Words by Emma Kneebone
“I haven’t bought one present for Christmas yet, I’m starting to panic!” I confided to my friend a couple of days ago.
“Well honey, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I actually bought my Christmas presents for next year yesterday.” Replied my friend.
Organised or Mental?I considered myself organised until I met her. Fair do’s though, it is usual for her to have bought and wrapped her presents by April every year. And if this wasn’t enough to make me question our friendship, the presents are always thoughtful and on point. Suffice to say, I hung up not much later and called another friend.
“Nah, haven’t even given it a thought yet. I don’t get paid until Christmas Eve so will buy it all then.” Relieved, I considered myself somewhat organised once more. One step ahead of him, at least I have a list.
Now I like to think I can be thoughtful. I buy flowers for my Mum and have them sent to her work as a surprise. I’ll take the time to call a loved one when I know they’re having a hard time. Or I’ll buy a coffee and a sandwich for the homeless man who sits outside my local Starbucks. I’m possibly the last generation who still appreciates a card or letter through the post. But I also enjoy a modern-day meme off with a bestie. We tag each other in funny posts thinking ourselves witty whilst it also serves as a quick ‘hello’ to stay in touch, as we maintain our busy lives living on different continents.
December Strikes!Then December hits. The month East 17 must look forward to each year as ‘Stay Another Day’ plays enough to financially see them through the following year in royalties. Hordes of people descend on town centres, muttering to themselves as they search for the relevant aisle so they can purchase said item and cross another present off the never-ending list.
For every stressed shopper, there seems to be another who simply enjoys the madness of the season. They stroll through the main street obviously having missed the unwritten agreement that efficiency is key and strolling, wandering or dithering is prohibited.
Inconsiderate ShoppersIf you insist on doing so, then do your shopping mid-week, when the masses are holed up in an office frantically trying to finish every task on a completely separate list. Just to ensure they can enjoy the Christmas break without fretting about work. Much like when we have a light dusting of snow, local supermarkets are crammed. It is the only time of year that shopping baskets are filled with sprouts, mince pies, vol-au-vents and enough food to last just in case war breaks out or we are snowed in for the two days the shops are shut.
Houses must be decorated to resemble Santa’s grotto. Cards to a few hundred people who you never see must be written and sent. A tree must be decorated. Presents must be bought. Alcohol is consumed in greater quantities. Followed by cringey flashbacks of kissing a co-worker or attempting the robot on the dance floor at the Christmas party.
Aunty Mabel is invited for Christmas Day despite the fact no one likes her and she’s a little racist after a few sherries.
And credit cards take a bashing despite having made it through the previous eleven months without being used. But, we reason, it’s all in the spirit of Christmas.
Take Care Of Yourself TooI attended a seminar the other day. Mental health and wellbeing. One particular lecture during the day was focussed on self-care. Honestly, I internally eye-roll when someone says these words to me. Now I have no doubt they are important, but it just seems a little ‘airy-fairy’. But this lady nailed it. She spoke of a table with many legs. The legs are each aspect of our lives which add up to the ultimate self-care package. Let one or two of the table legs collapse and you’ll find your ability to deal with day-to-day life a little harder.
For the first time in thirty-two years I sat and wrote a self-care list. Evoking the image of a table and its legs somehow made it less ‘airy-fairy’ and something I could give serious thought to in order to aid my daily life.
- Eating well
- A tidy home
- A good book
- Time on my own
- Time with my ‘zone one’ people
- Crossing things off my life admin list
- Booking things to look forward to
By the end of the specified ten minutes, this was what my list comprised of. And I’d say that for forty-eight weeks of the year, I proudly manage to keep my table stable. Perhaps the odd week will see me bookless or eat too many burgers or the sofa becomes too appealing to make it out for a run, but the following week will involve extra caution to rebalance the table once more. But then December hits.
Bastard ChristmasMince pies are being shoved in front of me at every opportunity. Tubs of chocolate sit on the dining tables of most homes in Britain. I tick things off every list except my life admin one. The Christmas party does not consist of one ‘zone one’ person and I wake up the next day too hangover to muster the energy for an early morning fitness class. A weekends worth of dishes remain unwashed on the kitchen side as battling the town centre hoards becomes priority. And the cherished night alone is invaded by Aunty Mabel dropping off presents so she doesn’t have to carry them with her on Christmas Day.
Christmas is a time for love, joyful giving and family. But, in reality, as I reflect upon the last week of my life. I have not exercised, I’ve eaten Chinese takeaway for two nights running, I feel exhausted from too much alcohol and too little sleep. I haven’t read my book in a while, a result of the alcohol induced state from festive gatherings and I have barely enough money to buy the obligatory presents, let alone purchase a treat for myself to look forward to. My self-care table is not stable, in fact it’s not even a table, as the whole bloody thing has collapsed.
It’s The Same Every YearWe repeat this pattern without pausing for thought every year. The pressure builds, panic sets in and we blindly rush around prioritising everyone and everything before ourselves. Christmas Day hits. And then comes the best part. Guests go home. There are new toys to play with. We relax and recover and hibernate.
Also we eat the same foods for three days on end, but in different forms. First hot, then cold, then in a sandwich and finally as bubble and squeak. It is socially acceptable not to see people, to sit and read your book for hours in your newest onesie. To start thinking about the coming year and what you may wish from it. And to enjoy those cherished few days that reward us for the previous four weeks of panic-induced madness.
INDULGESo emerge yourself in the madness. Eat another chocolate, enjoy an extra hour’s sleep rather than fighting to make an exercise class and crack open the bottle of wine after your last day of work. For we have all collapsed our tables to make way for Christmas. But we shall erect them again with vigour on the other side.
To my friend who has already dealt with Christmas next year. I applaud your efficiency, but honestly, there is a secret part of me that cherishes the united moaning of a nation. And when I am old and looking back on my life, it is not the frustrations of the season I shall remember, but the day spent with those I love most, eating indulgent food and looking back fondly upon sprout fights with my nieces.
Happy Christmas all. I’ll see you all on the other side in the New Year!
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