Christmas in retrospect

Despite all the preparations, excitement, and frivolities, I just couldn’t get into Christmas this year. And if you read the last post, you might be surprised by that, given my proclamations of love for the season.

This year, though, I have felt rather melancholy and unable to really enter into the joy of it all. The people who are not here to celebrate it have been heavy on my heart. And the unexpected recent passing of one dear, gentle man has really given me pause.

I tried giving myself the ‘talk’ about making the most of it for the very same reasons I was feeling sad – you never know how long you or your loved ones have. But even my own pep talk didn’t help.

I tried just ignoring my feelings and surrounding myself with lights, Christmas music and busyness. That didn’t work either. As soon as I was unoccupied, the bustling ceased for the day, I would lie awake at night remembering people. Aching with the pain their families are going through and wake up after fitful sleeps more exhausted than before.

I tried reasoning with myself, to get it all in perspective. That didn’t work. It only served to leave me feeling guilty about trying to have a good Christmas when others were in so much heartache.

There was just no way out of it. I was feeling down. It was quite unusual for me….I can normally talk myself around anything. Not this time. And, to be honest, I was a bit flummoxed.

And then realisation struck.

Go with it. Allow yourself to grieve. I needed to allow myself to feel the pain of the families of those no longer here. Let the feelings come, let them consume me. Deal with it. Don’t push it aside.

I have often said there can be no highs in life without the lows. It was time for me to take my own advice and accept the lows. Not accept death, I’m not ready for that yet. I still rail against the ‘death is part of life’ wisdom and stubbornly maintain that it is simply not right, whilst somehow still knowing fully that there can be no other way and that it is, indeed, part of life.

More, I needed to accept how I felt. Acknowledge it, embrace it even, and be present with the pain. Only then could I let it go and feel the benefit of its release.

I’m not sure I’ve done that yet. I have made a start but I think I have a little way to go yet. And that’s okay. I’m learning. Learning to ride the ebb and flow of feelings and roll with the waves.

Even if I did feel a little disconnected, it was still a wonderful Christmas, full of magic, laughter and family, for whom I am so, so thankful.

I love Christmas.

This is my December column (apologies to anyone who’s already read it!)

I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the lights, the feeling in the air. I even love the heat, the cooking and the last minute rushing around. Christmas is my favourite time of year.

But this year, I have made a realisation that I’m not sure about.

Christmas is full of pretence. From the moment we understand anything at all about Christmas, we are told there is a fat man dressed in red who somehow gets around the world in one night, and, despite his large girth, manages to enter and exit our homes via a chimney, which we may or may not even have.

When we are little bit older we learn to pretend we love every single thing we unwrap, from new school shoes to underwear. We learn to pretend that when Uncle Barry makes a joke, it’s funny; we learn that we must pretend we enjoy our cheeks being pinched by Auntie Ethel; and that it’s okay to hear “My, you’ve grown!” twenty times from twenty separate relatives we don’t even really remember.

When we get a little older still, we keep up the pretence that the item under the red and green wrapping paper is exactly what we always wanted. We keep pretending that we want to see that family member and spend the whole day in their company.

We pretend that it’s okay to have five extra houseguests turn up on Christmas Eve. We pretend it’s okay that our favourite wine glasses all get broken and we pretend – maybe not too successfully – that the red wine stain on our newly laid carpet will come out with a professional clean.

The world over, people are pretending for the whole Christmas season. And I wonder if that’s a bad thing.

We do it, essentially, to avoid hurting people’s feelings and keeping the peace. We don’t want to be the ones who ruined Christmas, so we grit our teeth and pretend all is well.

Yet instead of wondering why we do it at Christmas, I wonder why we don’t do it all year round. The thing with pretending is this: the longer you do it, the more it becomes your reality.

Maybe if we pretended more often to appreciate family and enjoy being with them, we would soon find we don’t need to pretend any more. If we pretended more often to not care about our material possessions, like wine glasses and carpet, we might find our priorities changing.  We just might find that our pretence turns into honesty and surely that can only be beneficial to us, our families, and our communities.

Maybe we can take a leaf out of the book of a certain baby born over 2000 years ago. Babies are nothing if not honest. And this particular baby was pretending to be nothing other than who He was.

Good deeds

Not too long ago, there was a status update from a friend about something lovely her husband had spontaneously done for her. Uh-oh, I thought, here we go. You see, I knew exactly what the response was going to be. And sure enough, before too long there were a few comments made about what her husband might have ‘done’ to need to do this for her.

I happen to have a husband who does lots and lots, and LOTS, of wonderful things for me, consistently and regularly. I have had that same response from friends over the years and it makes my blood boil.

Why are other women so quick to tear down and question the good deeds of a friends husband? Is it really so hard to believe that husbands can be loving, kind and considerate?

Over the years, I have learnt to not say anything at all about the things he does. Oh I make sure I appreciate them plenty to him…I just don’t talk about it to my friends, except one or two who ‘get’ it. Sometimes I don’t talk about it because it can seem, weirdly, like bragging or something. And I’m not into that.

