The end of the Autumn Term is always one filled with very mixed feelings for me, if I allow myself to dwell on things or to notice the differences between myself and others.
I usually am quite different to others in the way I seem to live my life, that’s for sure. At this time of year, with all the messages from the media, retailers and society I feel the separateness even more. The materialistic nature of our society, and at this time of year the materialist selling machine kicks into overdrive.
The main message seems to be that you can’t possibly be happy and loved unless you are in a relationship, surrounded by family and friends and have spent a small fortune on gifts and food and drink and decorations, wear a particular brand of clothes or perfume or aftershave or jewellery, look a particular way (impossible unless you are air-brushed and digitally altered or starve yourself silly) or, or or…
Also, let us not forget the pressure to not disappoint others by not getting them the latest gadget or gizmo or designer clothing or accessories, whether you can afford it or not, and this is overwhelming, unless you are aware of the pressures upon you.
Another message is that if you have this or wear this or smell this way then your life will be magical and ecstatic and filled with love and you’ll be irresistible to others portrayed, others portrayed as the ultimate beautiful people.
The main selling point is that of an ideal partner, family, friends and life; a perfection we can’t possibly maintain except for fleeting moments; life is a series of good times and not so good times, even for the incredibly wealthy. Neither money nor fame bring happiness; if they did, we’d never hear of depressed and suicidal wealthy and/or famous people. No matter what things we own or how we dress or what we do or where we go, they cannot bring inner peace and contentment, not for more than a little while.
We’ve become a society, generally, which says I love you by how much we spend on someone, not by on how we treat others.
It is at this time of the year, when businesses whose business is to get you to part with your money, get you to buy into the belief that nothing says I love you more than spending a lot of money on you.
Am I cynical? Probably. Oh, I know that not everyone is like this, that there are people out there who understand what gifting is about, but the majority have been infected with the consumerism/materialism virus.
Being a long-term single person, one who has blood family that she’s not close to (which equates to having no real family) and friends who have their own families, then this time of year can be very difficult. Add to that the bad memories of the past that can surface as various events or pressures are felt related to this season, and a deep tiredness that saps me of my emotional resilience, I can find it very difficult to cope with this particular holiday.
I associate this time of year with huge childhood disappointments. This disappointment wasn’t with what gifts I had or how much money had or hadn’t been spent – I was always appreciative of the gifts given. No, the disappointment was always connected to my hope that Christmas would bring a wonderful change to my life; that there would really be peace and love and goodwill to all, including me.
It never happened.
By mid-morning the magic of waking and finding the house be-decked with fairy lights and decorations overnight by Father Christmas’ fairies that lived in the central heating system and the surprise of the presents at the end of the bed were replaced by arguments and name-calling, destruction and bullying, which only intensified as the day went on and tempers became more and more frayed by tiredness and food and drink.
By Boxing Day everything was back to normal, the only difference were the twinkling lights, tree, tinsel and trimmings.
Christmas became a season of false hopes and false promises.
That never changed as I went through adulthood. Oh the parties could be fun, but generally ended in drunken fights – verbal or physical – between other party-goers always spoiled them
The expectation of sitting and watching Christmas TV with no conversation after dinner was tedious and boring for me. Or the annoyance at the long ago ex-partner turning up drunk and late for the first Christmas dinner in our new home together. I’d spent all morning preparing and cooking the meal, and by the time he got home it was all dry and over-done. I’d nibbled my way through my food waiting for him (and got through half a bottle of very good port). He wolfed it down, dashed upstairs to be sick and then spent the rest of the day in bed sleeping it all off.
Not all have been sad or bad.
I had a good day a few years ago when I volunteered to help the chef at a half-way house run by the Salvation Army. There were lots of laughs that day.
There was also the year where I ‘rescued’ a friend from a long walk home after his fiancée had chucked him out at 10am on Christmas morning because her son had complained that my friend hadn’t shown enough enthusiasm for the son’s gifts. I ended up cooking an Indian banquet before taking him to his lodgings in the evening.
And last year, heavy snow meant it wasn’t possible to go anywhere, and so the pressure was off me. I spent the day engrossed in art and reading and music.
There’s also my acceptance that Christmas, as a religious thing, means nothing to me. It’s allowed me to be happier at this time of year than in the past. I still feel the pressures from outside.
This is a turning point in the year; Christmas more-or-less coincides with the Winter Solstice which heralds a return of the light and the possibility of growth in the coming months. The Solstice brings change and the opportunities for personal growth. The Sun is at it’s weakest at this time, though its strength is gradually reborn and grows in strength over the coming months. It’s a good time to let go of things that have ‘died’ in our life in order to make space for new things to come into our lives. My attitude towards this time of year is one of those things that needs to change, my resilience to the external pressures needs to be strengthened, and there are some things I need to let go of in order for this change to occur.
Despite all the work I’ve done on myself, on how I view things, becoming comfortable with who I am and my life, I still find this time of year difficult. All the comments like ‘Oh, it must be so lonely for you at this time of year, with no one to spend Christmas with’ (what about the rest of the year?) or the avoidance of the subject (by me as well), and seeing people in large groups eating and drinking and laughing and I’m on the outside looking in, or that’s how it feels.
It’s not the eating or drinking that can get me sad, more the lack of human company. However, that is a feeling that isn’t confined to this time of year – it’s an all year round thing.
I know I tend to keep myself distant from people; I’ve been hurt too often in the past. I do need to learn how to risk a little of myself in order to form connections with others. That is a longer term goal than just for one day of the year, however.
I think that this year I will revel in my solitary time, take the time to rest and recuperate, to do nice things for myself, learn to give to myself for a change and look at where I need to learn to accept from others too. It’s time to remind myself that I am comfortable in my own company, that I’m not lonely, that my life has meaning and purpose and it’s a good time to look at what I do have in my life and to be properly grateful for it. It’s a time to find the strength to avoid noticing what is missing according to the fairytale the media weave for us surrounding what happiness is and what we must have to be happy.
Perhaps, it would be a cathartic exercise to write my own version of A Christmas Carol – past, present and future – maybe calling it a Solstice Carol or a Yule Carol.