Christmas Resolutions

Image credit: By Kelvinsong, via Wikimedia Commons

Twas the night two days (in NZ) before Christmas… and all through the house world, not a creature was stirring (well, that’s just wrong!) and every Kiwi (and probably Australian too) was hard at work baking a pavlova (staple Christmas food Downunder).  Me?  I have no pav to bake, and my contribution to Christmas dinner can’t be made until the day.  So I’ve been writing and here’s my Christmas post…

You maybe thinking that I’m a week early on setting New Year Resolutions, as is the usual practise for many people.  I’m not though.  I don’t do New Year Resolutions because they never seem to last, and I never seem to be enthusiastic enough.  But as Christmas has approached I’ve realised that I’ve quietly been setting Christmas Resolutions instead.  The great thing about Christmas Resolutions, in case you didn’t know, is that they come bearing a little Christmas magic with them.  A perfect way to make sure they come true.

So here they are.  Completely unrelated, but of importance to me…

Image credit: Connie Bowen (used with permission)
Facebook: I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations

Christmas Resolution #1
I believe (again) in the magic of Christmas!

I admit that I gave up on the magic of Christmas a while back.  Actually, I had almost given up on any Christmas.  I didn’t enjoy it, couldn’t really see the point, and just hoped it would be over sooner rather than later… with as little pain as possible.  But actually, Christmas is kind of cool.  There’s the Christian Christmas Nativity story, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there is also Santa Claus and reindeers…

I’ve been watching a few Christmas movies lately, my favourite being the one my friend Kathy very kindly sent to me.  That is ‘Miracle on 34th Street‘.  It makes me sad when children, through the ideals of their parents usually, are taught to believe that Santa Claus is not real.  I think those children miss out, on a lot.  I think it’s good for children to use their imagination and experience such tales.

I can remember when local television stations used to track the progress of Santa around the globe.  What amazed me was just how Santa made it around the whole globe in just one night.  Well I understand that better now and it helps that some places don’t celebrate Christmas, so he can zip past those places.  But again, it is sad that those children (and adults) miss out on the magic of Christmas.

So what is this magic of Christmas.  I think we need to get away from it being about gifts and start to see it as being about spreading peace, joy and love around our whole globe.  If each person, adult and child, could have a piece of that this Christmas, then I think we’d be going a long way.  And if it could apply to the whole world, and not just those of certain religions, then that too would be a great move to seeing the world be kinder to each other.  Now I believe that is something Santa Claus would support.  Throw in a few reindeers, and a bit of mistletoe, and we’d be getting somewhere.

One more point on the magic of Christmas.  For a few years now I have been aware of a debate within the Christian church of whether the virgin birth (at Christmas) was really a virgin birth.  I was raised in a Christian home and spent a good chunk of my life as a practising Christian (although I’m not now).  The Christian story of Jesus’ birth was what I was raised with.  Santa Claus took a very definite second place, and I know that many people reading may also see it this way.

So what of this virgin birth?  Was Jesus’ mother really a virgin?  This is far from a theological stance(my argument would probably not hold up anywhere) but I’ve come to my own conclusion that if I can believe in the magic of Christmas, then I can believe in the virgin birth. Maybe it takes a little imagination, but imagination is a very good thing.  And why should we confine it to children believing in Santa? In my mind, it is sad when we limit our experiences to what we see as literal.

So yes, I believe in the magic of Christmas, including the virgin birth.

Christmas Resolution #2
I support the survival of the rhinoceros  (and I did tell you these were unrelated!!)

Image credit: Andrew McMillan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

It broke my heart a few weeks ago when I read that the black rhino as a species is now extinct.  Rhinos are wonderful animals.  In my mind they are part hippo, part dinosaur and part unicorn (yes, I did say unicorn).  That spells a wonderful mix.  The thought that we as human beings have killed off a species because ‘we’ wanted the ivory from their tusks, is a tragedy.  It’s happening to elephants too, another animal I like, but I won’t get side tracked.  Why can’t we salute the rhino?  Why can’t we put an end to the hunting, and celebrate the unicorn in the rhino.  That little bit of magic.  If you look closely you’ll probably see a rainbow too.

