An Extravaganza of Heartache

I’ve had a very uneasy relationship with the forced fake frivolity of Christmas celebrations for most of my adult life.

This year will be my 55th Christmas on this earth and I think it’s probably time I sorted it all out for myself psychologically once and for all. Basically the generally recognised concept of a traditional family Christmas represents for me an extravaganza of heartache, not happiness. The main issue seems to be that in my head I long ago internalised a highly idealised, fixed-focus view of how Christmas should be that is truly troublesome for me; a view I dispute and disagree with fundamentally and that has never been my personal desired reality anyway.

My extrovert mum loves (and has always loved) all the surface trappings and trimmings of a traditional family Christmas – the bigger the better. She puts up several different-sized Christmas trees over the entire house, creates Christmas dioramas, adds copious amounts of Christmas decorations all over, and really goes to town with a flurry of festive present-planning and seasonal socialising. Her vision has always been that everyone joins in harmoniously and ‘does their bit’ to help her create and fulfil her ideal dream of a wonderfully happy family life – the more the merrier in all things Christmassy.

However anyone who doesn’t share her overly-enthusiastic view – and ‘anyone’ here historically means her introvert depressive daughter, in other words, me – rather than being left alone in peace to do their own thing is accused of deliberately ‘spoiling Christmas for everyone else’. Yet another nit-picking nail added to my life-long ‘not good enough’ coffin. So it has aways felt to me that my birth family’s one-size-fits-all, over-the-top approach to Christmas celebrations was created as an added challenge to force people-pleasing me yet again to consider others’ desires while ignoring my own personal preferences.

Over the years, as my own children grew up and created their own scattered versions of Christmas after their father and I divorced, it gradually became far easier for me simply to say ‘I don’t do Christmas’ and to withdraw from it all wholesale than to stand up and say to my parents ‘I won’t continue to be party to the painful pretence of perfection that requires the aggressive application of emotional blackmail and behavioural manipulation channeled in my direction in order to create an illusion of familial festive fun for the rest of you at the cost of my personal sense of worth’. Because after all, why spoil things for everyone else…

But surely by now and at my age there should be ample room in my head for many different, equally legitimate ways to spend Christmas? Why in my mind’s eye does it still have to be an extrovert extravaganza or nothing? Why isn’t the offer of peace and goodwill to all men a two-way street in my brain, why should I continue to feel I should always be the one expected to sacrifice my peace and offer my goodwill all the time to make others feel better? What’s wrong with me as a depressive introvert preferring to spend Christmas quietly, intimately, differently, and not necessarily alone – but still being allowed to celebrate Christmas in my own way? And the answer, of course, is ‘nothing’.

I’ve been working so hard this year to try to finally lay that old ‘not good enough’ coffin to rest, and part of that ongoing exercise is to re-evaulate my difficult and decidedly dysfunctional relationship with all things Christmas. So this year I’m going to try to resist the resistance and actively embrace the concept of Christmas with compassion and consideration for my own happiness, and see where my newborn confidence takes me… ❤

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Daily Prompt: Age

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m going to be 54 years old.

People say you’re only as old as you feel, that age is just a number, but I disagree. I think there’s a lot to be said for accepting our chronological reality just as it is. My body certainly knows it’s 54 years old – my joints ache a lot more these days, my skin is wrinkled and sagging, my hair is visibly greying, and I’m kind of ok with that.

My children are now 35, 34, and 32, and my grandchildren are aged 15, six, four, and we also have two two-year-olds born three months apart. I remember even when I was a young adult always expecting there to be an older, wiser, more sensible adult around – but I can’t remember the last time I felt that way, and I’m kind of ok with that, too.

Part of the problem of living in a capitalist, consumer-driven culture is that we only tend to value people properly during their financially-productive years. Children don’t matter, and retired people are immaterial, unless they’re rich of course – and as for unemployed people, well… basically money talks, and without it we are socially silenced, disempowered.

So many of us strive to build our identities and generate our feelings of self-worth based only on what we do for a living rather than how we choose to live our lives with others, as if our individual social status – our financial worth – is our all. But I’m really not ok with that – where is the common community spirit, the compassion for others, the concern for humanity, the love?

In a world of rampant individualism, where we all want to be seen to be the biggest, the best, the richest, the most powerful, I think we’ve lost some of the inherent beauty in welcoming ageing within our natural lifespan and the absolute joy that can bring. We feel we need to look the part of a productive player at all times, so create the illusion of continued youthfulness at all costs.

Yet here I am, a happily-ageing mother and grandmother, extremely proud of my beautiful children and my grandchildren above all else I may have achieved in my life – they are my preferred markers of wealth, my precious human capital, and personally I feel all the richer for their existence… ❤

Daily Prompt: Age 

 

Bread & Butter Blogging

I’m feeling a bit stuck at the moment – stuck with my life and stuck with my blog. When things get tough in the real world I tend to close in on myself a bit, withdraw to the essentials, and as my virtual me is very much part of my flesh-and-bones me I find I’m really having to try hard with a conscious determination to create any words or images worthy of sharing in my blog world.

