So, this has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve seen this Christmas. “The true spirit of Christmas: Turkey panini and chips”. I mean, what? Who wrote that, and why? And why are they still working in advertising??
There’s something about how adrift things have got, here (unless of course this is so achingly post- post- modern and ironic that it should come with paracetamol) which inclines me either to laugh, or weep. I’ve decided to laugh, and it’s kept me—and the friends I’ve told about it—amused all month. There’s nothing original I can say at all about the True true spirit of Christmas. But I can’t let the seasonal sandwich go uncommented upon…
I haven’t attempted a Thing this month (since the murmurations) because—well, because we all know what December can be like. Every year I look at the sparkly dresses in shop windows and wonder who buys them, and to go to which Christmas parties; but even without a giddy round of smalltalk and canape-scoffing, I’ve still been busy. There’s been lots of Christmas singing: formal gigs in Christmas-decked, chilly churches; carols at private hotels while wealthy folk eat silver-served afternoon tea; an ever-so-slightly Mike Leigh but deeply benign and enjoyable singalongaguitar session at my local Meeting House; a candlelit carol service in a local church; and one-to-a-part polyphony sung round a friend’s dining-table, with wine and stollen and so much giggling I began to worry about my pelvic floor.
There’s been putting my counselling practice to bed for the year, accompanying clients in all sorts of different states and places, and feeling astonished and grateful that they trust me, and that I get to call this work. There’s been going to the cinema with my goddaughter (no, no, of course I wasn’t weeping at the end of Paddington); there’s been present-making, and card creation, and the joy of friends sending me photos of my decorations on their trees. There has been a lot of time set aside to meet and share tea or lunch or cake with all sorts of precious friends.
In the process of doing all this, I’ve become aware of feeling different from how I have in recent years in the run up to “The Festive Season”. I’ve felt so damn lucky. I may not have a life which looks anything like the version of life we see in Christmas adverts (but then, who does?). I can’t afford a new sofa (even from DFS) nor do I have a family with whom to sit on it, laughing, embracing, playing, exchanging fond looks or doing any of the other things that our culture says we should do. I’m not svelte, sleek, fragrant, enjoying an smoulderingly-Olympic sex-life or hygging the hell out of things with similarly sleek and fragrant friends. But I’m healthy. I have shelter and safety. I have work that feels meaningful. And I have people whom I love, and am getting to see, at one time or another, over the month. I am so fortunate—have so much that many people endure the lack of. Life is not a fair thing, and it’s rarely about deserving—it’s just the cards you get dealt. This December has blessed me with a sense of thankfulness. That’s the spirit I’m enjoying. (Though I might have some chips, too. What the hell. It’s Christmas.)
Because of copyright laws, I can’t reproduce the wonderful poem by Wendy Cope which gives this post its title—but do go and read it here. I love the way this poem reminds us that ‘the hyacinths rooted in the cold’ (my italics), and that there is a place for ‘tears for all that you have lost’: Cope sets the ‘things that shine’ against the background of the ‘icy night’ and the ‘cold’—which is, of course, a part of why they shine so very brightly. One reason I like this poem is for its reminder that that the griefs I’ve been through these last few years are, in part, what allow me to experience such a sense of blessedness now. Acknowledging that dark and light-co-exist, the poem invites us to rejoice in ‘hope and love and light’.*
I look forward to seeing you for Thing 10 (yes! into double figures) in the New Year. And in the meantime, I would very much enjoy hearing what ‘the Christmas life’ means for you.
*For more about hope, and a truly lovely closing benediction, read ‘Sometimes’ here.