One species are extinct but we can’t afford to lose more.  As for me, I will do what I can to support their survival.  What about you?

Christmas Resolution #3
I must stop crossing oceans! 

This third resolution comes on the basis of the quote I read some months back and knew instantly that it was ‘my‘ quote for 2013.  Anyone else might read this quote and think “oh, that’s nice advice” but after this year, it is imperative that I get on board with it… and not on board a plane either.  I did something like 75 hours (there and back) of that before I learnt my lesson).

The quote is:

“There comes a point when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.”

I have no idea who uttered these wise words, but I’m sure they were speaking metaphorically, and not literally.  Only I could do this literally, crossing many, many oceans (and lands) before I read this quote. Sure, you can say I was in love and had my head in the clouds.  It’s true.  But from now on I check first on the ability of the person in question to ‘jump puddles‘.  I checked many things, but alas, I forgot to check whether he would jump a puddle for me.  Even if he’d lay down his coat in a puddle so I could walk over it (as I remember my Dad telling me that a gentleman would).

If they won’t jump puddles for me, my feet are staying firmly on kiwi ground.  And I expect them to jump big puddles too.

That’s the end of my resolutions.  There’s no point making so many that you can’t keep up.  New Year Resolutions are made to be broken, but these Christmas ones are firmly embedded in my mental ‘it’s happening‘ list.

So sit back, look out for Santa Claus and his reindeers flying past. Oh, and keep a very big eye out for any flying rhinoceros.  I think that would be a sight to see, but also one to perhaps avoid if you can.  Have a lovely Christmas.  Forget the stress of families and money and food (especially for those of us who battle eating disorders and know this time of the year is the absolute worst).  Have a little magic instead.  Have a little peace.

And while you’re about it, check out the wonderful Facebook page where I got the image from.  It is I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations  A big thank you to Connie for her permission to use her work.

“Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it—you feel it, you know it, you believe it.”

― Kevin Alan Milne, The Paper Bag Christmas

The Other Side Of The Story

On Christmas night I sat down for a short while to watch the headlines of the daily news on television.  I have been cutting back on what news I watch recently because of the often traumatic nature of it.  Now days I might watch the first ten minutes and then leave it.  That way I know some of what is going on, but don’t need to torment myself with the rest.

The first story was the record number of people who had attended the Auckland (NZ’s largest city) City Mission Christmas dinner.  These types of free meals have been run in major centres for years, and provide a free meal and entertainment for those who can not afford to have their own celebration.

What struck me was the way the newsreader told it.  There was almost glee in his voice as if he was talking about record numbers attending a car show, or some other event where record numbers would be looked on as a good thing.

For me, I see the record numbers as a terribly bad thing, that more and more people are having to turn to charitable organisations to enable some celebration of Christmas.  We should be looking to find ways of making these numbers go down rather than up.  It’s just wrong.  Ironically there were even people there who were tourists in New Zealand.  the bus tour they were on had brought them there for their Chritmas meal.  I admired the head of the City Mission who said it was fine they were there because they were seeing another side to New Zealand.  I just hope they paid for their meal.

I love that these events happen each year, and actually I have grown up  all my life being part of such events.  My parents would regularly do family Christmas celebrations for us at lunch time on Christmas Day, and then we would be involved in putting on a community meal at night for those who had no where else to go.  Mum would do most of the cooking and Dad would be out front welcoming people.  Us kids were often doing the dishes.

It is wonderful that so many give up their time (and money) to run these meals, but the fact that there is growing need for such events simply suggests to me that people are struggling more and so many people are alone.

This is one event where record-breaking statistics should be very unwelcome.  Yes there will always be people alone, and for them I am glad these events still exist.  But many of the people attending are families who simply can not afford to celebrate Christmas.

Image credit: FB/Fresh Minds Matter

Image credit: FB/Fresh Minds Matter

Straight after Christmas Day, in this country comes Boxing Day on 26 December.  It is a day recognised in most Commonwealth countries (although feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).  Boxing Day used to be a day to go to the beach in New Zealand, or better yet, the day to head off on your summer holiday.

