Now that Christmas is back there somewhere, and the hoover is choked with small and completely useless cracker gifts, bits of tinsel, fallen food morsels (where ARE you Sula??) and trinkets various, there is about five minutes of coffee and calm before it all begins again on Hogmanay and a New Year.
When we first moved to the island, I thought Christmas was IT, meaning, that, once the fairyland of it was done, we might just bask in its echoing warmth for a while, watch the twinkly winkly lights for a few more days and justify a wee whisky mac after a chilly walk along the 6 miles of Atlantic coastline, even if it was nowhere near 6pm. I always reckoned time was an illusion, and used to say so, on more than one occasion, sometimes missing the start of the school term altogether. But, once the tree was down, the lights and dingle dangles boxed and returned to the silent dark of the cupboard under the stairs, ready for the mice to re-format into comfy, albeit prickly, bedding for their Spring hatch, even I heard my voice sounding slightly desperate as I suggested a warming nip in the middle of an ordinary day. Because days do that. Become ordinary and far too quickly for my liking, perhaps for everyone’s liking. So how do I keep the magic going? Not with a ‘wee half’ at midday that’s for certain. Heading into work at the local school as a stand-in (not clown, but classroom assistant……ok, same thing….)and smelling of whisky, even if it is the liquor of the gods, would lose me street cred in a nanosecond.
When the children were little, which, for us meant about 25 years, I worked out a way of keeping magic. The secret lay in beginning again, but not with a big list of impossible resolutions, none of which ever made it into February. It was simply a daily decision to be a big kid, to look out at the world through the eyes of a child, and this resolution is sustainable, or it is at least for me and the island husband. It is absolutely nothing to do with cash in the bank, or a new sofa. It has nothing to do with dinners out and fancy wines or two holidays abroad every year. I can have not one of these ‘things’ around me, or even in far sight, because it has little to do with ‘things’. Oh, I’m not saying things aren’t fun or even necessary as basics, but we tend to look for the right things in the wrong places. We give our ‘love’ to the wrong things and it isn’t the fault of the tv adverts, or technology. The fault lies deep inside each one of us and the good news is, so does the solution.
If, on waking, on that pi**y day when I have to find my car keys, or bus money, in the dark, grab my pack lunch and take my place on the tube, in the car, on the bus, to re-enter those office doors and re-locate my desk in stiff backed shoes that pinch, and a skirt that sparks everytime I move (ah, that’s why it was so cheap), I say to myself….’I shall look at all of this, as a child would,’ then I have begun to change. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. A child doesn’t fret about what lies ahead, unless we show him how to, by fretting ourselves. A child, my children, bounced into days like monkeys or terrorists or pirates, or clowns, and the only thing that fussed them into a right panic, was probably me. Me and that old illusionist, Time. The only person who got cross with potholes was me. Everyone else imagined a trip over the rockies with Jeremy Clarkson at the wheel. The only person who imagined that if this child didn’t eat SOMETHING today, they were going to get rickets or anorexia, was me. The only one who couldn’t laugh as one child inflated a rubber glove into a a huge balloon and then pulled it over his head, was me, because I was too serious about what could have been fun, what was fun, through a child’s eyes. Running into a snowy afternoon without a well-zipped-up polar jacket was a given, and yet I would scream and fret about what………hypothermia? Jings woman, it’s just an afternoon!!!!!
Worry is the killer and another is fear and yet another, the almostworstone, is ‘what will others think of me?’
Let’s say that you go into work with a smile and a chuckle at the ready. Worst thing that can happen is that someone suggests you don’t take things seriously enough. Well, good for you, say I. The only things we need to take seriously are the serious things and, trust me, you will know your own list well enough. Then, another someone might suggest you have an easy life. And so you might, but then again, you might not, but whose business is that might I ask and what does it have to do with anything?
Some of the most cheerful adults I have ever met have the biggest pills to swallow. They wear a smile, and more than that, they look for the fun in everything. They are interested in you, in life, in the magic of what might happen next, for, although you and I may have a routine, a dull daily routine, there are opportunities in every minute, just waiting to be bounced like balls, or thrown like frisbees across a room. What we allow, and this is an individual choice, is for someone gloomy to bring us down, to feed our guilt. This is not their fault, but our own, and, as I said before, the solution lies within.
I remember such encounters with les miserables in my long life, and what I found, after some reflection, was that they were really reaching out for friendship and not a caustic comment. If I asked them about their life, their likes, their Christmas, I could always find their smile. Now, it wasn’t up to me to keep it on that gloomy face, but I could show them something that touched their heart and that was friendship. When my kids found themselves stuck with such a person, in school, in college, or in the workplace, I always suggested that they try swimming upstream, towards the crowd and not with it: to see another as a whole human being, not a miserable old g*t. Each one of them has been glad of that advice and have their own stories to tell after they extended the hand of friendship and found the smile within. They met extreme lonliness, social ineptitude, fears and self-doubts. They met inadequacy and rejection, and in that darkness, they met their own.
Children grow and are children no more, so they tell me, although we must be well behind the times, the island husband and I, because we can still have a pillow fight, make fun out of all the leaks in our home, the smoking chimney in a big wind, and it has absolutely nothing to do with life being easy. Life isn’t easy, but living it to the full, is simple indeed, as a child will tell you.
If you ask.