How are you coping? I have an hour this morning to sort out the presents. I’ve given myself an hour to blitz the present cupboard and assign the stuff! When I say stuff, I mean thoughtful and hopefully, generous presents ~ in other words stuff! After the early years of severe illness, I had times when I was too ill to buy any presents which was an awful feeling. After that first experience of feeling dreadful about it all, I always did Christmas early. Everything was bought and sorted by the early summer. Being very organised made me feel safer. I love making lists and ticking off the jobs, was a joy.

      When I was sad about the losses in our health, I would remind myself that I had experienced many happy normal festive seasons in my childhood. I reminded myself that I was always loved. I reminded myself that my parents were sensitive enough to instruct me not to brag to the children in my class about the presents I had received just in case those classmates hadn’t had much. I think that might just be one of the most impressive examples of parenting ever!

      Even with all these powers of positive thinking there were many years when people would bound up to me and ask, “Did you have a lovely Christmas?” I never knew what to say, so I did a big smile and asked them about their joy. It worked well because it didn’t seem fair to say the truth. My truths were neither glamorous nor even near normal. Can you imagine their response if I had said: “I lay on an inflating-bed all afternoon trying not to let my little Mummy choke;  I visited my neighbour in the hospice; Kev’s at work and I had to write three funeral services for tragic situations,” or my all-time favourite: “I did well to avoid an ambulance.” The term a lovely Christmas had an entirely different meaning for so many of us because it became about the wealth of normal days and not worrying about an out-of-hours doctor. (Do not get me started on the stress of finding a pharmacy that had the correct prescription for end-of-life care during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. That was stress on an epic scale.)

      For years I found December particularly demanding. Most people understand the huge risk of Covid infections with gatherings. We had that for decades earlier with normal bugs, coughs and flu. The only goal I had in the 1990s was to attend a Carol service and then guess what ~ someone came over, hugged me and left all their nasty germs circulating. On that particular occasion, it triggered a particularly vicious reaction and I only came out of the bedroom when the bulbs were surfacing. That Carol service wasn’t worth those weeks of endurance. Neither is any party for you now. Therefore, I beseech you to be more careful than you would normally.                    

      I could tell you a dozen sadder statements, but I won’t because this is about your coping not mine. But if you’re stressing about stuff that won’t matter in a month’s time then knowing the above might just help you have some peace. Having a perspective about our situations always helps our thinking. It helps us to realise that almost always, we are fortunate. It helps us to realise that there are always people looking at us and thinking that they would love to have our challenges. It helps us to realise that we are managing much more than we think.

      Now here’s an interesting part ~ Ivy loved working at Christmas. She used to say that when she was alone in the world, being in a ward of recovering people with Carol Singers and Santa was the most joyous place. She was good at finding silver linings. Although she wouldn’t want you to go near a well in the middle of the Gobi Desert. (Find out what happened on Christmas day whilst she was in China!

      This year I decided I had to stop the dread. The sadness of not being involved in kiddies’ activities, big family parties, Church life or social events was no longer going to seep away my well hours. Therefore, here is my list of managing so far and I hope it helps.

  • Bought the Christmas Radio Times and marker pen.
  • Decided that I am never ever making any more Advent calendars until I meet the next wonderful child or person and it starts again!
  • Got a tiny Christmas tree and covered it with plastic sunflowers to avoid the loft and energy needed to sort out decorations.
  • Found some sticker things for the window which look amazing and took virtually no energy to put up.
  • Have worn Christmas jumper as often as possible.
  • Have taken the greatest joy in seeing people buy my books for their loved ones this Christmas ~ especially their mothers. My Mother would rejoice in that fact, as would Granny Ive.
  • Kev said he most wanted a Cornish pastie on Christmas Day!
  • Dad said he wanted to visit Marion’s plaque and listen to King’s College choir.
  • I just want us in one piece and united. I want the same for you.

Top ten tips for your coping.

  1. Decide what is wise for you to manage. Plan something that is very easy and safe. Don’t be pressed (however kindly intended) into things that aren’t safe.
  2. Remember that you’re probably much better off than millions of people.
  3. If you can have a chat about presents with people you love, then do it early. Sometimes it is a relief when you bring up the subject! Sometimes they might want to have a year off gifts or just do a daft thing for a fiver kind of gift!
  4. Save energy and resources with reusable bags or some green alternative.
  5. Reduce your exposure to seeing the perfect images on social media or telly.
  6. Parties, presents and any other palaver matter so little.
  7. All that matters is you and your loved ones are safe and well.
  8. A New Year is coming and your potential is wonderful.
  9. From now on the nights are getting lighter!
  10.  I said at the start of this blog that I had an hour to sort things out and now I’ve just spent it writing this for you! May I have another one just to skive out of the wrapping? Oh, and Mr Dinsdale has just started to reorganise my present piles with his extensive knowledge to make life just a bit more interesting! The likelihood of that Cornish pastie might be getting lower by the second!

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