Traditionally though, Boxing Day was a day to give money and gifts to the poor.  I grew up with the explanation that is was the day when servants packed up (in boxes) all the left overs from Christmas, and gave them to the poor.  Also it was a day when servants who had worked hard through Christmas Day, could have time off to visit their own families.

Boxing Day is probably one of those events where there are many different explanations, but it seems that giving to the more needy is a common thread.  I suspect most countries who recognise Boxing Day have lost this aspect to it, and I think that is sad.  I also have this question in my head of why the poor had to wait to simply get what amounts to ‘leftovers’?  And why couldn’t the rich give to the poor before Christmas?

I think what disturbs me most is what has happened to Boxing Day now.  Boxing Day has lost that charitable aspect and now is a consumer day.  It is now the day when the retail sales start, in the same line as the Black Friday sales in the United States after Thanksgiving.

How did we go from a day recognised for giving to the poor, to a mad scramble around the shops to get the best bargains possible?  Isn’t there something wrong with that?

Personally I don’t handle large crowds of people and so the idea of going shopping for the Boxing Day sales is completely beyond me.  I’m not interested in what bargains I might be able to get, and would rather preserve my mental health.

Boxing Day was yesterday in New Zealand, and like I had done the night before, I watched the first ten minutes of the television news.  The headlines were the record sales for the retail sector.

What I’m wondering is how many people buying up on Boxing Day could really afford what they were buying?  How many purchased on credit, and will struggle to pay it off?  And dare I say it, I wonder if there were people at the Christmas Day meals who were also at the sales, trying to get a bargain?  I don’t mean to criticise them personally.  I criticise a system that has the extremes of wealth and poverty, which no one appears to be trying to align.

There is something wrong with this side of the story.  The news readers don’t stop to align the two, but I bet the social workers who will be trying to help people budget their money know it only too well.

“Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.” 

―    Rick Bragg,    All Over But the Shoutin’

Peace on Earth

Merry Christmas

from New Zealand

New Zealand’s Pohutukawa flower (the NZ Christmas Tree) Image credit: Sarang/Wikipedia.com

Christmas in New Zealand arrives right on time for a summer celebration.  While I see pictures of Christmas celebrations in the snow from around the world, that seems completely foreign to me.

We have the usual pine Christmas Tree in our homes, but the real tree of Christmas (and probably the most well-known symbol of New Zealand Christmas) is that which produces the flower above.  The Pohutukawa tree.  If there are plenty of the red flowers out in time for Christmas, we know that summer will be a good one. Most of these trees are found in the North Island, where I spent my childhood, so I have lots of good memories of them, although they’re not that common down here in the south.

I grew up having a hot Christmas dinner of roast turkey and ham, but really it always seems a little crazy considering the warm weather outside.  Now days, and today’s plans with my family, will be around the barbeque outside followed by pavlova and fresh berries for dessert.

So that’s my Christmas plans, but I have to admit that I’m not big on the whole Christmas theme.  The reason I think I struggle with it is this expectation that everyone will be on their best behaviour, and we are cheerfully ‘nice’ to people who during the rest of the year, we perhaps don’t want a bar of.  If only we could use Christmas to find peace in our world and in our families.

I wish for a Christmas that spells the end of war. 

I wish for a Christmas that spells the end of hate, and a return to loving our neighbours.

I wish for a Christmas that contains no crime.

I wish for a Christmas where we all stay safe from harm.

I wish for a Christmas of love, especially for those grieving as a result of crime and war.

I wish for a Christmas of peace.

There are no doubt millions of people in this world who wish for the same, regardless of any religious beliefs they may or may not have.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could take those individual wishes and turn them into both an individual, and global reality?

Santa Claus, presents and singing Christmas Carols are simply not what matters, in my mind.  What matters is working out what each of us, as individuals, can do today to turn this planet towards peace.

Image credit: FB/ONE HUMAN FAMILY

Image credit: FB/ONE HUMAN FAMILY

Two years ago my family celebrated Christmas with a new child, my niece L.  She was born about six weeks before Christmas.  It was to be our last Christmas with everyone there, as my father died suddenly four months later.  It was a stressful time for us as the earthquakes had started to hit Christchurch and while we were all together, it was a difficult time.

