Artist and writer Gideon Tsang shares how his idealism as an Enneagram Seven came up against the frustrating reality of Christmas shopping during COVID-19.
As an Enneagram Seven, I love and hate the holidays. I love them because, well, Sevens—like Prince preparing for an entire year before Y2K—like to party. The lights, the smells, the sounds, the gifts, the food, the drink, the gatherings. I’ve been going since before 1999.
On the other hand, as a frustrated idealist (Sevens and Fours!), holidays are the worst. Being stuck in holiday traffic headed towards a mall to wait in line for a gift for someone that you don’t want to buy a gift for is a living hell. Even Dante’s Satan, in his literal flaming hell, was like, “Uh, the mall in December? I’m good. I’ll stay in this eternal flaming inferno.”
This past COVID Christmas of 2020, I made the mistake of going to the grocery store on Christmas Eve (you know, to allow my idealism to blossom into frustration). I put on my coat and hat to brave the Texas forty-five-degree winter and drove two miles down the road to my local grocer, Central Market. As I turned on my left turn signal and waited for a mass of cars to pass, I could sense trouble. Cars were waiting in every aisle with signals claiming their parking spot like a dog peeing on a hydrant. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a line of masked shoppers wrapped around the plaza disappearing around the corner. “Ugh. . . why, God, why?” I muttered under my breath.
I saw a spot open up in the far corner of the lot and parked. With my mask on, I lined up at the back of the line outside of a card store. Forty-five minutes later, with a cart in hand, I was in.
The reason for my outing was that my partner, Christie, was planning to cook two lasagnas for my boys the next evening—Christmas night. She put together a shopping list in the order of where I would find the items in the store. With the crowded aisles, it felt like a game of Mario Kart. I threw a few banana peels behind me just in case.
Once inside the store, my quest began with veggies, then onto the meat section, then the wine, the spices, the sauces, the cheeses, and finally the fresh pasta. With my cart full, I traced the checkout line from the front of the store past the gelato, past the deli, all the way to the bakery at the very back of the store. I got in line. People were cordial and in a festive mood. Is this the end of the line? “Welcome, join our holiday misery!” smirked a bearded white Austinite with a baseball cap (Austin’s equivalent to a New York pigeon).
Thirty minutes later, I was next in line. The conveyor belt moved to start the emptying of my precious goods. I started with the colorful array of vegetables and then the sauces and spices. All the colors coming out of my cart tickled my inner Seven’s need for variety and beauty. The woman in front of me paid for her bounty, rolled her cart towards the automatic doors and waved at me as she said “happy holidays.”
Finally, my quest was near completion. I was at the checkout! Halfway through, I took a deep breath. The nightmare was almost over. I reached into my pocket for my wallet and to my horror, it was empty. I checked all my back pockets. Jacket pockets. I ran through all my pockets one more time. A stress sweat bead tricked down my back. I couldn’t have. I must have. I forgot my wallet.
I quickly texted Christie. “You won’t believe what I forgot.”
Christie: “Shut up”
Me: “I might start weeping”
Christie: “I can come now!”
Me: “I took your car”
Christie: “What do we do?!”
I scanned my cart to see what I might be able to throw across the store. Maybe I’ll just walk away into the sunset and call it a life.
My Enneagram Seven quick thinking kicked in and I turn to the couple in line behind me. They were both wearing hooded sweatshirts.
Me: “Hey, there. So I have a straaange question.”
Random Couple: “Uh, ok”
Me: “Sooo (I could hear my last bottle of wine beeping through the checkout) I forgot my wallet. What if. . .”
I could see them shift uncomfortably
Me: “It’s going to be a lot. But do you think I could Venmo you for my groceries if you put them on your card?”
I got a blank stare back. After a few seconds of processing the man shrugged, “Yeah, I guess I could do that.”
Me: “Sir, I want to kiss you right now but that might scare you and it’s COVID. But thank you, thank you, thank you. You just saved my Christmas. I kind of love and hate Christmas.”
Man: “I get it man. Congrats on making it out of here. Happy holidays.”
As an Enneagram Seven, that’s a sneak peek into my experience of most holidays. This is how an idealist coming against the frustrations of reality uses a bit of charm and quick thinking to come away with a positive story. Anything for a good story, eh?
About the Author
Gideon Yee Shun Tsang is an artist, writer, photographer, and spiritual leader. He was the founding pastor at Vox Veniae in Austin, Texas, where he’s been living for the past twenty years. He originally hails from Canada. He can be found meandering the country in his van, bike camping in national forests, or cliff jumping into cenotes. He is the author of 40 Days on Being a Seven.