It’s the day after Christmas, referred to in some parts as Boxing Day. Perhaps you are lying on the sofa, telling yourself you ‘really ought’ to be cleaning up after yesterday’s merry making. Perhaps your house is full to the gunwales with the people you love, and perhaps your gifts were wonderful and thoughtful.
But perhaps none of that applies to you. Perhaps Christmas was horrible. Really, really horrible. It can be. Perhaps you’re broke. Or newly unemployed. Or both. Perhaps you found out that you (or someone you care about) have a serious illness. Perhaps your relationship broke down. Perhaps you lost a loved one. Or perhaps you just felt generally bah humbug about the whole thing.
That’s okay. Seriously. It’s okay. And it’s absolutely no indication of what the rest of your life is going to be be like. It’s not an indication of what the rest of your Christmases are going to be like. Heck, it’s not even an indication of what the rest of your week is going to be like.
We had a lovely Christmas this year. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. It was (for me) the best Christmas in twenty years.
So you might be wondering why I’m writing this post at all. Like pretty much everyone – or at least every adult – I’ve had some less-than-merry Christmases, too.
Last year we gave it a bit of a Christ-miss, really. We had a nice meal, but nothing particularly spectacular, and we kind of skipped the gift giving thing. My husband had been made redundant. We were broke. I was struggling with depression. It was all pretty blah, to be honest. And not for the first time, either.
For some years, it had seemed that Christmas time was the time that bad news found us. Each December seemed to bring financial reversal of one sort or another. And this, coupled with the fact that we were thousands of miles from our respective sisters and mothers (our sons’ aunts and grandmothers) and the various extended branches of the family, made Christmas a tough time for us – for me in particular. December was the time the black dog came a-calling (and a-settling and a-staying). Inevitably, this rubbed off on everyone else, too.
Of course, I put in some effort for the children’s sake, but I’m woefully poor at dissembling, and my sons are insightful beings.
There have been other tough Christmases. There was the year my grandmother died on 19th December (the day after my birthday), and her funeral took place on 21st December (my mother’s birthday). Christmas that year was awful. My grandfather was newly widowed, a month shy of his 50th wedding anniversary. My Mom, aunt and uncle had lost their Mommy. Six of us had lost our beloved Granny: the very core of Christmas in the family. If I were to begin to tell you about the role my grandmother played in my life, this post would veer irretrievably off topic. So let’s shelve that for another time. Suffice to say that Christmas that year was dreadful. I suspect the only reason we went ahead with the big meal and the silly hats and the Christmas crackers and the gifts was because there were still children in the family. But it was… I think ‘grotesque’ is only a slight overstatement.
The first few years after my grandmother died, it was hard not to grieve afresh, as we went about preparing without her. Even twenty years after her death, I dissolved into floods of tears when I tried out her Christmas cake recipe and it failed. I wanted to ask her what I had done wrong. Had I copied it down incorrectly? Was there some missing bit that was just assumed, because ‘everyone knows’ that you do such-and-such when making a fruit cake? I was thousands of miles away from my Mom and my sister who, under other circumstances, would have been with me in the kitchen, as we made the cake together. I had never felt so utterly alone.
Perhaps your Christmas was like that.
And that’s okay. Honestly. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy again.
A friend of mine lost her husband. She was – as you might expect – consumed with grief in a way that can’t be explained. She had to take over looking after the farm and did so like an automaton. Numbly going about the daily grind. Then, one day, as she was driving along a track, on her way to repair a fence, she noticed how the sun was shining, and how much she enjoyed the song playing on the radio, and how beautiful the countryside was, and how adorable the calves were. And it dawned on her that she was, for the first time in two years, happy.
As a person with depression, I am well acquainted with the view at the bottom of the black pit. And more than once, I have been sorely tempted to call it quits. But then I would have missed out on this Christmas, with Mr Namasi, our two wonderful sons and their lovely girlfriends. We sat at a table decorated by one son (mainly by his girlfriend, but he was involved). We ate food chosen by the other son. We laughed and smiled and joked and exchanged gifts.
Please don’t allow the fact that the joy of the season has passed you by (this time) colour the way you fell about yourself, your life or you future. It really, really isn’t an indication of anything particular. Tomorrow may be better. Or the day after that. Or next Christmas. Or the one after that. Let’s find out, shall we?