A little kindness
This time of year can be wonderful. Good food. Good company. Giving and receiving. Gifts. Best wishes. Hugs. Love.
But it can also be difficult.
Financially it can tough. It can make you feel lonely. Memories might arise, good and bad, along with complex emotions. Things you might ordinarily dismiss, or overlook, in your life can be amplified by the idea that everyone else is having an awesome time.
We no longer have small children around. But, while I miss their miraculous ability to conjure yuletide joy, there are still many things I enjoy. Wearing my Goofy (and goofy) Santa hat and walking with my family along the same street of lights we visit each year. Watching Elf for the gazillionth time and calling out the scripted lines before they are said, with my family. Karen's winter village creation, each year a little different.
It's also a time when I remember my mum. I think of all the amazing events, and also the life challenges, she has missed. How she never got to meet any of her grandchildren. And, I think of her sister, my auntie, who died only a few months before Mum. And her family, and how they are feeling.
And, usually, I reflect on the past year. What did I achieve? What might I have done differently? Did I hurt anyone with things I've said? Or affected them by staying silent? Who did I help? Was it enough? I scrutinize, run a ruler over my life, looking at the good, but mostly the bad and the ugly. Or at least I used to. Because that's what low self-esteem does. It creates internal questions, but only ones whose answers tear you down, not ones which build you up.
So, for me, in the past it's been a mixed affair. A complicated blend of life's 'things'. One which, prior to 2014, I would always dilute with significant quantities of beer.
This Christmas and New Year period will be my ninth without alcohol. A decade ago, I would have never thought it possible to pass through this time without drinking. Alcohol was my out, my way of dampening negative emotions and amplifying positive ones. Of course, it never really worked. It was a short-term fix.
Now, instead of trying to avoid my feelings I do what I am supposed to. I feel them. They aren't me. They can't hurt me. So, I just let them visit, appreciate why they might arrive, and then let them go.
I also answer the questions I am asked, but I ask some in return. The type which helps me get me back to the originating thought so I can measure it and, after realising its invalidity, craft a kinder approach to myself. Cognitive behaviour techniques are simple but not always easy to apply when you are caught in the moment, and your thoughts. So, sometimes I simply need to be reminded to be kind to myself. To acknowledge that it's human to feel. That it's okay to falter, to stumble, and then to press on. That reminder today came in the form of an email.
Hello Sunday Morning are an Australian organisation focused on helping people who want to change their relationship with alcohol. The message they sent this morning was about treating yourself with kindness and I thought the content applicable to everyone, not just those wanting sobriety or drinking moderation.
Make yourself a priority. Treat yourself with kindness. And, if you are having a difficult time, or you are worried about someone, remember you don't have to go it alone. Reach out - to friends, or family - or to a support service.