I was in a supermarket a couple of weeks ago (normally we get food delivered to the nearest bridge) and heard some Christmas music being played. Ah yes, I’d forgotten about that. My removal from general society by living a sheltered life on a narrow boat – mooring up in the middle of nowhere most of the time – has meant I’ve avoided the bombardment most people have inflicted upon them at this time of year. I know a few who manage to embrace this, and I see how it really helps, especially in the middle of our grey winters, to find joy in the glitter, gorge and gusto. Earlier this year I announced in one of my blogs that I wouldn’t be exchanging gifts or cards this year, in large part to help my health and therefore me to not plummet into the migraine abyss I experienced last year.
I look around the narrow boat and I realise we haven’t put up any decorations. As a child this was prohibited until Christmas eve, so I realise we still have time! However, on a boat that constantly brings in the outdoors from muddy boots and paws, as well as ash from the fire burning lumps of wood, so extra items to get covered in filth really doesn’t appeal.
I’m also reminded of a time when, for a few years running, there was a two foot tall, pink tree somehow, at this stature, dominating the room in the homes I lived in. This was bought by the person I was in a relationship previously, which now – inevitably – feels like a previous life. He adorned this tree with multicoloured lights, delighting in the in-your-face garish look. I tried. I mean I really did try, to get on board with enjoying this side of the festivities. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?
One year – I think maybe the last year of our relationship – I was up in the loft, retrieving these decorations he loved so much. There were at least two large boxes, as well as the tree itself. I hoisted the boxes down using shoulders, elbows, and even my head to balance them while he had ‘important’ things to be seen to, on the sofa. We unpack the boxes and a few hours later he looks around and says ‘where’s the tree?’. I get into trouble for not bringing it down but somehow he didn’t make the trip up there to retrieve it himself, so we have our last of five Christmases living together, pink tree free.
I realise I do have a habit of being a bit extreme; of being vilified in my food choices; of being overwhelmingly passionate about physical activity and refusing to drive two miles even though my body is screaming for rest. I’m trying to change this habit. Perhaps I should be less derogatory of my ex who was extreme in his interest of decorations (or maybe I’m not ready for that yet!). And perhaps I will change my mind and decide to exchange presents at this time of year again, but for now I have a huge sense of relief. I look ahead to next week and plan how I will manage my health around social occasions, as much as is possible. I don’t have to get distracted about where I’ve squirrelled away wrapped presents or jars of chutney, or make spreadsheets to ensure I didn’t give my Mum the same ‘I love Marmite’ mug I gave her last year.
I think perhaps I have to go to extremes to then inch back from them, to find that comfortable balance. Perhaps that’s what this country is doing right now. Whether it’s inches or leaps, how do we find the right balance in the world with ourselves or others? It’s not an easy answer but I hope wherever you are, you’re happy either with or without, a pink Christmas tree.