With the recent news that Christmas has all but been cancelled, I find myself feeling the ache of millions of people’s disappointment. For so many, this is a joyfully anticipated time of year. I’m thinking of the stacks of thoughtfully chosen gifts, wrapped and ready… now abandoned. Of fridges and store cupboards swollen with traditional delicacies, all approaching sell-by dates. Of patient children and adults adapting their excited plans to visit grandparents and relatives to instead spend another day at home.
This whole Covid-19 year has been one of dashed hopes and cancellations, but also of unexpected gains and joys. This winter’s repeated semi-lockdowns and the deadlocks of Brexit negotiations have tested us all further, even wobbling the initial sun- and spring-filled optimism of those who believed we would collectively shift values and become better human beings. For others, the tragedy of life-changing losses and trauma were there from the beginning. And for so many others still, life is existentially terrifying.
I feel for everybody. For months I have talked, while pointing to the bottom half of my torso, of conscious or unconscious base layers of anxiety, sadness, fear and uncertainty forming the foundations of our days. Even if we are far from any front lines, they rumble on in the background like the constant hum of fridges of which we only become aware once they stop. It makes me wonder how this year will affect people long-term… in what ways it will take its toll. It will be healthy to listen and talk honestly to each other about how we feel.
But back to Christmas – not my favourite time of year I have to admit. Because as joyful as it is for some, as miserable it is for others! Christmas has an uncanny way of enhancing and exacerbating all the glitches in one’s life, all the things that are ‘wrong’ or missing. Whether it’s the separation from or loss of a loved one; whether it’s sickness, loneliness, homelessness, poverty… the list is long… all are strangely amplified by the oft-stressful and largely commercial insistence on excess and jollity.
Which is why I really hope that this year, many people will find it easier to access that quiet place of inner peace and happiness that is not reliant on outer conditions; that place where ‘all is well,’ as the saying that has kept me sane since March goes; that place where we simply love and feel loved. So, at great risk of sounding like a Christmas Day sermon, I’d like to suggest that this year presents us with an opportunity. One where rather than focusing on the tinsel and turkey that we may or may not now have, we focus on the essence of that all-too familiar scene that started this whole loved or hated festival off in the first place: that of a stable, a star, a newborn baby and lots of straw. Surely, whether you are religious or not, it deserves at least a nod?
Ok, so this blog is sounding like a sermon. But just maybe the stable could represent gratitude that we have shelter and warmth (if we indeed do).
Maybe the star could inspire the sense that something much, much bigger than us exists.
Maybe the newborn baby could fill us with love, tenderness and kindness to the planet, each other and ourselves.
And maybe the straw could remind us that we are simply lucky to have whatever and whoever we do have. Oh no, I feel an ‘Amen’ coming…
Happy Christmas to you all!