A baby in our midst lightened the mood and promised of good to come.  She bought hope.  We had no idea of what trauma we would go through in the months to come, how much we would lose, and how much pain there would be.   But somehow L’s presence in our family gathering offered us hope and joy.  And no doubt today, she will continue to provide that to me.

And that’s on my mind as I’ve picked out this music (complete with snowy scenes for those who need that to connect with Christmas).  The lyrics veer towards a Christian understanding of Christmas but I don’t think that needs to exclude anyone.  We can use Christmas to celebrate new life, regardless of our religious beliefs.  That’s what I’ll be doing anyway.

I wish you all peace, love and hope as you celebrate your Christmas.  Enjoy the young.  Take joy in their lives.  And most of all, find a way to be at peace with yourself, and with our fellow beings.

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” 

―    Bill Watterson,    The Essential Calvin and Hobbes

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What Matters To Me This Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve here in my part of the world.  I have a list of things I need to get done before the day is out, but for now I want to stop, and think about what matters, what really matters to me this Christmas.

Christmas is will be about family for me this Christmas.  I am expected to be part of the family Christmas by some, simply because I don’t have a family (I mean a partner and children) of my own.  But that is small stuff compared to what matters to me.  I play along to meet expectations but really my heart is some place else.

Yesterday I went to a family Christmas lunch.  The whole family wasn’t there, but those I wasn’t going to see on Christmas Day were.  I arrived on time armed with Christmas gifts for the children, only to find they had all started the meal without me.  When I asked why (calmly and politely), there was no explanation forthcoming, and really all it did was tell me yet again, that to those people, I don’t matter.

“Family isn’t always about blood.  It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are.  The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

I am fortunate to have some family members who are blood-related and fit this definition.  They weren’t there yesterday, sadly.  The people who were there simply told me by their actions that I didn’t matter… and yes, that hurt like hell.

I’m not going to get bogged down in how that hurt, but rather focus my energy on those people who do matter to me, and I know I matter to them.  What is difficult is that this Christmas I am cut off from the people I would prefer to spend Christmas with.  People who would want to include me and want to show their love for me.

I also want to be with my friends who are struggling this Christmas.  Christmas can be a time of hurt and depression, and I hate that.  I really hope that somehow those friends can find some peace tomorrow, and know that they are loved (even from afar)

Those I want to be with are thousands of miles away, and so today I will place them in my heart, where they belong.  And I will take them with me as I celebrate Christmas tomorrow.  That way they are with me, in my heart and the physical distance doesn’t seem so harsh.

And to finish, a quote from my favourite wordsmiths.  Not because it necessarily fits with what I have said, but simply because I like it.

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)

“CALVIN:   This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?
If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it?
And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?
HOBBES:   dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?
CALVIN:     Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.” 

 - Bill Watterson

All I Want For Christmas

There’s a few things I’d like for Christmas.  If that’s too much to ask for, there’s a few things I need to buy.  While I’ve been either lying in bed, or lying on the couch over the past few days experiencing the full on fibromyalgia attack (note, not a flare!  See Namby-Pamby Flares) I have realised there are a few things I need.

Firstly I need a laptop.  Please Santa.  I’ve been ‘writing’ posts in my mind as I’ve lain there unable to sleep.  They probably didn’t make much sense, but if I had a laptop I wouldn’t have to transcribe onto paper for later when I could sit at my desktop computer.

Even my two year old niece was watching Dora The Explorer on her mother’s laptop the other day.  If L can use a laptop then surely I should be allowed to write my posts from bed, or the couch.  Shouldn’t I?  My bank account says otherwise so I’m really pinning my hopes on Santa.  Really Santa, I do believe!  Everything you say is true!  Absolutely!

Next…

I Want To Float

Image credit: flickr.com/photo/40571874@N00/1101392997

Why do I want to float?  Because with fibro, pressure from anything hurts.  Whether I am sitting on a chair, lying on the bed, anything.  Even standing makes my feet hurt.  So I don’t want to be on anything.  I want to float.

