A super-intelligent alien virus, visiting an average British town centre at this time of year, or reclining watching TV with his blobby feet up in the deep moquette of a sofa, might think that Christmas was mostly about products; the buying of, the eating of and a whole cacophony of noise, some featuring jingly bells, some featuring harmonising voices, some featuring brass bands.
Actually, a super-intelligent alien virus would probably wipe us all out without a second thought in order to possess this wondrously beautiful planet of ours so perhaps I should start again.
On the surface, to those without faith, Christmas is all about material things. We are all under pressure to buy buy buy, whether we like it or not, to create the perfect Christmas dinner with masses of food, with charger plates and an elegant, delectable table. It’s all supposed to be perfect.
Well bollocks to all that. To me, more strongly this year than ever – Christmas is about appreciating people who enrich your life – the close relatives, the close friends and the other friends who you might not see often but always enjoy being with. Part of the appreciation is sending cards or buying gifts but they don’t have to be fancy and expensive because these are people who don’t need to be bought or impressed. They are already your nearest and dearest. They love you for who you are, moods, faults, occasional swearing and all.
Since pater died very suddenly without really giving me the chance to say all the appreciative things I felt I should have voiced over the years (but stuff I hope he knew anyway) I have felt it’s important for me to let people know when they are appreciated. It’s people, not things that make my life complete. Oh and animals, but hey it’s best not to go into the deep emotional speeches with a cat – all they want is a piece of that cold roast chicken you’re carving or for you to quit the typing for goodnessake and give them a head scratch.
I’ve been thinking about this particularly since having supper with one of my best friends last night. She and I met in hospital ten years ago when we were both due to have some gynae things done. We were day cases for D&C’s I think. We sat on adjacent beds in a small ward and our procedures were put back gradually so we spent the whole day until 4pm nattering. It was obvious from the start that we’d get on. I mean, when she said she was a counsellor and sex therapist, I was hardly going to let that go without further probing, was I? If Capt Sensible was reading this, he’d probably want me to insert a disclaimer here, without prejudice, to make it crystal clear that he’s never suffered erectile difficulties and that he in no way featured in discussions.
Anyway, there was no way we weren’t going to continue to be in touch, after that day and although we’ve only seen each other every couple of months or so, it’s always been quality time – a supper and a large glass of vino to compare notes on our lives and share things they we probably would only share with a few other people, if anyone at all.
So now she has breast cancer. And ok, they have taken the lump away and I was thinking, bit of radiotherapy and she’d be ok. But it turns out she’s not. She needs to have her lymph nodes taken out in January followed by six months of chemo during 2012, which will impinge hugely on her life. It’s all a bit of a bugger and I’ve felt very powerless to help in any tangible way apart from keeping in daily touch.
We spent some of yesterday discussing how we’ll circumvent the problems of meeting and how, when chemo is over, we’ll celebrate with a day out in Bristol including a long leisurely Harvey Nicks lunch. We parted with a long, warm heartfelt hug and I know she’ll have a good Christmas because her beloved son – who has spent years living abroad – will be there, with her daughter and the grandchildren.
And, you know what? After the initial shock and tears and the faux bravery and the dread of the second lot of news (that actually she was perfectly correct to dread) my pal said that what had really knocked her for six was the number of friends she’d found she had. People who hadn’t been in touch for years sent cards, flowers, cheering messages as well as her cohort of regular pals. It was an outreaching of affection that was totally unexpected and has helped her to face an uncertain future feeling supported and loved.
So I suppose the bottom line of this blog is purely emotional; it’s this – don’t just write cards mechanically, send presents out of a kind of duty, and worry and fret about the mechanics of Christmas, the getting everything perfect. Those things don’t matter as much as showing and telling people who mean a lot to you that they are hugely appreciated and enrich your life.
It’s the one time of year when they won’t ask you “Blimey, what the hell’s made you come over all soppy? Precisely how many glasses of sherry have you had?”
Oh yeah, good point. Maybe they will say that anyway. Whatever. 🙂
Merry Christmas everyone!!