Nostalgia at Christmas and Learning from the Children….

Do you find it hard to let go of Christmas?

It’s that time again when we have the slight lull that follows the festivities of Christmas Day with all the celebrating, eating and family time, before gearing ourselves up for the onslaught of the New Year. It is one of the precious few times of the year when we have several days off in a row (at least in our house), forget which day it is, and where we have time for lay-ins and cooked breakfasts before a leisurely walk or perhaps a trawl through the sales.

I always struggle with this time of year; I don’t like giving up on Christmas. I cling on to the twinkling lights and the decorations for as long as possible. I inwardly cringe when I hear people saying they can’t wait to ‘get back to normal’, or that they have already taken their decorations down the day after Boxing Day. I don’t get it. It’s dark. WE need lights. WE need to keep the fun going as long as possible and enjoy the time of year that allows us to slow down.

Whilst saying all this, I appreciate Christmas isn’t an easy time for some. For those struggling with illness, financial problems, or loss, it can be hard to face all the Christmas festivities. There is something so poignant about this time of year; it’s as if the world around us has altered in readiness for the revered time, and in the midst of the hectic build up there is a certain heightening of emotion which can be hard to cope with at times. For me, this was my first Christmas without my beloved dad; we missed him hugely, and I’m sure we weren’t the only family struggling not to look at an empty chair at this time.

I consider myself to be fairly senior now and I look back down the years with more than a little nostalgia, especially at this time of year. Memories flood back from Christmas’s past and I am plunged into certain wistfulness. The seasons seem to be getting shorter and shorter with the space between them constantly shifting and moving on before we have had chance to enjoy the present. At our local garden centre, Santa had moved in in October and was back in the North Pole before we knew it. (Although the grotto was amazing). All that remains in the Christmas store now are a few sad and bedraggled decorations selling at knock down prices, whilst the summer barbecue equipment is coming back in through the door, along with the garden furniture and the patio heaters. I have never been able to work out who would buy these things in the still dark days of winter, but obviously some people do. Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t cling on to Christmas for too long, but surely we can wait a few more weeks before calling time on everything festive.

I am sure now I will never be the Queen of England. I would put money on it. I’m not even remotely in line to the throne, although I must say, I can do quite a good royal wave, but if I WERE ever to be Queen, or Prime Minister (now there’s a thought) the first thing I would do would be to create a public holiday at the end of January. I have always thought that would be a very good idea. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad clearing up after Christmas if we knew there was another holiday on the horizon. Like a ‘Goodbye to Winter, Spring is on the horizon’ sort of holiday.

I don’t want to see chocolate creme eggs in the shops during the first weeks of January, and although I am a romantic, I’m not yet ready to see Valentine’s cards either.

You have probably deduced that I don’t bother with starting a new diet or a new project on January 1st. I will just try and stick to the healthy diet I have always tried to follow, not always successfully, but then we all fail from time to time. I will try and keep up my daily walks and do the odd bit of meditation, but I won’t be setting any rules that will be broken a few weeks down the line. Yet I think I need to view things a little differently. One thing I have noticed this season whilst watching and listening to my grandchildren is this: children love Christmas and everything about it. They are able to plunge in to all the happy things about this time with more or less total abandon. They are (usually) happy to wear a tea towel on their heads and pose as a shepherd, or as an assistant alien as in our grandson’s case, and wave happily to an adoring audience. They think it is quite normal to listen out for distant bells and gaze expectantly at the sky on Christmas Eve. They are more than happy to get up in the early hours of Christmas Day and jump up and down with excitement. But as Christmas draws to a close they move on to new days and new experiences, running headlong into the New Year and all the new experiences it will bring.

That seems to me to be the best way to go about things.

So as this year draws to a close I wish you all good things – a chance to walk in frosty lanes when all the world is quiet, stillness when you need it, and joy and laughter too. The love of family and the familiarity and warmth that lasting friendships bring. And for all of us, I wish us the gift of peace.

Ps. Perhaps keep the fairy lights going for another week…….

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2018 – Make it Easy on Yourself…

Look at most magazine and news articles this time of year and many of them refer to our New Year’s Resolutions; perhaps urging us to set new goals, sweep aside the excesses of last year and stride forth with new and renewed vigour. We are advised to cleanse our bodies and our minds and look to a new and exciting future. Perhaps we are then inspired to sit down and write a long list of all the things we would like to achieve in 2018. This is all good and well-intentioned and in principle I have no argument with it. What I would say though, is that it can all be too much in one go and the longer the list the more likely we are to fail.

Reflect. Revise. Renew.

Sometimes breaking those resolutions before the month of January is out is enough to send us into a downward spiral and is counterproductive. I would like to urge you to be gentle with yourself this time of year; go easy on yourself and take time to focus on what is really best for you.

January is both a new month and the start to a new year, and while that should fill us with renewed enthusiasm, that enthusiasm can take a while to kick in! Dark mornings don’t help –when you feel as though you are getting up in the middle of the night and the daylight hours are very short it is hard to be upbeat. But it is possible to reframe the gloomy, dark morning; perhaps think of the darker hours as a time of preparation for the lighter days that will follow. When we look around a garden or the countryside this time of year it appears bare and dull, and yet underneath the soil the plants and bulbs are busy preparing themselves to unfold in the spring. Gardens are slowly testing the waters; a few buds tentatively unfurling as if checking to see if the world is ready for them. So maybe we should follow the example from Mother Nature. Rather than be tempted to rush headlong into the New Year perhaps we should take a more gradual approach.

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It is good to first reflect on what has been before and ask ourselves a few questions:

What did I do to contribute to my successes?
What did I do to contribute to any disappointments?
What can I do differently this year?
Most of all: what do I fondly remember that made me happy?

If you had a successful year last year, well done! Look at all you did to bring that success, but be sure that success is taking you where you want to go and making you happy. Even though your year was successful, would you do anything differently?

It is easy to dwell too much on past mistakes; however a bit of reflection can help us decide what we want to change in the future. If we reflect, we can forgive ourselves or others for past hurts and then focus on the path ahead. Most people, I think, try their best on any given day and being hard on ourselves and heaping on unachievable demands isn’t helpful. Any disappointments can be looked at positively; if we can learn from these disappointments and avoid them in the future then our character will become stronger.

What happened last year to make you happy? Make those happy memories your ‘go to’ place in your mind when you have a bad day. When we feel happy, everything falls into place and is as it should be. Happiness is not measured differently whether we are rich or poor, by what we have or don’t have. It is more likely to be measured by a loving hug or a simple gift of a bunch of snowdrops on a frosty day.

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Once we have cleared our body, heart and mind of weight we then give ourselves new energy and will be more able to stick to a new and healthier diet. With that we will also have a healthier mental outlook. But again, go easy on yourself. You do your best and if you really want your life to be different, tackle it one project at a time! When we feel ready, we can make careful choices and commitments we can keep, like pursuing optimal health, following someone or something which inspires us or contributing to a good cause in a significant manner.

We can work at creating a desired future, worthy of our time and energy.
Reflect. Revise. Renew. Be Happy!

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A favourite pathway – the lamps still glowing on an early morning walk……