At this time of year, a lot of people get depressed or angry. It tends to last right through to 15 February. I hate to admit it, but I have noticed that lately, when you squeeze me, what comes out is not patience and tolerance but irritability and impatience. I have been quite tired, but that isn’t the whole of it.
I think this time of year is a time of idyllic fantasy. White Christmas! Home for the Holidays! But what if it doesn’t snow? And where, exactly, is this magical “home” where the fire is burning and everyone welcomes us with open arms? I have a theory that this modern “Hallmark” Christmas, if you will, comes from the war years when everyone had someone overseas and all we wanted was for them to be safely home. White Christmas may have been the fantasy of the soldier in the Pacific on 25th of December, sitting under a palm and wishing so desperately for the end of war and to be home. I believe White Christmas – incidentally, my favourite holiday movie for one reason: fabulous dresses – was created after the end of WWII when we could look back, with nostalgia.
Why should we look back at war time with nostalgia?
Perhaps there was something in the hope and the expectation that if we could just survive this, if our loved one could just come home, if we could have a peaceful Christmas with food on the table and our loved ones around us, then we could survive anything.
Of course, that wasn’t the case. Injuries, continued rationing, shell shock and a redefinition of gender roles and norms came into the mix in the post war years. It seems to me that the world faced uncomfortable change and technological innovation and a polarisation of ideologies that remains (albeit with different ideologies at play) today.
So what is it we are nostalgic for, exactly?
I have a an idea and it may be wrong, but I think the ideal for which we long is an imagined sense of innocence and order. I say imagined, because prior to WWII the world was grappling with the horrors of modernity and before that, the injustices of class and empire. We were never innocent. And the order only worked for some.
It is no surprise, to me, that our fantasy has taken on a childlike quality with the magical Santa coming and bringing us gifts…and increasingly in modern mythology, bringing a job for Dad, who hasn’t worked in 2 years, or saving the family home from foreclosure (a re-telling of an American depression era idyll).
For many people, this is a time of year when what is missing in our lives becomes painfully highlighted. We all have sad Christmas stories which we could share. But, that is not the mythology we share. Perhaps it would be more helpful to admit it and know we are not alone.
For those who are struggling, there is help a phone call away: Samaritans (116 123 UK/ROI), Suicide Prevention in Canada and National Lifeline in the USA (Please feel free to share resources from your country in the comments)
I never suggest we simply paint over our sorrows with gratitude, here. I am always in favour of facing our problems head on. Sometimes that can look (as it does in my case, often) like staying stuck, but the work is inner work and when we have done that work, suddenly everything shifts.
Like Persephone, who swallows the pomegranate seeds and is stolen away from her childhood home by Hades, if we can bear it, we must go deep into our own personal underworld, give up our innocence and allow the seeds of experience, fertilised by our discontent, to germinate and give birth to new fruits in Spring.
Perhaps there is nothing unnatural in feeling discontented and like hibernating at this time of year. Perhaps, it is more unnatural to look back and hope for a magic return to nostalgic times. Look back, yes, but not for a return to innocence. Instead, it is more courageous to move forward with wisdom, gratitude and an open heart, despite the scars and the losses that experience has wrought.
So, in the coming year, I will be working more on my craft of writing. And over the holidays, I will look at what I can do to bring some of the essence of the love, health, and wealth that is lacking, back into my life.
And there, in our inner transformation, is the real magic of this quiet winter season.
I am grateful that a friend, Lisa, posted on Facebook, that she won’t be doing the whole Christmas craziness this year. She is in mourning and nobody should be expecting her to paste on a smile and hide her pain in order to support their fantasy. It is we who should be supporting her, through this difficult first Christmas. I found her stance to be brave and true and she has been a good model for self care in the face of family and societal pressure.
I am grateful that as tense as it sometimes can be, that I still have most of my immediate family at the end of 2015. We have had strokes, heart attacks, hospital visits and dangerous treatments this year and (if it be in the order of the Divine Quantum) we will be together for the holidays.
I am grateful for artist 616 who shared his struggle with depression on social media. His bravery in going public with his followers has opened up the space for others to come forward and get help, without stigma.
My service continues to be the promotion of artists and small businesses on my social media for holiday spending. I am naturally focussing on those for whom I am grateful.
Friday night, I left London and went to Winchester to support Josh Savage in the launch of his first French Language EP, Quatre Épines. Although for me, personally, bittersweet, it was a joy to see such love and support for his creative dreams from his family and friends. The guildhall filled with his friends and family, long time fans and a few new fans and well wishers, like myself.
I am grateful to Dan Shears for introducing me to the music of Josh Savage, as well as his own. In a perfect symmetry, my friend, NW, far away was with me in spirit. She was with me the first time I heard Dan Shears play and the last time we were together was at a Josh Savage concert. I posted a photo from Josh’s gig and tagged her to let her know she is missed. She is in Central America, travelling right now and so I wasn’t sure she would see it. I was surprised to wake to find a reply from her. It was yet another bittersweet joy and I am grateful for Dan Shears, Josh Savage and for the social media that made that circle of connection and Oneness possible.
An old one from Josh Savage whose family has dealt with mental ill health, for those who struggle with mental ill health, or simply the heavy disenchantment of this holiday season….you are not alone…and with the right treatment and support, this will pass.
For what are you grateful, this week?