Christmas cheer: pending

I want to write about something that happens to me at Christmas time - aside from gaining three stone, getting reunited with my overdraft and questioning if the fact that I don’t like Christmas songs makes me a monster.

The majority of us associate Christmas with the epitome of everything that’s good in life: family, indulgence and fun. But the fact that many people around the world aren’t as privileged as us can seep into our consciousness. 

We're reminded by the media that a lot of people will be spending Christmas alone. We’re told by mental health charities that this is a particularly precarious time of year. We’re told to feel gratitude alongside the sleepy, lethargic haze we feel in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year. We're told by adverts that the most important parts of Christmas can't be bought. (Except they can and we should buy them from our nearest John Lewis).

My annual festive anticipation has now started to merge with reality as I being piling things up on top of my suitcase in preparation to leave the flat I live in and go home for Christmas. I’m reminded that everything good in my life will be coming together, culminating in a week of family, nostalgia, familiarity, food, the reminder that I’m loved and a fridge that doesn’t smell of death.

It’s back to my little family. (There aren’t very many of us but that makes them extra special.) But as soon as I’m reminded that I should be grateful for them, the anticipation forms an uneasy edge.

Happiness is an overused word and a seemingly elusive state. There's so much contradicting, convoluted information on how to reach it and keep it, despite it sounding so simple. 

Practising gratitude is said to be one of the most important things we can do to achieve happiness. Others may not have a family as welcoming, a present as big or a house as warm. But when I’m reminded to be grateful for the privileges I enjoy that others all over the world don't, it makes me afraid to lose what I have and guilty that I have it. 

Buddhist teachings say that to reach enlightenment, one must have an unattachment to the very things they're grateful for, and accept their impermanence. But being acutely aware of the things in my life I should feel grateful for makes me want to grab them by both hands and attach myself like a leech.

Making a conscious effort to be grateful means reminding yourself of why you’re lucky. But there’s a certain fear that comes with this and it's along the same lines as not being able to enjoy your new job because you’re too afraid of losing it. 

To summarise, the moral of this blog post is: what you really should do this Christmas is absorb yourself in all things materialistic, enjoy your presents and see your family and friends as a nice bonus. And remember: not liking Christmas songs doesn't make you a psychopath. Does it?