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.”, ‘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


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?

The wisdom of aging …

Wise old owl

Over seven years ago, I decided I’d had enough of dyeing my hair.  I ‘d been resisting my ‘greyness’ for so long, and didn’t even know how much was there, or what my ‘real’ colour was any more.  Every six weeks I would visit the hairdresser to have my roots coloured, and every other visit I would also have ‘highlights’ put in.

At the age of 46, in my first year of immigration to New Zealand, I decided enough was enough – I’d reached a stage where I felt ‘comfortable’ with my ‘self’, so much so that I decided to embrace my age instead of being fearful of it.  I didn’t want to look 20 years younger, and importantly I didn’t want to keep paying all that money to try and make myself someone I wasn’t – I’d heard a scare about the possibilities of hair dye and cancer which pushed me a little too.

I had my hair cut very short, and a few ‘blonde’ highlights put in to soften the change as the grey grew out.  I’d hated those unsightly roots when they grew back, and it was so liberating not to have to worry about them anymore.  Most people (generally women) were aghast when they heard that I was ‘embracing my grey’ and couldn’t comprehend why I would do such a thing.

You’re never too old

Two months later, I met the love of my life, Barry, and we married in 2009.  So that talk I’d heard so often about ‘loving yourself’ before you can truly love someone else, was true after all!

I’ve been invited to talk about ‘Life Coaching’ to a group called ‘The University of the Third Age’ or U3A, here in Gisborne, New Zealand.  The person who asked me initially to present, wondered whether there would be anything to interest older people in ‘Life Coaching’.  “Of course!”, said I.  “We’re never too old to let go of anything that’s holding us back or to embrace change and find more life in our lives.”

One of the ways of preparing for this talk was to post on my Facebook page a ‘call to action’ – here it is and responses I received:

On 7th March I’ve been invited to talk to around 60, over 60 year olds, about ‘Life Coaching’.

 What are your thoughts on growing older, maturing, being an ‘elder’?

 What words spring to mind when you think of life after 60?

I’d really appreciate your feedback and comments …”

Respect, I definitely feel that the ‘youngsters’ have no respect for their elders anymore, don’t know that that’s going to help you though.”

 “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige

It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. ~Brigitte Bardot

Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~Robert Browning

You can’t turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again. ~Bonnie Prudden”

 “Funny I have quite a few friends that over 60 and they are as active and some are musicians, teachers and artist and they and myself most definitely don’t even think of them being over 60 lol Some people are definitely growing older and maturing others are just living life to the fullest and they most certainly don’t look like they are in their 60’s lol.

I think it would be how old would you think I was if you didn’t know how old I was!!!

“We don’t stop having fun because we get old; we get old because we stop having fun.’ – unknown. There is a wonderful story that does the email rounds from time to time about an elderly lady who is entering a retirement home. The nurse describes her room to her on the way up, and the elderly lady says ‘I love it already’. The nurse said, ‘But you haven’t seen it yet’. The elderly lady said it wasn’t how the furniture was arranged that would determine whether she loved her room or not; it was the way she arranged her thoughts.”

“It might seem more difficult to find things to appreciate as we get older, but it is the secret to being content with life. A good reminder is that the alternative to growing old, is dying young!

“I remember my mother telling me on her 70th birthday ‘I never wanted to get old’ – she died at 99! When I reached my 70th birthday I wondered whether or not I would live until I was 99 as my mother did. We had two things in common, firstly the desire to have a peaceful death (my mother did), and secondly to enjoy the time we have left – and for that I honestly don’t think you need life coaching; you’ve already had it!” 

“I’m 60 a week on Saturday and don’t feel any different to what I did at 30 or 40, all just numbers really. I don’t think I have any notion of death or nearing closer to it, sometimes I wonder if I am a live or is what I am doing just a dream in death … weird really, and certainly don’t care about dying personally. What I am looking forward to is becoming even older maybe the 80 age and being able to say and do things and get away with them as it being an age thing … or does that not happen lol is it just in my head that I accept old people and their semi senility.” 

“Clapped out but still dancing?”

 “Age and wisdom don’t always go hand in hand. Respect should be given unconditionally, but that is only learnt through experience. Experience isn’t about longevity, some people hang on to their preconceptions and prejudices their whole lives. Being over sixty is no different to being under sixty, except in the way you perceive yourself. Don’t think about a change in life because of a birthday, think about a party and the lovely range of people who could be there – of all ages.”

 “Gets a bit scary when the NHS start to bombard you with Cancer smear tests and bowel cancer tests in the week you turn 60!!!!

Also, one reaches 60 to be told sorry dear you can’t retire you need to work another 23/4 years now till you get your pension! No free bus pass now till one gets ones pension but free NHS for prescriptions!”

 “If it’s not fun or profitable…don’t do it!”

 “Hi Sandra saw you thing about 60s plus. Interesting – I think old age will be a totally different experience in years to come. Why .. Technology! Not just wellbeing, mobility and aids to living – but web access / twitter / FB / movies on demand / gaming etc. think our generation will be the tech oldies!”

 “I feel a bit guilty about being 60 plus (63 actually) for all of 5 seconds.  My children will never have the retirement I am having so I feel I owe it to myself to make the most of it.  What really annoys me is that they think because you are older that you want to settle for second best.  Well we don’t, we want to enjoy every opportunity that is given to us.  Take what ever you enjoy and makes you happy and do it.  After all it is only a number and that number doesn’t necessarily exist in your mind only sometimes in the joints!”

Some fascinating responses, diverse and similar all at the same time.  We all have different ways of approaching aging …

I also spoke with an inspirational woman from California, by the wonders of Skype, who started a business in her 60s called the ‘You University‘ .  She and her husband lost all of their retirement savings and considered committing suicide at one point rather than asking for help – but they managed, by various means, to change their viewpoint about what it is to age and now, in the ‘Age of Happiness’ blog it’s reported:

It had taken Maia and Bart nearly a lifetime to find their callings. The path towards them had cost a fortune. Maia and Bart are convinced that it was a reasonable price.”

Another way of informing my talk is by reading ‘Ram Dass: Still Here: Embracing aging, changing and dying’, which really resonates with my beliefs and is giving me greater respect for aging, as well as letting go of our consumer driven society, which judges us more on what we DO than WHO we ARE – mainly because most people are so busy they don’t really know!

Letting go of ‘stuff’

I’m also de-cluttering our possessions as Barry and I are making the move to England in just over two weeks, and plan to be there for the forseeable future.  There’s something very cathartic about letting go of the need for ‘stuff’, both literally and metaphorically, and I can feel my life becoming simpler.

I’m also letting go of my ‘career’ as a midwife – in spite of still occasionally feeling that it would be ‘safer’ to keep doing it, I know I can earn a good salary doing that, even though I know I’ve ‘grown out’ of the passion that it used to evoke in me.

However I know so many people who’ve spent their lives working hard to build up a career and save for their pension, and never manage to change even though they dream of doing so – then when it comes to leaving the role that they’ve become, they’re left in despair and don’t know what to ‘do’ with themselves.  Because they’ve been so busy making a living that they forgot to make a life!

As I grow and mature as a Holistic Life Coach, I’m inspired by the changes clients make towards letting go of the need for filling their life with work because they’re too afraid of facing change in their career and/or personal life.

And I’m really looking forward to talking with these elders about Life Coaching and what resonates with them – I’m sure there’s going to be much wisdom to be gained …

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?