So what you all see here just now is a kind of half-hearted bread & butter style of basic blogging – posting nothing much of interest beyond the barest minimum standard for survival. I’m going to keep slogging away at it all though, because I’d rather keep things ticking over with my boring old blog until real life gives me a break and I feel able to embrace everything fun with my full attention once more.

I might even shake everything up a bit experimentally in the interim, try altering what and when and why I post to see if that helps stimulate my creative motivation. Get away from the same old routines and habits that right now feel like ruts in the road, find something new to do with my camera or my crochet hook or paintbrush or pen and share the results, good and bad.

Because the bottom line is that there needs to be more to living than simply existing, and sometimes it’s all too easy for me to forget that simple fact…

Hormones, Headaches & Hot Flushes

Earlier this year I’d hoped my menopausal hot flushes were becoming more and more infrequent and finally fading away as my female hormone levels depleted further, but although I’ve probably had a good six months or so without experiencing much thermostatic discomfort at all I’m recently finding myself having annoyingly regular hot flushes again. Not as bad or happening as often as before, but they are proving to be exceedingly irksome nonetheless.

I so dislike that uncomfortably sticky feeling of being saturated head to toe in a slick sheen of salty sweat regardless of external temperatures. Even my hair roots feel soaked and errant droplets trickle ticklishly down my spine. When I first feel the flush racing through me I try to strip off as much as I can for the duration in an attempt to cool off – not possible to do at work – but even at home there is generally little relief to be had. And as the dank dampness dries off my skin soon starts to itch all over, adding a further external dimension to my already surging internal irritation.

And as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, a flurry of frequent hot flushes inevitably coincides with an increase in hormonally-charged headaches, leaving me hot and bothered and grumpy – not a pleasant combination. I can’t help but wonder if my glaring stress levels are linked somehow to my flaring hormone levels, because it’s as if the more my stress has built up, the more my hormones have been playing up, too…

As with everything else going on in life at the moment, I know that this situation too shall pass, but oh how I wish it would all just hurry the hell up and get on with it! 🙂

Daily Post: Gremlins

Life feels beset by gremlins right now. Frustrating financial and long-term legal gremlins, hateful health gremlins, pernicious past gremlins, all ganging up together all at once chattering with impish glee and giving me a horrendous headache of epic proportions. It feels like time is playing gremlin games with me too – good things whipping past over the top of my head spinning like a whirlwind, bad things sucking me down slowly, thick as treacle and just as troublesome. I tell myself something has to give soon, and I just hope above hope that ‘thing’ does not turn out to be me…

Daily Post: Gremlins

Familiar Disappointment…

I’m quite a practical person at heart – I do feel things intensely but in a crisis tend to hold my emotions in check while I get my functional coping mechanism into gear and get on quietly in the background with whatever is needed to deal with any particular situation with minimal fuss and bother. And only once things are dealt with to the best of my ability and the crisis point has passed do I feel safe to withdraw and allow myself precious time for my own personal falling apart and crying in private.

Sadly for me, some female members of my immediate family prefer to take the overtly dramatic approach to crisis management – the kind of oh-woe-is-me, hand-wringing, over-the-top sob-stuff that revolves more around their own internal centrifugal certainties than any external peripheral-to-them realities. They tend to measure alleged levels of caring and concern only against their own suitably inflated yardstick of public suffering and pseudo-self-flagellation, as if nothing else could possibly count.

Although in some ways family crises can bring us closer together, they can also serve to further highlight those distances and differences that have marked me out as decidedly deficient and difficult to understand over the years. I’m a troubled, troubling introvert in a gossiping family of attention-seeking drama-queens, and however much I tell myself I don’t ever have to apologise for simply being myself, even now in my fifties I still feel keenly the familiar disappointment of my constant failure to fit in…

Big, Bold & Blue

bold-and-blue

Although my distance vision is still reasonably fine for my age (53 and counting), my near vision has been deteriorating since my mid-forties and for the last five years or so I’ve needed glasses for close-up work – reading, writing, sewing, painting, photography and using both my laptop and mobile phone.

Recently even with my glasses on I’ve been struggling to focus on tiny details close up, so yesterday I finally had my eyes tested again and sure enough, my old original prescription was way off – oops!

I decided to find new frames, so have chosen something very big, bold, and blue. They’re a lot more immediately noticable than my last frames but I like them, they’re really comfortable to wear and and most importantly everything close up is focused clearly instead of being slightly fuzzy and blurry – much better! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Focused 

One Liner Wednesday: Hammers and Nails

Abraham Maslow wrote in ‘Toward a Psychology of Being’ in 1962;

‘I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail’.

