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A Kinder You this Christmas

December 23, 2021

The temptation for me, as a mum, is to see myself as some sort of demi-god or Christmas elf capable and willing of being and doing everything; fulfilling every dream and making everyone happy. If I just keep saying ‘yes’ to those around me, I can perhaps convince myself that I am stronger than I am and that my turn will surely come. Someone, somewhere will surely do the same for me?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Somewhere along all those ‘yeps’ I realise I haven’t had time to think about what I need and to draw up my own healthy boundaries. The irritability sets in, the ‘untidy-ness’ around me a source of greater frustration than it should be - and perhaps a stark reminder that I need to sort out my own internal priorities first.

I have long shirked this responsibility for ‘self-care’ regarding it with confusion and suspicion. It's become a bit of a buzz word and perhaps seen as hedonistic or selfish in some circles when in fact the opposite is true. When I don't look after myself, I place the burden of care on others; often my husband, sometimes my friends. Sometimes, and grossly unfairly, I place the burden on my kids expecting them to know when 'I need a break' and to 'tiptoe' accordingly.

The deluded hope is that they’ll see just how much I’m pouring out for everyone else around me and then come to rescue me when I've gorged on the giving-out. Often they can’t, and the risk is that resentment sets in. Far from being unkind, these loved ones know the respectful and empowering truth. That the burden of knowing and recognising when I’m at my limit actually falls on me. I am the only one living in my body and in my mind, and I am the only one capable of knowing when my tank is running low. 

This is still a work in progress, as for very long I’ve been told to deny myself and pay more attention to others. I’m recognising my own signals and learning to call ‘time out’ for myself before I crack and spill-out tantrums and manipulations onto those I love. In an ideal world, I would be regularly carving out time for myself so I don’t get to the stage where my cup is rolling around empty. I’ve never been much of a planner - but I’m learning to identify those times in the year when ‘me, myself and I’ need more attention than usual. Christmas is one of them.

The pull to perfection is strong at this time of year. I idealise over the picture-perfect, festive reunion - all relatives, and cousins coming together for a special celebration once a year and exuding gratitude, loveliness and good cheer. The opposite can often be true. The children often seem more ungrateful and harder to please than ever, the dream of pulling together the perfect balance of outward generosity with inward togetherness an increasing illusion. 

Often at Christmas time, I have to recognise that it’s the end of another long year and rather than keep pushing, I need to surrender. I am tired. We are all tired. Let it be. If God put a limit to his powers by coming as a baby, who am I to take on more than my weary, post-pandemic frame can cope with.

Kindness from a place of tiredness is near impossible. So the call is to take ‘time out’ to rest and to take responsibility for what that looks like for me. Perhaps if I’m really empty that means, escaping the house for an entire day and going for a swim in the ocean, or a walk in the forest. Perhaps, it means meeting a friend for coffee and rediscovering that I’m actually a nice person and I do have a sense of humour after all. Perhaps it just involves finding a heavenly view and staring out the window for a very long time. 

Don’t be stingy this Christmas. Take time to recover your own loveliness, whatever that may involve. If you’re not sure, take time to find out. This could be the path to a kinder, more resilient you. Your family, and all those relatives waiting to pull Christmas crackers will thank you. And if they don’t, then that’s their problem! 

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