By Jo Bennett
I briefly chatted with a lovely friend recently.
‘How are you?’ I asked.
‘It’s that time of year.’
‘Ah..’ I nodded. ‘That time of year.’
She told me how, according to her mother, if she didn’t do the right thing – i.e. All the family get together and ‘have fun’ -she would be a selfish so-and-so. Hang on a pickin’ minute…! I did suggest she tell her mother… But my friend is far too nice to do that, and then there’d be all the repercussions that go with it.
After all, it took me years to finally admit to my dear old dad that I hated all these family get-togethers. I quite liked them as a kid, but felt judged and out of it as I grew older.
By the time I made my admittance to dad all these years later, my mother had been in a home for severe dementia for ten years and hadn’t a clue. Dad, being shy, felt largely the same about family get togethers, but, again, was far too nice and polite a person to acknowledge it because he wanted to do the ‘right’ thing, whatever the right thing was.
‘So-and-so is bringing a cake.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to spoil it for them.’ Referring to his own birthday. Honestly! It was his birthday! He couldn’t even have a quiet day reading a book and drinking red wine, as was his choice.
The Love Hate of Christmas
I loved Christmas when I was a kid. It was magical. Then I grew up and all the expectations and commercialisms popped up. I began to not like it anymore. Jollities – forced when I was depressed. Being sociable. Many, many people enjoy it. That’s fine, but for those of us who don’t want to be jolly at the click of a Christmas tree light switch and who can barely tolerate other people (I know one or two folks like that…), Christmas is four months too long, starting after the summer hols have ended. Haven’t even tricked or treated yet!
After I had kids and depression I began to detest Christmas. If I’d been well I might have tolerated it. Just. We put our feet down with a firm hand and refused all family requests to attend the wretched get-togethers. We did our best for the kids and hoped that they had reasonable festivities. Just cuz we hated it didn’t mean they should. So we plodded on, until nearly four years ago and my cure, and the kids were well into grown-up mode, we had small grand-daughters and we could do what we wanted (my parents were gone so no obligations there).
It’s Christmas… It’s Not So Bad
So we’ve spent the last two Christmases in Looe, Cornwall, in the Black Towers apartments overlooking the sea and the estuary, eating Christmas dinner cooked by Husband and drinking wine while watching the seagulls do their thing. Now that is MAGICAL!
We’re beginning to like Christmas again. Even enjoying it! We’re having a Christmas party with our writing group. We’re going to London’s Hyde Park Christmas Market. We are beginning to like it again. Took a long time coming.
In the meantime, I do it every year. Whenever folk talk about the pressures of Christmas, the family obligations, I say: ‘Don’t do it! Say no! Be selfish!’ But I’m a fine one to talk. It took years for us to refuse to celebrate or socialise, and we used my depression for that, so I know it’s not all that easy to do. But, if you are suffering mentally, you must do what’s right for you, for your own sanity’s sake.
We’re returning to Looe this Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to it. We have a mini pink, fluffy glittering tree with Rudolph the reindeer sitting underneath. We’ll have Turkish delight, dates, cake, pudding, little pressies, wine, cider, beer, and we’ll be sitting looking out of our window at the estuary below and the town all prettily lit up. What could be lovelier?