Cards on the table – I’m a Bah Humbug kind of person. Christmas comes but once a year for which I am thankful. This year it appears to be having a four month gestation period. The slush factor kicks in right about the time The X Factor raises its many hydra-ed head. And with it comes the ants of anxiety.
I can’t watch those adverts and think my life’s problems will be solved with a gastric bellyache of pudding and excess. It isn’t going to be solved with oversized pyjamas with kittens on them. Or by drinking the smorgasbord of unholy beverages that manifest as actual Christmas spirit (chocolate liqueur anyone?). Yeah, there’s the Doctor Who Christmas special but I’m usually too far gone in wine by air time to do much more than sing Fairytale Of New York while doing the washing up in pink rubber gloves.
No, the bombast of glitter and expense and expectation does not induce a happy mental space for your miserable writer. It’s more likely to bring me out in a rash. Much like cheap velour or sequins. And breakfast television informs me that this year’s party look is pleated tinfoil.
With all this consumer brainwashing sweeping the land amid forecasts of economic woe ahead, it is easy to lose sight of what I do actually appreciate about Christmas. And what – for an agnostic person such as myself – it makes me consider.
And for me, this year it is very much about counting my blessings and appreciating my community. I recently suffered a full-on malfunction of a day. The sort of day where the buttons on your front opening skirt pop off and ping across the shopping centre into remote crevices. Where you trip over your own boots and concertina an entire queue of people while demolishing a shop display type of morning.
Where everything you touch seems to shatter and fragment and the sparkling baubles of Christmas are reflecting back your ineptitude with multiple red and green reflections of your harried face. I tied my cardigan round my waist and shuffled into the nearest coffee shop resembling a Planet Of The Apes extra in a ginger wig.
Gingerbread lattes and reindeer jumpers abounded – oh joy! I might have retreated had I not at that point managed to explode the fistful of coins I was holding like so much shiny shrapnel about the place.
It was at this stage that I began to notice the kindness of strangers. The barista made me coffee, sat me down and wouldn’t let me pay for my drink. A lady came in to find me, holding one of my deviant gold buttons aloft with triumph. The gentleman next to me patted my hand kindly and suggested I may want to stop biting my fingernails. The anxiety ants have been particularly hard on my poor digits. I took five minutes out of time just to breathe. And watch the ebb and flow of humanity around me.
And sitting there, listening to the repetitive strains and clanging chimes of doom, it stuck me that there were myriad small acts of kindness happening in there. The staff were not just kind to me, they made time for everyone no matter how long the queue was. Strangers helped one another with trays and stray toddlers. People smiled and said hello. I ventured into the library (I didn’t want to add a fine for overdue Daredevil novels to my already burgeoning list of small sins). Scene repeat. Everywhere I walked, everywhere I looked, people were actually being nice to one another. It gave me a strange sense of wellbeing – despite my anxiety and lack of a functioning skirt.
Then I had the privilege of attending a family christening for an older family member. It was pretty timely. I listened to the words of the service sat in a small hospital chapel with all the trappings of commercial Christmas stripped away. And heard what was essentially a thanksgiving for family. For community. For loving and supporting one another from the start of our lives until the end.
Regardless of what you believe, of what you follow, there is a narrative in the Christ story that is worth listening to. Our society is fairly secular these days but one day a year we celebrate the birth of a child two millennia ago. And we can choose to do it however we like. With glitz, with baubles, with gifts. With quiet reflection, with thanks for our family, with time spent with the people we love. Or quite simply by spending a day in happy isolation gorging on Caramel Sutra Ben & Jerry’s in a Dalek onesie watching Doctor Who. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate this season – just our own. And I am pretty thankful to live in a society in which we can do this.
The Geeks Vs Loneliness community is part of my extended family. It helps me keep those anxiety ants at bay. This Christmas I’ll be popping by to say good morning before drifting into a contented chocolate and family fuelled coma. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers (and good baristas) and for my small, perfectly odd family. I may not be putting a tree up but I will admit there is a part of Christmas where my heart does twinkle just a little bauble like. So take care. Be kind amid the seasonal madness. And don’t forget to breathe.
Thanks, as always, for reading…