How is your run up to Christmas going?
Full of sparkle and Christmas cheer?
A bit tense and slightly panic-y?
Or full blown tailspin?
As a therapist you might be expecting me to tell you that I have things balanced pretty perfectly and give you some advice to follow in my footsteps. As you probably know if you’ve been around a while though, I’m not that sort of therapist; I am very, very human.
I have a Christmas plan. My family always try to spend Boxing Day together at my parents’ house (yes, we all prefer it to Christmas Day for some reason I’m not sure any of us ever worked out), but earlier this year Mum had a stroke and even if we did all the cooking, I thought it would either feel too much or not enough like it used to for her, so I invited everyone to our house. My partners children will be here, so that’s eleven people with a 70 year age range. I am so excited – I can’t wait. I’ve ordered all the food, I’ve planned all the cooking and I’ve realised that we don’t have enough chairs, knives and forks or plates.
The next day my partner, his boys, the dog and I will squeeze ourselves into the car and drive to his parents. His brother and family will be there from Italy – we’ve not seen them in two years and the boys haven’t met their two year old cousin yet.
And then…a Covid tailspin. My partner felt ill at the weekend and tested positive on Monday. He’s not too poorly, thank goodness; lots of flu like symptoms that he’s encouraging away with lots of sleep. He will be out of isolation next week, but if I catch it, in order to be out of isolation for Christmas I need to have caught it by today. But my test this morning was negative, and I am relieved, obviously. But now I have to cross everything that against the odds of living with someone who is poorly I won’t get it or all the Boxing Day Christmas plans go out the window and I’ll just be waving everyone off on that trip to see the rest of the family.
You might not be in the same situation – I really hope you’re not – but I bet you can identify with that feeling of having no control over something. And there are lots of feelings, aren’t there? I did angry, then sad, then tried to find things I could control then stayed really, really cross and frustrated with anything and everything.
Then yesterday I was reminded that ‘we are the product of what we put out there’, meaning that if we are happy and positive, we get that reflected at us. And if we are being a miserable cow we will fill all the space with that negativity. And I thought to myself that I just don’t need any more negativity right now – it’s not helping the situation at all, so it was time to step out of that dark place and find some light.
And yes, at 3.30am this morning things felt dark – literally and in my mind, and I lay awake for an hour wondering ‘what if I have to cancel everything?’ and then made myself consider ‘what if it all goes to plan?’ (and then how many more chairs does that mean I need?!)
There is a balance between being positive and being realistic. And sometimes people inanely telling you to ‘think positive’ just makes you want to punch their lights out. It’s ok to feel all the difficult emotions – it’s completely normal – and don’t feel that you need to squash them away for the sake of ‘being positive’. My suggestion though is to give yourself a time limit; be grumpy and wallow in the dark for a while if you need to, but not too long. Then make a conscious decision to move into the light, because actually that will only support you.
It’s what I’m doing. We can do it together if you like? I’d like some company too, because even in the light there are wobbles. Whatever happens though, for you and for me, know that there are some things we can control and some we can’t, and these feelings we’re having – we’re not alone with them.
Whatever happens, we’ll keep on keeping on, wont we?