What are my options?  Well, we’re short of swimming pools in my part of Christchurch thanks to the earthquakes of 2010/11.  The two public pools that were on my side of the town have been destroyed.  We’re waiting on the replacements, like many other things.  No doubt we’ll be waiting a while and I don’t mind.  Personally I think fixing homes is more important, but the Government didn’t ask me and I see they’re fixing children’s paddling pools at parks.  So swimming pools can be too far off.

I live only 10 minutes drive from the sea so I could take to the beach.  The only thing is that if I’m going to float in the sea I really have to have my eyes open to watch for stray waves, and perhaps sharks.  Somehow I just don’t see that as practical.  It wouldn’t be very relaxing.

One of my favourite television programmes is the English Absolutely Fabulous.  I love it, and actually when required, I can do a pretty good Eddy impersonation.  Eddy had a floatation tank in her house.  While the idea of getting in a tank and closing the lid leaves me a little claustrophobic, the length of the tank she had seems like just what I need.

I have a bathtub in my house but I’m tall, and I can’t stretch out totally and float.  What I need is an extra long bath.  Maybe seven and a half feet long.  I’m thinking that when the earthquake repairs are finally done to my home ( before, or after the swimming pools) I can have the bathroom extended to include my extra long bath.  It would be bliss.  If yoiu can’t find me, that’s where I’ll be.

Whether or not the insurance company and government combination responsible for the repairs would be willing to help is questionable.  But I might just remind them that my fibro was apparently caused by earthquake trauma.  How can they say no to that?

One more thing I want while we’re at it…

I want to float

Yes, again I want to float.  But this time, not on water.

Image credit: Kropsoq / Wikipedia.com

As I’ve said before (see Serious Attitude Problem), Christmas is not my favourite my of year.  I might not have been doing anything practical this week in terms of getting ready for Christmas, but I have been thinking.  Unfortunately I haven’t been doing the thinking I needed to like ‘how am I going to get my shopping done and not stress out with all the crowds now that school is out?‘  Instead I’ve been thinking ‘how can I get out of this?

Much as I have no desire to repeat those years, the years I spent Christmas in hospital or respite care had their very definite advantages – the ability to ignore reality.  In hindsight I admit that it was very convenient to have to miss everything about Christmas just because I was entombed in a psychiatric hospital.  You have to admit, it’s a pretty plausible excuse.  I’m not going back there and I know now that I’m a ‘big girl’ and I have to face reality, but don’t we all need our own escape plans?

Mine?  Well New Zealand is said to be the adventure tourism capital of the world, so the last thing I want is a hot hair balloon.  That way I can just float away when it all gets too much.  That wil be me running from the family Christmas barbeque (remember it’s summer here), jumping in the basket… and away I float.  Bliss  And by the way,in true introvert style, it will just me… and someone who can drive/fly this thing.  Wish me luck.

“You never really know what’s coming. A small wave, or maybe a big one. All you can really do is hope that when it comes, you can surf over it, instead of drown in its monstrosity.” 

―    Alysha Speer

Namby-Pamby Flares

’1970′s flares’                      Image credit: Wikipedia.com

If you were thinking that I was off doing the Christmas shopping… you’d be wrong.  If you thought I was preparing Christmas menus…. that would be the biggest joke.  No, I haven’t been doing anything Christmassy, and no doubt I’ll pay for it.  This week I’ve been struck with a fibromyalgia flare.

I’ve had plenty of time for thinking, although the quality of those thoughts is probably dubious.  Brain function tends to go with a fibro flare.  One of those moments when I was lying there hoping for death as a relief from pain, I started thinking, why do we call it a flare?  My bet is that it was named by a doctor who had no personal knowledge of what it’s like to live through a ‘flare’. Hmm.

This is what I know about flares.  Flares were trousers in the 1970′s.  I had a purple pair which I was very proud of.  There was no such thing as skinny jeans, instead everything was flares.

The other flares I know are the flares you take with you on a boat.  Not that I have a boat but I know they are required in this part of the world.  They’re like a manual emergency locator beacon way before the days of Global Positioning Systems (GPS).  You boat breaks down, so you fire a flare into the sky and hope like anything that someone back on land sees your flare, and has the ability to come and rescue you.

