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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Dealing with Anxiety, Post Christmas Blues and Embracing a New Year…

 

0CABF23E-5C2A-4B60-8706-3730EA147E8DHello and Happy New Year. Thanks for sticking with me!

Every year I enjoy the build up to Christmas – more so this year because our elder son and his family where over from America for ten days in early December for a visit. To say we were excited was an understatement. We hadn’t seen the children (five came – they have a big family!) for two years and I hadn’t had chance to meet and hug our newest little granddaughter.

 

We had so much planned, starting with a visit to a pantomime which was quite a revelation to the American children! Being a large family they rented a property which was set in a very magical town nearby which was beautifully lit up for Christmas. Our English grandchildren enjoyed being with their cousins they have so little chance to see, and it was heartwarming to see our two sons and daughter-in-laws together too. So we all had fun together; we had quality time with each of the children and we made time for hugs, for chatting and for making memories. We took them to our favourite haunts and looked at old familiar places through the eyes of our grandchildren and saw new things. We were amused at the way they loved going into English pubs, buying cupcakes and eating beans on toast! Everyday we would get into the car and go and see them for at least part of the day. But as always happens, time passed very quickly and before long I was steeling myself for the inevitable heart wrenching goodbyes which never get any easier no matter how many times one goes through the process.

So we put on a brave face and waved them off. The consolation of such times is the knowledge that they are happy, loving children who are so interested in the world around them and have so much to occupy their minds.

With Christmas still ahead, we headed off to Cornwall to a holiday home kindly let to us by a family friend. We were perched up on the cliff overlooking the bay I had visited so much as a child. We went armed with a mini Christmas tree and enough food to last well into the new year! There was plenty of time to take early morning walks along the (blustery) beach and visit nearby family. On Christmas Eve we attended the church I was baptised in as small child and where my grandparents were regular attenders, having lived in the Cornish town all their lives. In the candlelit church I could almost feel their presence and with it the comfort of old traditions. Do our loved ones who have gone before us look down and watch over us? I like to think they do. As we stepped out in the early hours of Christmas Day the light shone through the church windows just as it had all through the years before, somehow giving a feeling of continuity and at the same time, rekindling old memories.

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Christmas passed in a flurry of bracing walks across the cliffs, visits to friends and family  and plenty of eating and drinking. All too soon we were packing the car up again and heading home.

So that takes us to New Year’s Eve. This time although for a lot of people it brings the promise of new beginnings, for me, It is hard to let go of Christmas. It seems to me, Chritsmas is the one time of the year when everything is different – almost like normal living is suspended in time and we can forget about the normal worries and problems that can bother us the rest of the year. It may entail more work if we are entertaining, but we have an excuse to grab a glass of wine, eat an extra piece of cake, shelve the bills until another day. We may complain when we have to spend time with acquaintances  we perhaps wouldn’t see other times of the year, but we do it, and that is because we care. It is about togetherness and being sociable, and following age old traditions that deep down are important to us.

One thing that saddens me is hearing people say Christmas is over for another year by the time Boxing Day arrives! So much planning and pleasure surely cannot disappear so quickly! If you are someone who suffers from post Christmas blues, I can assure you, you are not alone! If you have are prone to anxiety, perhaps you managed too keep anxious thoughts at bay with the distractions of Christmas only to find those unwanted thoughts returning in the new year? Being surrounded by jolly people making plans for the next year can sometimes be a bit overwhelming; all the talk of detox diets and new exercise regimes are certainly positive, but rather than rush headlong into the new year here are some suggestions for easing yourself kindly into 2018:

Don’t rush to take all those decorations down you put up so lovingly a few weeks ago; how about leaving a few fairy lights up so there is still a bit of festive feel to the house? When the decorations are all down, fill the house with as many early daffodils as you can afford. They really will lift your heart.

It is not necessary to make a long list of plans and new year’s resolutions, in fact, they are usually broken by the end of January, instead use the first few weeks of January to make time for some gentle meditation and uplifting reading.

Enjoy getting outdoors; walking and looking for the first snowdrops or listening to the birds is more uplifting than huffing and puffing at the gym.

Eat wholesome and nutritious food but don’t deprive yourself too much. Think comfort food. Enjoy plenty of freshly brewed tea or even a mug of hot chocolate on a cold afternoon.

Maybe think about starting a journal and writing down your thoughts. It’s amazing how therapeutic putting your thoughts on paper can be. You don’t need to shoe it to anyone – unless you want to of course – you may turn out to be a budding writer!

I once decided to wrap a few small presents for my children to come home to after their first day back at school after the holidays, just fun things that brightened their day. Do that for someone you care about, perhaps after the first day back at work. If someone needs cheering up it really works!

Finally, remember, Christmas isn’t the only time for a bit of magic and I have to tell myself this. Angels, too, are for life, not just for Christmas!

Blessings to you and I wish you the happiest of days.