When I was a child, I used to feel sad when Christmas and the New Year were over. For some strange reason, I also used to feel afraid. Although I can understand why a child would feel sad that the fun and festivities had come to an end, the feeling of fear doesn’t quite make sense. It was a fear of a whole blank year stretching out ahead; it was a fear of the unknown; it was a fear that the happiness wouldn’t return; it was mourning the loss of an oasis, when the ordinary, everyday could be forgotten.  But wasn’t it strange for a child to experience that fear?

Then I grew up, got married, became a mother, took on more and more responsibility, especially that of making Christmas special for everybody (alone, as husband just sat back), and it became stressful. There was a pressure to get it perfect, that I was responsible for everyone else’s enjoyment; irrational, but there all the same.  And that took away the pleasure for me and I always breathed a sigh of relief when I took down the Christmas cards and put away the tree. Now I only had the normal, everyday pressures to deal with – alone.

Today I’ve started thinking about that childhood mourning. Why? Why for the first time since my early teens has it come into my head?

Because I’ve just removed all signs of Christmas and instead of feeling the normal relief, I feel sad and afraid and I’m mourning the loss of the oasis that has been the past two weeks. Why? Why this return of those childhood feelings?

To begin with, although Christmas was sad, because we weren’t together as the proper family we should be, which is my fault because I’m ‘the one who is splitting up the family’, it was also happy. Happy because I spent time with my children, and my sister, and my friends, and a special friend. And I didn’t even attempt to make anything perfect because there was no way it could be made perfect so why bother trying?  And in a funny kind of way, that made it better. I didn’t have to do everything alone, I didn’t have to slave away feeling resentful while husband sat there with his feet up, I didn’t have to persuade him to come out with us or join in, I didn’t have to put up with his drinking or sitting miserably with my family and wanting to go home. I forgot all about him and got on with my life.

I spent time with people who want to be with me. I went walking with my sister and her dog and a friend on more than one occasion, ending up in cosy pubs, drinking mulled wine.  I went to London with my daughter, visited Covent Garden, saw the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and had lunch.  I went to the theatre with a friend, heading to the West End on the off chance we’d get tickets for something, and we did and I had a great spontaneous evening. I went out for breakfast and lunch with my daughters and we talked about our lives and our hopes.

And it was an oasis in a difficult time and I could forget about my problems for a couple of weeks. But now it’s back to reality and the year ahead contains so much uncertainty and husband doesn’t want to discuss things so communication is impossible and it’s always down to me to instigate difficult conversations and I’m mourning the limbo land of the holiday season.

But when I took down the tree, I thought: hopefully, next year, this tree will be going up in my new place: a place where family and friends will be welcome, and laughter and fun will be allowed.

So, despite my circumstances being difficult, I had a much happier, better Christmas and New Year than I’ve had for a long time.  I spent time with people who mean a lot to me and I went…

dancing with another.

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