Christmas is a time for reflecting and as the big day arrives, have we learnt anything about ourselves this year?
I was asked a while back how my preparations were going for Christmas. At that stage, I was able to say that my cards were written and half of the gifts were bought and wrapped. For the first time ever, I was well prepared, and then suddenly Christmas Eve arrived and I wasn’t.
I spent most of yesterday driving around amidst the lunacy of other zombies trying to find something appropriate for all those people who in all honesty have everything already but also feel compelled to buy gifts to the same value so that we’re not offended by not having received something wrapped up in a ridiculous amount of paper and selotape. OK, I sound like Scrooge, but come on people, Jesus was brought Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Three gifts. A precious metal, a perfume, and ointment, and yet, more than two thousand years later we’re having to ensure we’ve spent that little bit extra, bought something the person will like, and we put ourselves under tremendous pressure. We don’t need to.
On a walk last night, admittedly to distribute last minute cards around the neighbourhood like an undercover postman, I came across a family sat in their living room, ambulance parked up outside. I’ll never know the reason for the call to the medics, but stress was my first thought. The news reported just yesterday was that there is a greater risk of heart attacks as a result of stress on Christmas Eve. On an evening when we should be relaxing and sharing in each other’s company, we’re falling ill and sharing it with ECG machines. No carols here, just the steady beep of the machine. Who wants a silent night?
And yet, a silent night is what we should be having. Two hundred years ago, virtually to the day, the hymn silent night was composed and has now become a staple of Christmas celebrations, with probably the most famous noting of it being during the first world war when on the battlefields, peace reigned for a brief period, soldiers put aside their differences, and sang the song, each in their own languages. Here this evening, as I type, I watch their ancestors on TV singing the same words in churches across the country, and rejoicing in how ‘all is calm’.
At the end of what has been a very long day, I’m now able to find my own moment of calm and finally begin to experience Christmas properly, the true meaning, and reflect on the year. It’s well documented in my blogs what I’ve been up to, but it’s been two months since I last posted.
My work continues to provide me with exciting opportunities to meet the wonderful people running youth clubs and help them in supporting their members, and it’s been so enjoyable to work creatively to find solutions to problems they are facing. There have been further opportunities to work with groups of young people, as well as 1:1, teaching them relaxation and self-confidence/motivation techniques. Two new developments are on the horizon for the coaching element of my business too, and a mental health course that I designed was green-lit and has its first airing to the public in the new year.
Whilst we all have wobbles, and I continue to have a few, the acupuncture I can assure you is still there regular as clockwork, and for those who have contacted me to ask is it worth it, I say yes. Whether anybody else has noticed a change in me or not, well, does it matter? As long as I feel better, that’s the main thing. There is a saying somewhere about if you want to have a positive life, surround yourself with positive people, and I can safely say, I’ve been doing that and it works.
My wonderful new acting friends who I improvise a variety of weird and wonderful scenes with weekly are not only brilliant creators but are positive and caring and a great antidote to the dark times. When I’ve had weeks where I’ve walked in and not wanted to be there (I’ll do an hour I tell myself), two hours later I’ve finished and feel more alive than when I walked in. I’ve had lovely feedback on my acting which has been a boost to my own wellbeing as well, and is making me reassess which direction I may take things in the future.
I’ve done things I’d not done before, such as seeing an amazing Christmas concert in Birmingham, visiting Winchester Cathedral, and a simple thing, making a Christmas pudding – yes, I’ve never made one! Simple pleasures can make the world of difference.
That’s a key thing to remember as we prepare for the Christmas festivities. Simple pleasures can make the world of difference, and we shouldn’t push ourselves to do more than we can physically and mentally cope with. Recently I’ve returned to bellringing, something I’ve had to give up for most of the year due to personal circumstances.
It’s one of the biggest struggles I’ve faced this year, but I think I’ve chosen the perfect time of year to get back into it. The church feels like home. It is beautifully decorated, warm, homely, and each service has been well attended. Despite not being there for so long, the vicar wished me well, I saw friends I haven’t seen for a long time and caught up with their lives, and it’s like we haven’t been apart, and my fellow ringers have been understanding to my needs and abilities. I can take things at my own pace despite my initial concerns.
And that’s where I wrap up. It’s Christmas. Take things at your pace. Despite all that may have happened in your year, take some quiet time to reflect and remember the positive times. If you truly think about it, no doubt they’ll outweigh the negatives. It’s not about the gifts, other than the gift of being together and sharing love and peace with one another. It’s about taking time and remembering the true spirit of Christmas. May I wish you a period of silent nights and a very Merry Christmas.
(The picture is of the church after ringing for midnight mass last night)