gratitude

Christmas madness and mayhem – how deeply do you get sucked in?


IMG_4696“If everyone in the world were to live in the way we currently do in the UK we would need more than three Earths to produce the resources we would use and absorb the wastes we would generate.”

“Britain uses over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over Christmas, which produces over 83 square km of rubbish – enough to cover Guernsey.”

“The average family wastes around a third of the food they buy at Christmas.” 

~Life2.org.uk, ‘How to have a better xmas’

How are the xmas preparations going in your life? Are you being caught up in the craziness of the season, spending money you don’t have, buying things that people don’t need, just because you’re feeling under pressure to do so? Or are you using this time to take stock, step back and reflect on what’s important in your life and why?

It’s so easy to get dragged along in the frenzy of Christmas.

My husband and I choose not to have a television, but when we visit my parents, it’s on for much of the afternoon and evening. Staying with them recently, I could see where the madness and mayhem manifests for many people over Christmas via the box – those marketing messages suck you in at every turn until you believe you simply must buy, buy, buy or else.

Or else what? Or else you may be seen as a humbug, a spoilsport, a miser, a scrooge!

Northern and southern hemisphere contrasts

I’m struck by the contrasts I perceive between a British and a New Zealand Christmas. I’d forgotten until last year how crazy it gets here.

I guess it’s vastly different having Christmas in the height of summer to the middle of winter, when people are hungry for any distraction from the dark and cold, the short days and long nights.

IMG_0481For many years I’d dreamed of having a Christmas on the beach, and in 2001 I made that come true. My youngest daughter, who was taking a year out and travelling Australia, spent the festive season and her 19th birthday with me in Gisborne, NZ.

Xmas day was spent on Wainui Beach, with lunch from a BBQ fired by driftwood (at that time I wasn’t aware of the extreme fire risks of such a thing!), and we enjoyed the company of a few friends in our bikinis and santa hats. I adored it, though I can understand that for many people that would just not be seen as ‘right’.

Christmas ‘Carols in the Park’ would be held on a Sunday in December (though admittedly one year I was there it never happened due to wet weather postponements!), and we’d all gather and sit on our picnic rugs, singing carols, with children playing and waiting for Father Xmas.

Christmas memories

Reflecting back, there were many aspects of the British Christmas traditions I loved when my children were young. The three of us would gather in my bed opening presents on Christmas morning, and at that time my parents and sisters all lived close-by; so we’d share the festive season together. I also recall the immense pressure even back then (the 80s and 90s) to spend money and make sure you had a gift for everyone.

Each year I’d aim to spend less. But somehow each January (and into February!) I’d still struggle financially having gone way over budget. They were the worst months of the year.

The secrets of life

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I can only imagine the pressure on parents in the 21st century. Social media hadn’t been invented when my children were growing up. Reading the quotes from ‘How to have a better xmas‘ by Life2, I wonder what would change if those types of messages were broadcast widely – would it impact on people’s spending urges?

During my first nine-month stay in NZ, I was fortunate to experience the gift of time alone to reflect on my life. Where I’d been, who I’d become, what I wanted for my future.

And I discovered this poster from ‘Sumi’, in a shop in Napier. Since that time, it’s come everywhere with me, always on a wall where I can read it and be encouraged to acknowledge that the secrets of life are NOT about giving people ‘stuff’ they don’t need.

I recently read about ‘Crisis at Christmas’, and felt incredibly humbled and grateful for my life and loving family.

I still get sucked in every now and again, and part with my hard earned cash to buy when I really have no need to. But those times are becoming less and less, as I realise the real gifts of life cannot be bought.

How about you?

Are you stuck in your story? Ways to get out of the drama …


What's the drama of your story?

What’s the drama of your story?

