't fair.

As part of our pre-marital counseling, this was an issue we discussed. BMNB agreed that he would learn to cook more than his repertoire of seven dishes. I, in turn, agreed that I would attend church with him.

He didn't keep his promise, so I didn't keep mine.

During the political campaign I worked on this summer, I felt guilty that I wasn't at home more often to cook for him. For Thanksgiving, despite being exhausted from the campaign , recovering from a sinus infection, taking no time off from my day job, and still working on post-campaign issue, I cooked for hours upon end -- turkey, dressing, green beans, candied yams, homemade rolls, pies, punch -- to make up for my months' long absence from the kitchen.

Fast forward to yesterday, when BMNB informs me that he is going to learn to cook for our holiday guests. Not for me, mind you, but our guests.

Needless to say, I don't feel guilty about not cooking anymore. I will cook what I want, when I want, if I want, for my own health and pleasure. And I'll feel free to kick back a good glass of wine with those meals. Not all who drink are drunks, BMNB.

The Gift of Spending as Much Time as I Damn Well Please on Myself. Fantasia declared the new women's anthem this year: "I'm Doing Me." We women should follow suit. How many of us twist our schedules to do stuff for the good of our families and leave our own basic needs unmet? Not this year, ladies. I'm doing me. I think I'll give myself a gift certificate for 312 hours of MY time next year for exercise (6 hours per week), 182 hours of MY time to read books (a half hour per day), 120 hours of MY time for hair, nails and massages, and 96 hours of MY time to go to the movies, visit museums, or visit the wine country by myself. Thank you, Fantasia, for freeing the rest of us.

The Gift of Spending Christmas How I Want. Admit it -- haven't you ever wanted to travel for Christmas instead of spending it at home? I know I have. However, I've always tried to spend Christmas they way I've been told I should want to spend it -- family, cooking, home. Next year: Hawai'i, for no other reason than I've never spent Christmas there.

The Gift of Not Caring What People Think. How often do we stifle our words, our actions -- even the clothes we wear -- for fear that they may offend someone or that others might not approve? Enough. I'm so done with that. Don't like my hair style or my outfit? Not my problem.

The Gift of Truly Living. I know I'm so guilty of living my life in a triangle -- home, work, doing stuff for home, with trips to Starbucks squeezed in between. I don't go to movies as much as I would like, I don't visit museums, and I don't travel as much as I did when I was single. When I was single, it was like, "Have money -- will travel." Girlfriend's going to the Bahamas? I was there. Hawai'i by myself-- on someone else's dime, no less? Did it. TWICE. The funny thing is that I did more and enjoyed life more when I was single, earning way less, AND had bad credit. I traveled more with bad credit than I do now with good credit. I want to put that joie de vivre back in my life. This girl just wants to have fun. Cyndi Lauper never lied.

The Gift of Charting My Own Retirement Planning Course. Marriage means trying to plan your finances together. That only works if you share the same goals and the same approaches to money. Sometimes BMNB and I do; sometimes we don't. We have different approaches to retirement planning, and I'm giving myself the gift of charting my own retirement planning course instead of seeking compromise. We'll see who chose right in 2025.

Instead of waiting for others to give you what you want for Christmas this year, go ahead and give it to yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Merry Christmas and thank you all so very much for your readership and words of encouragement. I'm still working on the book, in a room of my own, no less.

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