My Christmas from the Obamas
As it’s Christmas soon, I read a self-help book the other day, full of Toltec wisdom about how to escape needless suffering and be kind to people. I like such books, until the part where they inevitably say something completely and massively mental. True to form, after my initial excitement at turning the pages of wisdom and joy, this Toltec one did not fail me in the department of massive mentalness:
"Every human is a magician," it said, somewhere in chapter three, "and we can either put a spell on someone with our word or we can release someone from a spell. We cast spells all the time with our opinions. An example: I see a friend and give him an opinion that just popped into my mind. I say, 'Hmmm! I see that kind of color in your face in people who are going to get cancer.' If he listens to the word, and if he agrees, he will have cancer in less than one year. That is the power of the word."
It’s hard to keep reading any book that suggests you can give someone a potentially fatal disease just by telling them they’re looking a bit cancer-y. But it's even harder to persevere with one that also sets a statute of limitations as to when this potentially fatal disease will strike. So I gave up reading the book and thought about all the advice that might actually help you if you’re looking towards the end of year celebrations with a mixture of excitement and dread. Or just dread. Because let’s face it, there are many reasons to feel happy at this time of year, but there are many to feel like the Christmas tree who got run over by a fork-lift at the B&Q warehouse, left for dead wedged beneath a discount shed, never to see even a single bauble. Christmas isn’t easy for everyone. It can make you feel all your feelings, and some of those feelings might be very familiar to you, but that doesn’t mean they’re your friends. So.
CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL TIP #1 – Going home for Christmas, uncertain of what "home" now means? Going to a work party where you’re convinced that everyone thinks you’re a dick? Worried about being a burden on your friends, being a sad lonely drunk, not having any money to get decent presents with?
When heading into an emotionally taxing situation, my friend C advises to pretend you are an alien from a faraway planet, merely here to take notes on how they do things on Planet Earth. It’s just an observational exercise, you’ve only stepped out of your rocket for a few hours, couple of days. Nothing matters, you're just taking a look at how they are doing things on this particular patch of this particular planet right now. It might even be OK to join in for a minute or two. Reach into the valve that opens your heart. Let a little starlight out. Then fly the fuck away again.
CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL TIP #2 – If you are going to family for Christmas, and the set-up makes you feel weird for whatever reason, think about the people in there bathed in golden light before you open the front door. Focus on them before you arrive, and see that golden light crowning the tops of their heads. This is the opposite of telling people they look like they’re going to get cancer. This is just nice. And nice things breed nice things until we all end up happy, whether we like it or not. Alternatively, you might still get shouted at, and told that they’ve never been sure of your commitment to this family at all, and that your dad isn’t your real dad and you look like a fat minger in that skirt, but still, at least your mind will be full of golden things, not the mad rantings of the street drinkers who have temporarily taken over the bodies of your closest relatives.
CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL TIP #3 – Alright, so you tried the golden light thing but your buttons got pushed anyway. The adult you walked in as has instantly been deflated into the snarling, frustrated 12-year-old you once were, waiting for your true genius to be recognised by these infidels. Well, those are just feelings; your body’s rehearsed response to stimuli. And those feelings can be let go of to float around somewhere beside you, in what I like to think of as the great big colostomy bag of Christmas. Know that your colostomy bag is going to fill up this Christmas time, and you will have to clean it out, and then it will fill up again, and you will have to clean it out again. Watch those feelings go steaming into that bag and out again. This is the way of things. It’s OK. It’s quite normal. It’s just shit.
CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL TIP #4 – If that doesn’t work, then entertain thoughts of death. I do not mean you are to kill yourself. Please, for the love of all that is the internet, do not kill yourself, or write a blog or start a YouGov petition saying that some stupid bird at VICE said you should kill yourself. All I mean is that, if you just find things a bit miserable sometimes, it’s quite nice to think about how you could just make it all stop. About once a week I tell myself, I could just make this all not be a massive, arse-grinding, heart-aching problem any more. A quiet thud of darkness. Gone. And then, after that short hypothetical journey into melodrama, the day gets much better. The wind feels keener, but cleverer, the trees seem to hold their branches up into the sky like an offering. A small kindness suddenly means a lot, as I lay my weapons down.
CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL TIP #5 – Fight causes, not people. As a political tactic, this might not work. But it'll sure give you a bit of peace for the next three weeks.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @heawood