It’s the 11th of December as I write this, and I haven’t listened to Bach’s Christmas Music yet. For the first time in perhaps all of my 32 years, I’ve not heard the rich timpani of ‘Tonet ihr pauken‘ and lost myself in the genius of the most perfect Christmas music of all time, as sugarplums and visions of Christmas trees surrounded my mind in be-glittered, tinsel-sparkling beauty and the scent of pine.
I suddenly feel very sad, as though that music and my usual ritual of forcing myself to wait until December 1st to listen to it, before becoming fully Christmasified, no longer belong to me. So I sit, in a room devoid of festive decorations, looking at the photos of Christmas trees scroll past on Facebook and Instagram, and I’m numb. Later I will go to the supermarket and pick up as many cardboard boxes as I can, to go with the parcel tape I bought earlier. This weekend I start packing For Real. Next weekend I move out, to spend Christmas with my Mum and WonderAunty…perhaps my last on this soil for a while.
It’s surreal, and not at all festive. I am lost amidst the fairy lights and shelves (and shelves and shelves) of intentionally tempting foodstuffs – a waif amongst drifts of wrapping paper and torrents of canned good cheer pouring from speakers into the ears of people too busy, busy, busy to stop and think about the words.
It was still November, and my own mind was full of grand ideas and sparkling possibilities, all of which glossed over the fact that Christmas *would* happen, and I would somehow need to be present. I was transfixed by the idea that next Thanksgiving, I’ve been INVITED! I was intent on my hopeful move to Murica next year, and no shred of mistletoe or flutter of angel-wing had yet permeated the edge of my tunnel vision. I was idling behind two of my patients, their old-lady words bouncing harmlessly off the boundaries of my consciousness until one uttered a simple, compelling sentence, which seared its way to the centre of my attention:
“Christmas used to be something we looked forward to.”
Her friend agreed, and their conversation continued into the realms of commercialism, time pressures and family expectations, meanwhile the truth of that line burned a warning in my mind’s eye – Christmas has become something to be dealt with, negotiated, stage-managed and at every level, orchestrated to best demonstrate…what? Decorating abilities? Baking skills? Competent mediation between family members? Winner of the ‘best gift’ award?
It hasn’t lost its sparkle – that’s strident, insistent, and over-bearingly glittery. It has lost none of its cheer, for that too is doled out in ready-prepared spoonfuls, as often as possible. If I’m honest, it hasn’t lost it’s heart or its love, or the way families still want their children to experience magic, their elderly to enjoy being cherished, and their adults to work hard to do whatever it is that brings the edges together and wraps it all up tight in one day of joy and wonder.
But it might have lost some of its hope.
A friend of mine told me she had a nightmare that she had put her daughter on a plane to travel to see family, had gone out getting groceries for just herself, when she realised everyone around her had frozen in shock and were gaping at the television screens in the store. The news was playing, showing countless images of planes falling from the sky, and she realised that the terrorists had taken over the airspace everywhere, and none of the planes were going to make it. One of which had her daughter on board. A horrific dream, but one with its anxieties firmly rooted in reason and recent events.
Another friend of mine just isn’t in the mood, and can’t concentrate on anything Christmassy – she just doesn’t want to, and her mind won’t let her settle happily to the tasks at hand – why should it? They’re overwhelming sometimes.
Yet another friend will be alone in a foreign land, trying desperately to find her lost love.
Still other friends will be facing their first Christmases without loved ones, others with the knowledge that health is a fragile thing, which could snap at any moment. Christmas is easily overshadowed by grief or the precariousness of life, yet remains insistent on good cheer.
There will be people facing Christmas this year whose lives have been turned upside down, devastated by any one of the too-numerous-to-count disasters (both man-made and natural) which have happened this year. There will be people facing Christmas whose finances make a time of indulgence an impossibility. There will be people facing Christmas for whom the burden of the season is unbearable.
Not all of them will make it.
Today I was challenged to share my hope for the season, but somehow hope seems too small, too frail, and too abstract. It’s vital to each of us, in our hearts and in our minds, for it is made of imagined happy endings and carefully wrought plans. It is frosted with ideas and contains all the sweetness of inspiration that we need to keep going…but the concept alone is no longer enough.
This Christmas needs action. It needs purposefulness, attitude, behaviour and DOING.
I hope that my maybe-last-Christmas-in-England is filled with love and light. I am committed to spending time with people, and intentionally being present with them.
I hope that somehow, people who are facing financial difficulties will be able to find resources and ways to manage the season so that they still have a little festive cheer. I will contribute to efforts and organisations which offer that assistance.
I hope that amongst all the commercialism and catch-up and stress, the true message of Christmas isn’t lost – that #LoveWins. I will act with love towards others, acknowledging their inherent worth and show that I care about them, whoever they are.
I hope that good will can flourish amongst all mankind. I will write and speak and act and expound the ways that we all matter, and that we’re all more alike than different, and that in the end we’re stronger together because we’re always and everywhere better when we’re in relationship, taking someone else’s needs into consideration alongside our own.
I hope that peace and unity can work their magic and bind people together in festive happiness rather than the season being used to divide and cause arguments. I will determinedly make connections and try to establish meaningful, responsive relationships with others, no matter how fleeting, seeking to establish those points where we can agree, and rejoicing in them.
I hope that I will be a source of fun and comfort and love this Christmas. I will behave in ways which at least make *most* of the people who know me, happy that they do (I offer no guarantees).
I accept that my hopes might not all come true. I accept that I’m likely to behave in ways which contradict my hopes, or which prove I’m a let-down, or utterly wrong. I accept that there will be times when I get it *precisely* right, and the world will seem full of joy and possibility. I accept that I’ll probably forget all the people out there who are struggling, as I immerse myself in the doing and enjoying of my own Christmas experience.
But I am determined that this Christmas will be one of awareness, intention, and ACTION…and yes, of hope.
Because that Christmas message is true – #LoveWins – but love is more practical than hope; it’s more dynamic. And it needs people to make it happen. It’s a verb; something we have to commit to doing, even when the situation or our feelings or our thoughts are in opposition. It’s a verb with a warm fuzzy veneer and a glowing, iron-clad lion’s heart, if we’re getting it right. It smoulders and waits for us to engage, because LOVE needs awareness, intention, and action. Love needs US.
You and I – WE are the hope. Let’s DO SOMETHING.
❤ People to love and be loved by ❤
<3The desire and means to make a difference ❤
❤ Abundance and the knowledge that I’ll be okay ❤
❤ Parcels in the post (Kimmie and Michelle, I LOVE YOU BOTH so, so much, and
THANK YOU for your absolutely perfectly wonderful spot-on generosity) ❤
❤ Connections (all of them) ❤
❤ Big ideas and the chance to try them ❤
❤ Solidarity against gravity and a place to fight it ❤
❤ Exciting plans and people who support them ❤
❤ A box to sit in at work, because it was fun and I could ❤
❤ You, you, YOU ❤