The evening draws in, it’s cold outside, the Christmas lights twinkle over the street like coloured diamonds. From the warmth of my indoor sanctuary I watch people scurrying in and out of shops, laden with bags full of food and gifts, hearts laden with duties and expectations. Everyone seems to have too much to do, they are in a hurry all around me, but why, what is so urgent at christmas that it is worthy of all this stress? turkey? presents? tree?
Christmas for me has become a time of quiet and rest. I realise the expectations, the ‘musts’, the ‘shoulds’ and traditions have just dropped off my shoulders this year. I feel free to be the way I wish for Christmas. And I wish not to Christmas. The ghosts of past make the traditional Christmas celebrations a time of sadness for me rather than celebration. So I can make other days of the year times to celebrate, christmas can be a time to rest, let go and let be.
I think many people will identify with the experience of Christmas being one of stress, anxiety, duty and keeping traditions simply because it is expected. Christmas, for many of us, has quite simply become about meeting the expectations of others – be it those of family, friends or society. For so many of us it has nothing whatsoever to do with what we want or need.
Personally can’t remember a Christmas where I have not ended up in tears. I’ve been exhausted playing piggy in the middle trying to keep my partner and my mother happy, often simple ending up by disappointing them both. Every which way I’ve tried to ‘solve’ the logistics of Christmas I seem to have failed.
My brother asked me last year what I would choose to do if I got to plan Christmas solely for me. I was stumped. I had no idea. The mere concept of what I might want for me felt so alien. Wow! Overwhelming. I had not a clue.
So last year I decided to quit Christmas. I chose not to see my family at all. Not to celebrate at all. I made myself an amazing warm curly kale salad for lunch. I then packed my bag, my cats and headed off to a shack in the middle of the Swedish countryside with no running water and just a wood fired stove for heating and stayed there for 4 days. It was the most wonderful Christmas ever. I was free. I was me.
That seems to have broken the dark spell Christmas had over me. My family now do not hold the same expectations they used to. I shook the system up good and proper. I now have the space and freedom to dictate my own Christmas.
So from my indoor sanctuary on this Christmas eve I observe the world scurrying their way towards another Christmas day. The Christmas tree with tinsel and lights, presents overflowing under its boughs. The turkey in the oven, trimmings, roast veggies, mince pies, cake, pudding, custard, brandy butter.
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