Mince pies out for Father Christmas and carrots for his reindeer plus a wee shot of brandy to warm the old man’s cockles as he continues on his merry way through the skies. Not that he ever got the chance in our home. Himself knocked back the booze and ate the mince pie, once the children had finally gone to sleep and I got the carrots. Not sure it was quite fair but hey ho, t’was the way of things. There are lots of reindeer, little voices told me. We should leave lots of carrots! I tried very hard to explain that reindeer are good at sharing and that I needed said carrots for the Christmas dinner but all I got were dirty looks and muffled comments on how mean I was. I recall stuffing those carrots under the mattress and sleeping on them, firmly.
I had not realised how tough this time would be. I think of those lorry drivers stuck still on their way to nowhere, in small cabs and with little hope of getting home to their families. I think of homeless people, those in isolation, those, like me, holding a death in clear memory, those who face a terrifying future of loss and lack, and those whose life’s work is about to go down the plughole. I also know it will all pass, if not in any of the ways we imagine right now. For instance I know I miss people, family, a husband and that missing is not about to change, not yet. We have months yet to come of fear and separation, of confusion and loneliness, no matter what our circumstances. This pandemic has shifted us onto a new plane and we will think differently, act differently from now, whether through necessity or choice. I know it.
So what to do with what we have? If we have anything at all, we are very fortunate indeed. We can eat. We can put up lights. We can make ourselves warm, give gifts, send messages, zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and call. But the hardest part of all of this is how we decide to think; what message we give out in our words and our responses; how we act during the days ahead, during this day. Will we bemoan our fate or celebrate the fact that we have one at all to do with as we choose. Okay I know we cannot change the circumstances but we absolutely can think independent of all circumstances. I am lonely. Well, that’s ok and understandable. What do you plan to do about it? I am frightened. That’s ok too and understandable. What can you look at instead? If you look long enough and with consistency at happy things, you will find they come quicker next time and so on until they jump right in the minute Old Gloom plods into a mind, all damp and dark and doomish. Swap Old Gloom for Father Christmas, that’s what I say. Doubts fizzle to nothing but bubbles when you think fairies and magic, or elves and reindeer and it is quite possible to sustain this method of thinking for a very long time.
At Tapselteerie when Old Gloom arrived, I would look out of the window, or, better still, take myself off for a walk along the Atlantic shoreline. The weather was irrelevant. I just knew, and still do, that we humans lean towards the negative and must be alert and vigilant in order to avoid being taken over. I also know how tempting it can be to give in and sigh a great big sigh. There are days and times when it feels like just too much effort is required to even bother with drumming up a single happy thought, but it is our only recourse if we want to avoid sinking. Life is such a gift. Christmas is such a gift. Even too many carrots are a gift. There are many who would relish too many carrots, after all. Thinking wide and beautiful thoughts is a daily duty and, trust me, it can take away any amount of pain whilst banishing Old Gloom to his own darkness. So, shine your light this Christmas, this winter, and remember, often, that if you have anything or anyone at all, you are so lucky it’s embarrassing. That’s what I tell myself.
And Old Gloom is nowhere to be seen.