Posted on

When Gift-Giving Becomes ‘Shackles-On,’ Use ‘The 3 Bs’

Boiling jalapenos, tomatoes and serrano chiles

The past few months, I have been on a making food from scratch kick. Cooking has always brought me joy, and this year I started a basil, rosemary, Serrano and jalapeño garden to feed that hobby. I learned how to make my own salsa, pickled jalapeños, and pesto sauce. Then my husband bought me one of those pasta-maker extensions for my mixer, and I ecstatically made us egg-noodle rigatoni.

So, for Christmas I thought I’d be Suzie-homemaker and make everyone on my shopping list gourmet food baskets with all sorts of fun homemade goodies. I ordered jars of all shapes and sizes along with labels from Amazon. I bought festive gift baskets, red and green crinkle filler paper, and cellophane from Hobby Lobby. Then we made a Costco run for ingredients in bulk. I was ready…or so I thought.

Producing food in bulk is more difficult than I realized. Aside from running out of certain ingredients (on more than a few occasions) when I realized my recipes only filled a jar or two at a time. (I needed 10 jars-worth per food item.) Plus, my mixing bowls, food processor, pots/pans and pasta maker only fit so much at a time. I found myself making slower progress and repeating prep and cleaning work five times over for each item.

What started out as a shackles-off* experience quickly turned into a shackles-on* experience. But I was committed, so I was going to power through. This caused me stress — and as a result, most likely caused my husband some stress as well. “Honey, can you pick up more walnuts on your way home from work?”

I rank high on the Kolbe A Index as a Follow Through, and my top ‘strength’ in Strength Finder 2.0 is Responsibility. In a nutshell, I always follow through on my responsibilities and I take having responsibility and commitments very seriously.

Like all things, moderation is key. Setting boundaries are as well.

As I lamented to my husband last night that my throughput for pasta was two-jars per day, his response was quite logical, “Do all ten people need pasta?”

“I can’t give some people pasta and not others,” I rebutted. “That wouldn’t be fair.” (Had I not been in my own blind spot, I would have asked myself – “Is that true?” In hindsight, I can see that I was telling myself a lie.)

When I sat down with my coaching partner this morning, we started as we always do with the area of least satisfaction. I shared that I was stressed about these gift baskets taking more bandwidth than I anticipated.

After using the tools, I realized that I really don’t have to give everyone a giant gift basket full of 10 different homemade food items. (This may be obvious to you, but reaching the insight yourself versus being told are vastly different.) The moment it went from a shackles off experience to a shackles on one, and yet I still persisted against my body compass, I had work to do on my limiting beliefs.

So – using Martha Beck’s 3 Bs*: Bag It, Barter It, Better It…

I looked at each recipient and item on my list remaining to be made and asked, “Does this person even want ____?” or “Does this person even cook for themselves?” If the response was no, I bagged that item from their basket. (On the extreme end of the spectrum, I could bag the idea altogether and just buy them something off their Amazon wish list and be done with it. I have the receipts for the gift baskets and unopened supplies making that option quite simple. Yet I was so close to finished, that I decided simply removing items for certain people felt easiest.)

Then I asked myself if there were items I could barter. In loose terms, instead of making it, can I buy it from the grocery store? Yes, every single item I could buy already made should I choose to.

Lastly, is there a way to better this whole thing? Certainly! I could just stop right here and give what is already made. I could wait to do it when my husband got home from work and have extra hands. I could turn it into a cooking party and invite friends to make it all with me. I could blast some holiday music, open one of my favorite bottles of wine and sing and dance my way through a few more jars.

The end result is that I am doing a combination of the above. Bagging certain items for some people, buying some things in the store for others to make it more customized to their tastes and compliment what I had made, and including my husband in making the last few jars of pasta to make it more enjoyable.

If you’re finding gift-buying to be stressful, ask yourself if you have overcommitted. Like the quote from Paolo Coehlo, “When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”

If you are, then find where “the 3 Bs” can help you bag it, barter it or better it. And remember self-care in the process. Christmas isn’t any fun if you’re too exhausted to appreciate and enjoy it.

“Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s a gift to all concerned. You can’t serve from an empty vessel.” ~ Eleanor Brown

*“Shackles On” and “The 3 Bs” are Martha Beck terms. Copyright, Martha Beck,