I’m presently sat here writing a blog, in deepest, darkest tier four (for those of you not in the UK, ‘lockdown’). I’ve not been a lover of Christmas for some time now, but by anyone’s standards this year’s Christmas has been particularly bleak, for everyone, not just our community.
I’ve yet to speak to anyone that isn’t frankly mentally exhausted by 2020 and everyone that we’ve lived though, which is why Christmas represented, for many, some much needed bloody normality in a world of fucking endless chaos. But, even that won’t be happening now.
Welcome to our world
For me Zoom has come into its own, as well as socially distanced walks with friends and family, but for those of us from the CNBC community, I’ve been getting a lot of the same message, around the perceptions of this year’s Christmas – ‘welcome to our world’. And, I guess, I can understand where this sentiment has come from, and I can agree with it too.
But, let’s take a step back and describe a typical Christmas for those of us that feel as though we’re on the outside looking in. Adverts really sum up this position well. You know the one for bog cleaner at Christmas, that shows the family all excitedly sitting around the tree, pulling crackers and eating their body weight in food. It always shows 2.4 children, and the generations all loving it as Junior does something amazing, like fart without following through…and that in a nutshell is Christmas for those people with family, with children and who sit within what is perceived to be a ‘normal’ family.
But, for those of us, that are CNBC, or who live on their own. For those that don’t live near family or don’t have any. For those that are unwell and unable to leave home, or for those people that are elderly and have no-one to rely on, this doesn’t represent the reality. Instead Christmas just isn’t the enjoyable time that it’s billed to be.
With its procession of triggers, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and endless adverts telling you ‘this is what Christmas should look like’. Eugh! Is it any wonder that some of us are left cold by the messaging around Christmas.
And so, this year when people are complaining about the lack of Christmas and the fact that they can’t see their family, the message I’m hearing loud and clear from my community is ‘welcome to our world’. Because this year, might very well be largely cancelled, it might be that you can’t see family and friends, but next year when (fingers crossed) we have returned to some semblance of normality, you’ll have forgotten Christmas in 2020, whereas many people will still be living that same reality in 2021, 2022 and so on…
There are ways that we can help ourselves though
Right, enough of that, let’s talk about what we can do to help ourselves, because there is plenty that helps us feel better about ourselves and the situation.
For me reading the ‘dreaded C-word’ blog from a few years ago has made me realise just how far I’ve come. Sometimes, as counter-intuitive as it can feel, we need to look back to see our own progress when it comes to Christmas, being CNBC, accepting our back stories etc etc…
But if you’re not at that place, here are my tips for helping you, perhaps not this Christmas, for the future ones, when people have forgotten all about how crap it can feel to have a ‘normal’ Christmas.
Getting some perspective
This can be tough to do, because our emotions can be overwhelming and hard to manage when we’re really struggling, but let me share my experience, to hopefully help you.
In years where I’ve really just about held it together, in order to be able to cope with Christmas, the thing I remember most is the paralysing dread that starts to build from September, right the way through to December. In terms of the amount of time and energy I was committing to this fear, that’s one third of the year, for what amounts to one day!
When I realised that, I was able to see what a shocking waste that was and why it wasn’t something I could keep investing in year after year. In fact my irritation at that level of investment for no reward, outweighed the dread, and so it was time for me to focus on what I could do to make the experience more bearable.
Saying no to friends and family
This can be a tough one, as I know from experience, because we’re programmed to be polite and to our discomfort to one side so as not to make others feel uncomfortable. It’s the very basis of ‘people pleasing’ and we’re brought up to do that. That’s why it’s so difficult to break those habits, but there comes a time when saying no is the kindest thing for you, and those around you.
Let’s put it this way, if you hate Christmas, and being around your family and their children is painful, then what good can come out of it? You’ll likely be tense, you might snap at people, you might have to disappear to cry, and you might very likely feel growing resentment that you’ve felt obliged to turn up for this.
Flip that around, your family will likely pick up on your discomfort, leading to awkward moments in the day. They’ll notice the tear-streaked face, despite the reassurances you give that ‘I’m OK’, and that means that the Christmas they envisioned simply won’t happen.
So, if you feel guilt for saying no, then don’t. Chances are that if you say no and then offer something that you’re able to deal with, it will make it a win/win for everyone. You’ll be able to do something you can cope with, because you’ve offered something works for you. Bye-bye resentment! While they might still question, at least you were able to proactively something that works for you.
Do it your way
Making your own traditions, goes some small way to reclaiming Christmas as a time that you can at least take some time for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s deciding that you’ll have a curry on Christmas Day, rather than Turkey. It could be like me, going for a long run in the morning because the roads are clear, or it could be sitting in bed all day watching Netflix and eating sweets.
It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s something that you love, and can help you reclaim the day for yourself. Not only does this give you something to look forward to, it can help reduce the dread that some of us feel in the build-up, making Christmas more bearable physically, mentally and emotionally.
It’s not a magic wand
This isn’t Sarah waving a magic wand, because this shit takes practice and it takes perseverance as people will still try to convince you that Christmas ‘should’ be a time to be with family. But, the ‘should’ is a clue that someone is trying to push their values on to you, so try to stand firm and say to people that actually, for you Christmas is something else. Hello boundaries!
I hope you have a restful break
I know Christmas is tough, and I know that many of you will still be dreading it, despite this year being very different, but I’d like you know that I’ll be thinking of you on the day. While I’ve not been able to make myself available this year to help you beyond this blog, I’ve had to make the decision to take time out, as I need to recharge my batteries ready for next year.
But, my wish for each and every one of you is a restful break and time for yourself, in which you can find some peace.
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