The day didn't start so well - the little one bravely fighting back tears on the school run as she finally realised Daddy isn't going to be here for Christmas. I tried to be cheerful - talked about making the most of the time the pilot is here with us, but it makes no sense to her (it makes no sense to me). Is this growing up? Realising that sometimes things - tough, heartbreaking things, are beyond your control?
This is the flipside to all the Christmas glitter and yesterday's post about parties. Perhaps it's the forced jollity - the sense that we should be feeling warm and fuzzy makes us feel that if we are not there is something wrong with us? Reading round all your recent posts a lot of people are having a tough time this year. I'll stick my hand up and join you - this has probably been the toughest year of my entire life. I've mentioned on several occasions my family's propensity for Celtic seething - the Scottish/Welsh druidic/gypsy mix has resulted the ability to see the cloud before the silver lining. As those of you who've kindly hung around these last months have no doubt gathered, I've rebelled (what do you expect), and am normally able to call fate's bluff and make the best of a bad situation - but there have been so many setbacks this year. Maybe we're all feeling a bit like children at the moment - there are so many momentous things happening on a global scale that are beyond our control. How fragile the hopes and dreams we all carry with us suddenly seem.
We were joking yesterday about turning into your parents, but it's not until you hear platitudes pop out of your mouth like 'there are thousands of starving children in Africa, eat your fish fingers,' or 'what do you mean you hate your brother? There are millions of people alone tonight who would love to have a family ...' that you realise the transformation is complete. Life is a story of love and loss (which is why the first book was called 'Love & Loss' for so long). Christmas is a time when we are thinking not only of everything we love - home, family, lovers - but also everything we have lost. Christmas past tinged with regret for relationships that didn't go the distance, with grief for people who have died - perhaps this year, and aren't here to share the holiday with us. This is the time of year when we look back, and all our successes and failures are there in black and white while the future stretches uncertainly ahead.
When I was unpacking the decorations I found all our 'grown up' blown glass baubles, exquisite and fragile from our BC (before children) trees in London. Some of them are like bubbles - clear iridescent glass. They would last about two seconds with the three year old, so have been packed away again for Christmas future. Maybe you're the same - right now it feels like I'm not so much juggling balls as beautiful glass bubbles - our fragile hopes, our little family's dreams ... don't want to see a single one shattered. I was thinking today about a Stoppard quote I came across a few years ago - he said 'accept loss, all else can be treasured'. If you accept that one day everything and everyone you love now - including yourself will be gone, suddenly whatever you've been feeling isn't quite right now is insignificant. All we can do is treasure today - with all its imperfections, and seek out that silver lining.
TODAY'S PROMPT: 'The Big Swoon' Al Bowlly is an inspiration to us all - from barber to 20's superstar, knocked back by the Great Depression, forced to busk to survive, clawed his way back to celebrity (not even letting the discovery of his new wife in bed with another man on their wedding night stop him) - this man knew the meaning of guts. Grace under pressure as Hemingway put it. Fate may have caught up with him in Jermyn Street during the Blitz when a bomb killed him, but he gave it a good run for its money. As writers we are lucky - you can take every heartbreak, every worry that is currently being amplified by the forced cheer of Christmas and get it down in black and white. Offload it in your journal, get your characters to mirror your reflections - and for those of you feeling alone or lonely tonight (even if you're surrounded by people), maybe dear old Al can bring some genuine cheer.