Festive forethought?

We’ve not even had Halloween yet

And our local supermarket had their Christmas display out in full glory

Actually, it went up the same day as their Halloween offering, in September!

I couldn’t catch my breath.

Are these places just wishing our lives away? Forcing us to look way beyond the here and now to something that is still a quarter of a year away?

And it never ends. It’s like “tomorrow”, it never arrives because you know that, by the time we get to December, the Easter eggs will be out

And so, my trip to the shop for nappies resulted in me returning home with a general annoyance about society, and especially Sainsbury’s

I stewed for a day or two, thinking about how Christmas has been thrusted on my early autumnal thoughts

Then I realised, this Christmas is going to be unlike any other

For many Christmas is the one high point of the year. A welcome celebration and feast of food and family time that makes the rest of the year bearable.

For others it represents something quite the opposite. A stress, a time of isolation, loneliness or unhappiness that is compounded when society around you is full of “Christmas cheer”.

Christmas is a tough time of year for me

It always has been. As a child living on the bread line it was the time of year that highlighted how much “less” we had than others

I hated the first day back at school when all were showing off their new garb and gadgets, yet my tangerine had long been consumed

It was compounded as I became an adult, working in football. When the nation is taking a well earned break to spend time reconnecting with their family, it was our busiest period of the year. Even worse, our work formed part of the nation’s entertainment on their jollies.

Training every Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for 17 years cemented a feeling of disconnect with this time of year

I think I got to eat 2 proper Christmas dinners in this time, and they were because I was injured over the festive period, talk about bitter sweet

Most years, and especially since retiring, my solace has been in cooking Christmas dinner for the family. I love it, adore it, in fact, I need it.

The focus on the prep, timings and multitude of ingredients that are only ever brought out once a year allow me to totally focus on something other than the emptiness that I have inside. (An emptiness that I feel so guilty about when I see others so full and excited, especially my children)

This distraction was even more necessary after my suicide attempt in 2014.

22nd December 2014

Forever etched on my brain, and my body

The anniversary of that day has been wretched. So much so that I grew to fear the emotions that arose rather than the actual memory of the event itself

I would descend into fear, panic and depression through the month of November knowing that December was imminent, and the memories of jumping in front of a lorry were on the horizon

I needed the distraction

The past 3 years I’ve cooked for between 15 and 30 people, it has been immense

But what of this year?

What is Covid Christmas going to be like?

It’s not going to be the mass gathering that we’re used to

(“You’re still bloody cooking” Carrie duly informs me)

The distractions of prep and timings and children and building toys and finding batteries are going to be far fewer

I’m going to have to be here, to be “present”, no pun intended

So what do I need to do?

I don’t actually know right now

I’m going to spend some of my reflection time thinking about it

I’m going to speak to my therapist about it

I’m going to talk to my wife about it

I’m going to have a plan

I need to prepare for a very different Christmas in a very different way so, thank you J S Sainsbury, you have given me the opportunity to mitigate a potential trauma that I didn’t even realise was coming

How about you?

What is your Christmas going to look like this year?

Do you need to make plans too?

Have a think about it this week, maybe whilst you’re putting on your Halloween make-up

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