Neither type of flare has anything remotely similar to a fibro flare.  Certainly a fibro flare lights up the sky (in some ways) for the sufferer but to call it a flare seems more to me like talking about 19th century swooning women.  Let me assure you there has been no swooning here.  I might feel like I want to die, and I might be frequently dizzy but

I do not swoonever.

Where my thoughts are going is that to call this a flare is way too gentle.  It just doesn’t describe the magnitude of pain, fatigue and brain deterioration.  It’s time for a better word if we’re going to get noticed by anyone.  And not be thought of as a bunch of over-achieving, over-complaining women (remember there’s plenty fo men too).

We don’t call it heart attack a heart flare, do we?  Or an asthma attack, an asthma flare?  I admit I’ve never had a heart attack, although as a side issue, right now my doctor tells me my heart is surging.  As yet he has no idea why.  Every so often it just speeds up to tachycardia levels.  That’s why I had to hit the smoking on the head once and for all.  It’s not pleasant, so with that knowledge and the experience of watching my father having a heart attack a number of years back, I know it’s not at all a nice experience and to call it a flare would simply be an under-statement and ridiculous.

I did once have an asthma attack.  It’s not the sort of thing that you usually have only one of, but I’m quite glad I only had one.  It was awful, I ended up in hospital for a few days and I wouldn’t even joke about calling it a flare.

What I want to suggest to my fibro friends, and everyone else who is still reading wondering where I’m going to with this, is that we change the name.  No more fibro flares.  Let’s call it a fibro attack.

Say the word ‘attack’ and you can feel the force of the word coming out of your mouth.  Say ‘flare’ and it’s just some namby-pamby nothing word.

We talk of wanting people to understand the viciousness of fibromyalgia, and for that matter other chronic pain illnesses, but we use a nothing word like ‘flare’ to describe it.  ‘Flare’ doesn’t describe the pain I’ve been in over the last three days.  It’s an ‘attack’ when on one side of me the bedding hurts my skin just because the two are touching, and the other side of me the mattress is too much pressure.  I can’t bear for anything to be touching me.  [More to come on this.]

I can’t sleep because the pain is too much.  My skin feels like it is on fire, I have electrical currents running the length of my spine, my ankles and wrists feel like they are bone rubbing against bone, and my muscles weigh a million tonnes and ache terribly.  I am exhausted, and my brain won’t function.  I can’t bear the light in the room even though the curtains are pulled, and any noises make me jump in my skin.  This is not a flare.  This is a vicious attack, and all I can very much hope is that tomorrow when I wake it will have eased.

So if I talk of a fibro attack from here on in, you’ll know what I mean.  I suggest you change too.  It’s just one of the ways we can get this terrible illness taken seriously.

To finish, I’m wondering about this.  Where am I going wrong?

“The  aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.”

- Aristotle

Serious Attitude Problem

The Pohutukawa Tree, also know as The New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it flowers right on time for Christmas.

The Pohutukawa Tree, also know as The New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it flowers right on time for Christmas.
Image credit: Wikipedia.com

I realise I might be in the minority, but why should that stop me?

Why have we been ‘celebrating’ Christmas in November?

Christmas is not November, even if those of you who are American think it follows directly after Thanksgiving.  It doesn’t.  Christmas is not until December 25 (do you like how I wrote that the US way?), so let’s put all the decorations, trees, special music, gift-wrapped parcels and reindeers, and stress away for a few weeks.  They are surplus to requirements.  Really, they are.

And yes, I have a serious attitude problem when it comes to Christmas.  No apologies.  It’s just how it is.

We’re just into December now so I can almost live with a few of these merry things (although not in my house) but really… do we have to have a whole month of Christmas?

You can partially blame my brother for my aversion.  He’s a ‘Christmas 12 months a year’ kind of guy.  Gotta love him!  He’s perfectly ‘normal’ apart from that (he paid me to say that!) but he’s thinks it’s perfectly normal to have Christmas music on the radio all year round as well as have a decorated tree (and not a small one either) in his lounge all year.  You think I’m joking?  I’m not, although thankfully that little addiction got knocked out of him soon into his marriage.  It was ‘me or the Christmas tree’… and thankfully she won (and I love her for it to this day).

