Don’t worry about Christmas, be happy

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!!

About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
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17 Responses to Don’t worry about Christmas, be happy

  1. valzone says:

    Oh Jan, what a beautiful human being you are. I cannot say any more just now.

    Happy Christmas my friend.

  2. Pseu says:

    Jan, you are a complete star and have voiced something so important so clearly. Cyber hug! (You said it was OK to be soppy…)

    I am so sorry to hear your friend is having such a foul time.

    • janh1 says:

      Yes it is foul but as you’ll see from the additional paragraph (my blog really wasn’t playing ball this morning, just when i was in a rush) this cloud does have a silver lining that is helping hugely.

      Yes! It’s the time of year to be soppy. Hugs right back to you and everyone else on here, actually. Peace and goodwill and all that. 🙂

  3. Tilly Bud says:

    Pseu sent me.

    Your friend has a good friend in you.

    • janh1 says:

      Hello Tilly Bud. I love your name! I dunno about that but we do make each other laugh. Have to share one thing with you. I asked her if she had her turkey yet – she’s ordered a farm-raised one from the eccentric bachelor farmer down the lane.

      She rang him and asked when she could collect her fifteen pounder and he replied, sounding rather harassed “I’ve no idea. I’m still trying to kill ’em!”

      ….which rather conjured up visions of a conscience-stricken blood shy farmer who found the whole slaughter thing so disagreeable that he kept withdrawing from the evil deed.

      If all else failed, I thought she could go and fetch the live turkey and put it in her garden. It could stand in the garden watching them through the patio windows on Christmas Day while waiting for the leftovers of the stuffing and vegetables!

      • Pseu says:

        What a picture… ”a conscience-stricken blood shy farmer who found the whole slaughter thing so disagreeable that he kept withdrawing from the evil deed.”

        Enough to make me giggle

  4. You say you’re not doing anything tangible for your friend, but I think she’d tell you something different. I hope she (and we all) have health and happiness in 2012 xxx

    • janh1 says:

      Hi Sophie and I’m raising my glass (I have my sherry) to your good wishes for health and happiness in 2012. It’s all anyone could ever want, after all. xxx

  5. IsobelandCat says:

    I read this on the train ths morning but could not comment. I had tears in my eyes. I do hope your friend does well with her treatment. I should be so frightened. We live we love and are loved. We need warmth and food, but no, we do not need most of the things we are sold.
    Mind you, I love good soap and bath stuff! I was more profound when I first read this, but it is late now, sweet dreams.

  6. janh1 says:

    Evening Isobel. Don’t ever go to a Travel Lodge, then. The teeny tablet of soap marked Johnson’s Cleansing wouldn’t suit at all!! Yes, she is frightened. Her mother died of breast cancer at almost exactly the same age. Diagnosed before Christmas, died before the end of January. Chilling. But that was 40 years ago, as I pointed out. Cancer treatment has improved vastly since then.

    Have a hug. Sweet dreams xx

  7. IsobelandCat says:

    This has been such a hard year. Not just for me. I don’t think I have ever had so many conversations about mortality. When my friend died at the end of October, I was shocked and upset. But you know, I should prefer to die sooner than go through what my mother is experiencing.

  8. janh1 says:

    Yes. Watching the diminishing must be the hardest thing. With my own mother’s illness, for a long time I was optimistic and determined to find a way to make her better but when I realised it was not to be, I just wanted her to be free of it all.

    It’s good that you’re not afraid to talk about mortality and death. So many people avoid the subject as though talking about it would somehow make it happen. Superstition and irrational fear are to be avoided!

  9. Jan, this is fab. Plain speaking at its best. I shall pour out a glass of something strong, raise it to all those I love and shout “Bollocks!” to all that materialism. Life is not fair, and seizing the day it what it’s all about. Through the next year, I hope the best happens.

    While we’re at it- and with large glass of sherry in hand- I can tell you how hugely I appreciate this blog. And those rapier-sharp witty tweets. They make me laugh. I talk about it to my friends, stuff like the cat’s trip to the vets and so forth. And the dog animation you posted – well, I can’t tell you how many times I have passed that on.

    *slurring almost imperceptibly* Merry Christmas 🙂

    • janh1 says:

      Oooh Merry Christmas to you and yours Kate! Thanks for your kind comments.I am quaite sleepy having partaken of two different sorts of sherry which fortified me for strenuous ironing and getting terribly over-excited about Mark Cavendish winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

      Carpe diem, indeed. I live by it. People accuse me of carping and I’m not even Polish!

  10. tootlepedal says:

    I came upon your blog by a chance link but I am glad that I did. Thank you for writing so clearly.

    • janh1 says:

      Hi, and thanks. V impressed by the sparrowhawk photos on your blog! Saw one plucking a newly-killed blue tit on our back fence, once. But by the time I’d grabbed a camera, the raptor+bird had flown.

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