Sitting in a café this morning waiting for a friend to join me, I was listening to conversations around me. One specifically held my attention; there was nothing unusual about it, I’d heard this kind of story before, but I just couldn’t let go of listening.
A woman around the age of 40, let’s call her Anna, was very verbal about how much she really didn’t look forward to Christmas. Anna was definitely not holding back on denigrating her family members. From her 2 year old niece who she predicted would be screaming all the way through Christmas, to her 97 year old grandmother who by all accounts was in progressive stages of dementia, every one of them got their existence stripped bare in public. I was glad her family couldn’t hear her ridiculing their characters, laughing as she went along.
I assume it was a friend she was with, a woman in her late twenties, let’s call her Ruby. She sat quietly, listening attentively, nodding and smiling. Ruby might not have realize that the more she nodded and smiled, the more Anna would be encouraged to carry on.
After a sudden eruption of guttural laughter, Anna took a big slurp of coffee and looked at Ruby.
“Oh dear, you couldn’t make it up” she said smiling as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Her attention turned to Ruby – perhaps she needed a break. “So, what are you doing for Christmas, I bet you have a civilized family who knows how to behave” she said with the remnants of laughter in her voice.
“I’m not really doing much.” Ruby wasn’t keen on talking about her upcoming festive season.
“Wha’, is your family one of those minimalistic families who agree not to buy presents, but donate to some charity instead?” Anna laughed as she talked, her voice bellowing throughout the café. By now I was feeling for Ruby, they clearly didn’t know each all that well.
Ruby looked down at her cup, her back curved as if she was protecting herself.
“No, no … I don’t know what my family’s doing … I’m on my own this Christmas …” Ruby’s voice was quiet and I must admit I feel embarrassed to say that I actually strained to listen.
“You’re kiddin’ … no, you can’t be on your own at Christmas. No one should be on their own at Christmas …!” Anna’s exclamation made a few people turn around while others pretended politely not to have heard. “Come with me, my family loves having people around … you’ll love ‘em.”
“Thank you Anna, that’s very kind of you, but I’ll be ok” Ruby said, getting smaller in her seat.
Anna’s face calmed, the frantic energy fizzed out; she had picked up on Ruby’s unease and turned the volume down, becoming quiet and enquiring. The hum of voices in the café resumed and my friend turned up, saving me from my own curiosity and Ruby from the indignation of being watched as she split open her bag of family troubles.
The conversation made me think of being on my own at Christmas and how to make the two days nurturing and filled with self-kindness. We put so much emphasis on a “Family Christmas” being the only way, like Anna, and yet a lot of us experience disappointment and stress that we wouldn’t dream of engaging with at any other time of the year. Perhaps being on your own during the two days of Christmas isn’t such as bad idea. And to enjoy it you have to plan.
How to make it a special Christmas just for you
Preparation is the key. We prepare ourselves for the family gathering, so why not prepare for a special Christmas for ourselves?
Thinking of what I enjoy doing but don’t usually have much time for, I created this list. Of course, this might not be what you want to do and that isn’t the point. Making your own list and planning how and when to do these activities means you will have something to look forward to:
- Staying in bed a little longer.
- Have a marathon read or movie time.
- Get the food that you want, something you will look forward to eating. It doesn’t matter if that is eating baked beans out of the tin or cooking a joint.
- Have long, undisturbed baths.
- Dress up really warm and go for a long walk. To warm up when you get home, make a big cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and grated chocolate.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter.
- Pop around to neighbours you know are also on their own, just to say hello.
- Sing Christmas songs while doing silly dancing. Go one step further, impersonate the singer using a brush for a microphone.
- Get into your pajamas, watch a box set and snuggle up under a warm blanket.
- Listen to music that you like without insulting anyone with your taste.
Making plans to get together with friends between Christmas and New Year will give you something else to look forward to. I can guarantee that telling them about how you have enjoyed nurturing yourself will get some of them wishing they’d had the chance to do the same.
Plan your time and you will get the more out of it, even if that includes planning on doing nothing. Making the most of a Christmas just for you could be a great experience that you will look back on and know that you don’t have to have lots of people around you for Christmas to be enjoyable.
I do hope Ruby and Anna, in their own ways, have a good Christmas this year. I think they have very different ideas of what makes a good time and with any luck, they will both manage to tell a warming story of a memorable Christmas in 2018.
Wrap yourself in self-kindness and have a lovely, nurturing Christmas this year.