They fuck you up your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

I recall reading that poem (along with another two verses) during the decade of my thirties. It was part of my ‘scrapbook’ of inspirational quotes, sayings and articles which served to motivate me as I did my best to bring my two daughters up ‘successfully’ as a single parent, while shift working as a midwife. Looking back, I’m not sure at the time I REALLY appreciated the meaning of the words. I did, however, sense their importance and hoped I wasn’t filling my children with too many of my ‘faults’!

Those children are now inspiring and beautiful adults. One of them is a parent themselves (meaning I’m a grand-mother), whilst my parents are amazingly still alive at 93 and 80 years old. I’m very aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to spend time with these special people, and continue to explore some of the limiting beliefs I’ve formed over the years.

One of these, from my perception of my father’s authoritarian position, is ‘I’m powerless’. Now he’s the one who’s relatively powerless, and my life has brought me to a place where I can support him to retain some control over his finances and destiny.  Ironically, my younger sister and I have recently signed a lasting power of attorney for if/when he becomes incapable of financial decision making.

Identifying life’s gifts amongst the drama

As my relationships strengthen and grow, with my parents, children and grandchildren, I find myself reflecting on the sentiment expressed by Mr Larkin in a much deeper way. However, I’m also recognising the importance of identifying all the gifts my parents gave me – which are varied and numerous.

Returning from NZ the first time, in 2002, I vividly recall my sudden realisation that all the striving, proving and working so hard since leaving my second husband, had been to show my dad that I was ‘good enough’ to replace the son he’d always wanted, that I wasn’t a ‘failure’ because I was born a female. I could see how much I’d missed out on by trying to be everything to everybody, thinking that if I was ‘the best’ midwife, was endlessly promoted, earned more and more money, that he’d love me. Of course this wasn’t his ‘fault’, of course he loved me, it was merely the drama I’d concocted for myself.

Since March 2011, during my ‘Holistic Life Coaching’ training and subsequently with every client I’ve had the pleasure of coaching, my story and theirs are heard and reflected upon.

It’s such a huge honour to listen to people, and realise how immensley powerful these stories have become, and what meanings we’ve given to them.

From birthing babies, and empowering midwives and women along the way, I’ve changed direction to support people to birth a new life for themselves; one that serves and nourishes them.

Now in my fifties, I find myself reflecting with my three sisters too; discovering what meaning they’ve given and carried along from their childhood, and why.

It’s fascinating!

Because when we break it down, however ‘traumatic’ and/or ‘dramatic’ we each believe our individual story to be, there will always be someone else who feels they’ve ‘had it worse’ than you.

And then, when you look at the stories your parents could have manifested into their lives which shaped and limited them, you can begin to look on the poem in yet another way.

If you can ‘get over your self’ even more, and focus on what you gained from your childhood, however ‘bad’ it may have seemed, you can enable those to strengthen and lessen the power of the drama.

Getting out of the drama

It’s not about making excuses, or feeling sorry for your parents, it’s about:

  • Standing in their shoes to feel how it would have been to walk their respective journeys
  • Accepting that we’re all human and therefore prone to fallibility
  • Realising we do the best we can, with what we know, and which resources are available to us at that time and place
  • Allowing ourselves to let go of the need to ‘hang on tight’ to staying stuck in the drama of our story
  • Reflecting on why we believed what we did and how it helped us to feel ‘safe’ at the time
  • Seeing all the amazing love and gifts your parents DID give you
  • Loving your self first and foremost, then finding it in your heart to love your parents in spite of what you feel they did or didn’t do for or to you
  • Making the most of this life – because for things to change in the ways you desire, YOU need to change

Choosing to change

We may not realise it, but we all have a choice to change.

We may believe our happiness is dependant on others, and once they change, our lives will be different and/or better.

But they have their own stories to work through and let go of.

We are responsible for getting out of our own dramas.

Alternatively we may choose to remain there, acting out the victim role and blaming everyone and everything else for whatever happened and continues to happen ‘to’ us.

Looking back, what have you made the story of your life mean to you? And importantly, what will you choose for the next chapter – and why?