Bah! Humbug!
Posted by dirkgently1066
11th Dec 2015

Inevitably at this time of year our thoughts turn towards Christmas, a time of family, happiness and celebration.

I wrote a blog last year, exploring why I found the season difficult, trying to frame a context around what often seems to be a time of low mood in juxtaposition to the season.

12 months on, what has changed? Those same feelings assail me, the same pressure to ‘perform’ or to get Christmas ‘right.’ Perhaps though I have developed a little more of an understanding of it.

The run up to Christmas is inherently stressful as we rush to get presents, put up decorations and remember to send a card to everyone we’ve ever spoken to. But I find that my stress level goes above the norm, anxiety kicking into overdrive. Why?

The root cause is perfectionism.

It is not sufficient to have a ‘good’ Christmas. It is not sufficient to be good enough. Instead I repeatedly ask what the kids want, first to ensure I get it, then to check they still want it. Being kids they change their minds as quick as the adverts appear on the tv and by trying to keep up I am playing a game I can never win. And so I enter Christmas day not with a sense of joy and completeness but a sense of fear that I have failed to deliver, scrutinising faces for a crack of disappointment, scouring the internet for Boxing Day bargains so that I can fill the void of disappointment and make up for my woeful parenting, all the while second guessing whether I have spent too much or not enough.

I understand the ludicrousness of the statement. I understand the irrationality. But the thoughts are there all the same, bubbling their way to the surface, constantly having to be squashed back down. Whatever I do, however much I buy, it can never be good enough for this self-imposed, intangible, unattainable target.

And then after the event, when the dust has settled, a new mood comes in. After the build up to the big day, a sense of deflation. I have experienced this before in the most trivial of circumstances. Cooking the Sunday roast, it is all hands to the pump as I serve up the meat, veg and gravy but instead of sitting back and enjoying the fruits of my labour, I am left with a sense of emptiness that I am at a loss to describe.

And so it is with Christmas. After the big build comes the sudden crash. Where I expect there to be satisfaction I find only absence. I do not understand this emotion. I do not understand my inability to live in and enjoy the moment.

This is not written as a means to wallow. These are not fundamental flaws in my mental make-up that cannot be touched up. I write to share, to explore and to understand. Perhaps others go through similar moods that they too do not understand. My mantra remains the same; I want to change.

And so I revisit the underlying message from last year. If I appear withdrawn, sullen, stressed or moody, I am not simply being a ‘grump.’ I want to be happy. I want to be festive.

But I need to learn how.

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