All that aside though, I admit I come into this time of year with complete dread.  It is all about stress.  Here’s some of the things that Christmas seems to be about:

Holidays

Kids

Family

Money

Food

Isn’t that enough?.  All those things put together spell molotov cocktail to me, and I hate it.

Holidays

At my end of the world, Christmas spells ‘the great New Zealand shut down’… of everything.  It is summer here now, and schools finish for the year in a couple of weeks, through until the end of January.  Everything shutting down is fine if you’re one of those ‘shutting down’ but my life just carries on.  I don’t have a holiday.  Some people choose to think that my life is one big holiday.  It’s not, but wouldn’t it be nice to take off for the beach for a few weeks?  I can’t actually remember the last time I did that.

Kids

Christmas is all about kids, and that’s great… for the kids, and maybe their parents.  For me, apart from a wide range of stuffed animals and vintage dolls, I don’t have kids so tend to go through the season feeling like a square peg in a round hole.  It’s not that I want to have kids (I written about that before), but I just don’t fit in a celebration that is about kids.

Family

I love my family… individually, and in small doses.  On mass, I’m not so keen.  Actually I have felt anti-family celebrations for as long as I can remember.  I thought for a while that it was just a teenage fad and I would grow out of it, but actually the older I get the worse I feel about such gatherings.

One thing is that there are general conversations about what we have ‘achieved’ since we last saw each other.  Plu-eese!  That’s all very nice if you have the typical type of achievements, but writing a blog about mental health recovery while supporting peers with mental illnesses just doesn’t seem to be up there with the big pay rises or the latest acquisitions, let alone what your off-spring have managed to achieve across the year.  I try not to measure myself against others, but it does seem that what I count as an achievement (like actually making to Christmas dinner and not suffering in bed for the day with fibro fog) just doesn’t seem to cut it.

I should say that my family aren’t great capitalists who only value monetary achievement, but still I just don’t think I belong.  Actually I would much rather me helping out at the local Christmas Dinner for the homeless.  That would suit me perfectly, but there were huge objections that last time I tried to suggest that’s what I was going to do.

My Dad (who died last year) used to be my ally in family gatherings.  For me, he made them bearable (although he was also the one that strongly objected to the homeless Christmas) and actually often the only reason I went was to keep him happy.  Now he’s gone and I struggle.  This year I am likely to be required to drive my mother to Christmas dinner.  Hmm.  That seems my role in the family now.

Money

Last week I went without groceries because I mis-calculated my budget, thanks to a few extra visits to the doctor, and didn’t have enough to pay my therapist for November.  Groceries were one thing I could be flexible on, and I got by, and the bill got paid.  But this time of year is simply horrendous in terms of money, and my stress levels are mounting already.

For some years now I have limited myself to buying presents for my nieces and nephews only.  There are only six of them but still…  So far I have bought presents for two of them, and I’m trying to work out what I can get away with for the others.  I am fortunate that some of my family understand this, but I think others struggle to understand the realities of living on the smell of an oily rag.

My only hope at this stage is that ‘the great New Zealand shut-down’ I mentioned applies to my therapist too.  He gets to have a holiday.  The only good thing about that is that I do not have to pay him while he has his holiday, and with some careful juggling and balancing I might just be able to pull through.  Please God!

Food

And if all that weren’t enough, anyone with a history of eating disorders will tell you that Christmas is a complete nightmare for us.  Everything revolves around food.  Whether it’s a Christmas barbeque on the beach, or a full turkey Christmas dinner with trimmings, there is no escaping the focus on food.

Let’s not forget the presents of food.  If you learn nothing from this post, and I accept that’s a possibility, please learn this.  Never give presents of food to a person with a history of eating disorders.  Never.  YOu thik it encourages us to eat?  It doesn’t.  It just worsens the nightmare battle in our heads to have to deal with these gifts.

So am I completely negative about Christmas?  Not really.  I can see other people love it.  I think it’s a love or hate thing, and I come down on the ‘hate’ side.  For those who enjoy it, I say go for it.  Just leave me out of it.  And do we really have to have a whole month of it?

To lighten things up, I’ll finish with what is probably my favourite of all ‘Christmas music’.

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” 

―    Bill Watterson,    The Essential Calvin and Hobbes