I just think it’s such a shame. Here are these wonderful, caring men, who are suspected of wrong-doing, simply because they choose to treat their wives with consideration and respect.

Women long to be nurtured, treasured and feel genuinely cared for. Yet when someone else is getting that from their husband, women are all over it with suspicion and cattiness. Now, I know, it stems, in most cases, from the fact that these women are more than likely not receiving the same treatment from their husbands. And because they long for that, it hurts that someone else is being treated like that when they aren’t. I get it but I don’t like it.

Maybe if more men heard, via their wives, about the wonderful things other husbands did, they would be more inclined to lift their game. Maybe if the men who already are doing wonderful things, were publicly acknowledged (not that that is why they do it), they might feel more validated and appreciated.

I am sick and tired of the inference that if a husband is caring and thoughtful he is either weak and under the thumb, or has done something wrong.

When are we going to start valuing a strong male role in society and in our homes? Part of a man’s strength is in his ability to show feelings, to care, to nurture and treasure.

So let me say (because it IS my blog, after all :)) what I never normally say in a public forum – thank you, my darling husband, for all the little things you do, that aren’t little at all. For all the cups of tea, glasses of wine, foot spas, washing, vacuuming, cleaning, little gifts, big gifts, for filling my car with petrol before I go out, for going to the shop at night to buy me chocolate…..well, that will do, you know what you do.

I love that you are strong enough to nurture, treasure and care for me like you do; I know how lucky and blessed I am to have you and I don’t care who else knows it too. 🙂

 

I like you.

A long time ago, a friend’s father told her that he would always love her, but didn’t necessarily like her all the time. She didn’t seem too upset by the comment, I, on the other hand, was devastated on her behalf!

I know some people find it hard to say ‘I love you’ and it should be said more to those around us but how often do you tell those same people that you like them?

There was a slight ‘discussion’ between my husband and I recently about what character traits we did, or didn’t as the case may be, like about each other. We are secure in our love and say those three little words regularly but the issue of liking one another is an entirely different matter.

For me, it’s important to know that I am liked, as well as loved. I want to know that the people I spend time with who love me, also like my company and who I am as a person.

It’s easy, especially with children and spouses and other family members, to know they love us but not feel we are particularly ‘liked’.

The words ‘I love you’ can trip of the tongue so easily that it can seem almost routine and, while it needs to be said, can sometimes feel like the person ‘has’ to love you because you are family.

‘I like you’ on the other hand implies a choice. We feel honour bound to ‘love’ the members of our family but liking them doesn’t always come so easily. Saying we ‘like’ our spouse says to them that we choose each day to enjoy their company. Not because we are married and ‘have to’ but because we want to. Most children in healthy families would say they know they are loved, even if they aren’t told that often, but do they know they are liked? Just for being who they are? Do we, as parents, enjoy their company as people and like them for that reason alone, regardless of the DNA?

I think it’s possible to love someone without liking them. I also think it’s possible, and normal, to not like everything about the ones you love. But that shouldn’t stop you from telling them the things about them that you do like.

It’s a wonderful thing to be loved, that is sure. But, oh, what a glorious treat to know we are liked, too.

Practice what you preach, people!

There is a current trend in quotes, sayings and other ‘wise’ words. It goes along the lines of “surround yourself with positive, lovely people who are on your wavelength” and is often accompanied by an add-on that implies this will also assist the realisation of your dreams and help you be successful at whatever it is you are aiming for.

Now, I am all for positivity and loveliness in people. What I find difficult about this current trend is it is quite selfish. Basically, we are being told to only think of ourselves and what is best for us.

If someone doesn’t support your dream, stop talking to them. If someone disagrees with your choices, that’s it, cut them off. If someone generally finds it difficult to be positive, don’t hang around them anymore. Seems selfish to me.

Have we stopped to think about the ramifications of such segregation?

If those of us who are seeking a positive, dare I say, enlightened, way of life, consistently stick together and shun those who aren’t, aren’t we contradicting the very ethos we are purporting? If we only spread goodness, positivity and light to those who already have it, aren’t we just perpetuating the problem and in reality doing little that is of benefit?

How will those who struggle to see the good in life ever see it if we don’t interact with them on a regular basis?

If we really want to see change in our families, communities and society as a whole, we need to start spreading the goodness, not by cutting ourselves off from those who are on a different path but by walking alongside them.

If our positivity, wholesomeness and desire to do good cannot withstand being around people less positive than us, then what is it really worth? If our freedom to love and ‘be nice’ is threatened merely by being around someone who is negative or down, then maybe we need to take a look at how deep our positivity really is.

Now I am not saying we should make unwise choices in friendships etc and allow others to bring us down and hurt us. We should be careful about who we confide our deepest dreams to. We should seek out likeminded people for comfort and re-energising.

But. We shouldn’t hoard our positivity to ourselves and exclude those for whom being positive is more of a struggle.

How about we believe that positive can over-power negative, then trust that positivity and help bring others up, instead of being overly concerned that they will bring us down. We just might be surprised at the changes it brings.