I think that’s something we’re all guilty of to a certain extent – we come at life with all the biases and preconceptions and stereotypical judgements inherent in our family, our culture and our society, as well as the cumulated tacit knowledge gained through our own life experience.

We tell ourselves we make objective, logical decisions based only on what we see before us, but without really thinking subjectively about why we see what we see; without really appreciating how often we actually respond emotionally to what we expect to see, and therefore react accordingly. It stands to reason that if the only tool we carry is a hammer, why on earth would we see anything in front of us but nails, because that’s what we’re equipped for dealing with at source?

So many of us carry around daily our invisible (yet potentially destructive) emotionally triggered hammers without even realising it, oblivious to anything other than our own distorted worldview and blindly believing it emphatically to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

For example I know I have a hugely problematic lack of trust of all people I perceive to be in authority over me – my life experience to date has taught me that people who claim to be acting for me generally have their own best interests at heart, not mine. From parents to past life-partners to politicians, I now expect to be let down as I have been before and often feel defensively that an aggressive pre-emptive strike is my safest option – I effectively aim to take them down before they take me.

But in recognising that pattern of expectation, in realising that it is in fact me being pre-armed with my invisible hammer that makes me see everyone in authority as a prospective nail to be hammered down and bent into shape, I can at least try to temper my reaction each time a similar situation arises, giving myself time to make a more informed choice about the reality of the perceived threat in front of me before whacking the hell out of some poor innocent bystander caught up in my twisted version of truth…

One Liner Wednesday

Busy Doing Nothing

If I do nothing of any consequence today, what will happen? Will the sky fall in? Will the heavens open and lightening strike me down? Will my parents disapprove? ‘Probably not’ is the potential answer to the first two, and ‘Most definitely, but thankfully they’re not here to see me’ applies to the third. So why in my mid-fifties do I still have such a massive emotional problem with the idea of deliberately doing nothing for a day?

I’m a grown woman, sitting here in my own home, with nothing overly pressing to do. I’m not working today, we have food in the fridge, I did the laundry yesterday, and I’m not going to suffer unduly if I fail to run a duster over any hard surfaces and a vacuum over anything softer for a couple of days or so. I’m currently sitting curled up on the sofa with my laptop balanced on my knees, and already I’m feeling guilty.

Why is keeping constantly busy considered to be such a valued activity when measured against the ignominy of effectively lazing about doing nothing? I contemplate the necessity of telling myself I don’t feel well, or I’m overly tired, or find some other kind of self-justification for my planned inaction. But what is so wrong with me admitting to myself that I just don’t want to do anything much today, for no justifiable reason?

I don’t even want to be creative and go out and take photographs, or draw or paint, or write poetry – I just want to rest idly, let my mind wander as it will, and let the world pass me by. So I’ve decided that today I choose to value resting over the appearance of enforced activity simply because society expects it from me – but as society rewards busyness over idleness, perhaps I’ll simply consider myself busy doing nothing instead 🙂

A Hard Slog…

Life can feel like such a hard slog sometimes, where everything seems to be closing in on me, clamouring for attention until there is just no relief to be found anywhere. Right now I feel unsettled and on edge and out of sorts and plagued by a deep-seated tiredness. Not the satisfactory muscle-aching sting of physical exhaustion that comes from many hours of hard active labour, but the all-pervasive world-weary emotional apathy that permeates every fragile fibre of my being and seeps like rising damp into my soul.

Nothing seems to alleviate or ameliorate my current condition. I try applying all those creative little tricks and tips I’ve amassed over the years to cheer myself up and chivvy myself on when the going gets tough, but to no avail. Right now more than anything else I feel tired of feeling tired all the time. I go to bed tired, I toss and turn and struggle through too few hours of restorative sleep, and then I wake up again tired and unrefreshed. My whole body aches dull and dismal, my joints creak and cry out, my skin sulks sullen and stagnant.

I simply feel overwhelmed by it all, my brain busy trying to continue to fire on all four cylinders whilst not only has my internal battery effectively drained so low it has lost the ability to recharge itself but also my spark plugs have become constantly crudded up with extraneous crap. It feels as if I’ve lost my drive like some clapped-out old engine coughing and spluttering along on a rusty old chassis, elevating even the simplest and mundane of life’s everyday journeys into something more reminiscent of the Labours of Hercules.

But however depleted my drive may be at the moment, thankfully my determination has stayed impressively intact. So as ever I hold on to the hope that in time this too shall pass, the hard slog will eventually ease off and I’ll start to see the light at the end of the tunnel again. And in the meantime I’ll just get on with it all as best I can, travelling this long and winding road slowly but surely with the sole focus of not blowing a gasket, having my wheels fall off, or otherwise breaking down along the way… 🙂

Daily Promp: Elevate