Following on with the theme of Scrooge in last week’s blog – the second ghost that Scrooge is visited by is the Ghost of Christmas Present. This seems to be a jolly old fellow – a bit of a Santa Claus character – not scary at all. At least it seems that way at first.
And that’s a bit like the thought of Christmas, isn’t it? We look forward to Christmas, we are filled with expectations of how great it is going to be….or SHOULD be. And there’s the problem. We are often so busy thinking about Christmas, and rushing around doing stuff for Christmas and having these high expectations, that we forget to actually BE present. And the problem with that is, that you don’t enjoy it at the time. In fact if you do enjoy it, you end up enjoying it in retrospect, when it is all over.
And, of course, there are the actual presents – what to buy, how much to spend, who to buy for. It can be very stressful deciding all of the above, and then there is the cost – I mean who hasn’t spent too much and ended up with a credit card bill they would rather not have, or an overdraft they need to pay back in January? And then there are the presents you receive that you would rather not have had (god bless Aunty Lou and the slippers she always sends which would be great for …well….Aunty Lou! In fact they are in her size too, which is 2 sizes too small for you). What do you do with them?
And after that, there is Christmas Day itself. Perhaps you are not looking forward to it at all. Maybe it is the opposite. Possibly you are dreading Christmas Day for one of many reasons.
It could be that you are always the one who hosts everyone and has all the prep and the shopping and the cooking to do, and you not only worry that you feel the pressure of getting everything right but maybe you feel a bit resentful that no-one is helping you.
Let’s look at a possible situation:
- You’re already exhausted and working right up to the 23rd
- Its a mad rush on Christmas eve to pick up last minute stuff (like the turkey – that’s quite important)
- Then you do all the prep, wrap the last minute presents
- You collapse into bed in the early hours only to get up what seems like 5 minutes later to start the cooking?
Or maybe you are not in a great place with a relationship:
- It could be your relationship with your partner
- It could be one of your kids,
- Or maybe it is someone in the family who is coming to dinner. And you are dreading the whole ‘pretending to be merry’ thing, when actually you wish they would just disappear. Christmas tends to heighten existing tensions so the chances are arguments will ensue at the very least, and it is no surprise to find that January is the divorce lawyers’ busiest time of year for enquiries!
Potentially you could be dreading Christmas because this will be the first one without someone you love.
Maybe your children have left home and moved abroad, or your son got married and is spending their first Christmas with his wife’s parents.
Perhaps you split up with your partner this year and so you will be alone. Possibly someone you loved dearly has died. For whatever reason, maybe this Christmas will be different and sad, as the first one without a loved one. And maybe the sadness you feel is in contrast with other people and the happiness you perceive they feel, or the happiness you think you SHOULD feel at Christmas.
And that brings me back to Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, because that ghost showed Scrooge the contrast. He showed the happiness and togetherness and ‘present’ ness of some families at Christmas – such as Scrooge’s own nephew who had invited his uncle to be part of that togetherness. And the Ghost also showed Scrooge the desperation of other families – not through poverty but through meanness of spirit. He showed the happiness of Scrooges employees family, Bob Cratchit, who – whilst living on the very edge of poverty, with not a spare penny to their name, still had love and joy and hope, through being present with each other.
The Ghost also left Scrooge with the message that the future is in our hands when Scrooge asked would Tiny Tim (Bobs disabled son) die? The Ghost replied that if “these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die” and goaded Scrooge with his own words – that Tim ‘better hurry up and do it and decrease the surplus population. How many times have your words come back to haunt you?
So, this Christmas, decide to be present. Whatever you are doing and whoever you are doing it with. You see, a lot of the stress of Christmas is because we are in our heads, and not in the moment. We are in the past – regretting something we didn’t do or say, or did do or say. We are questioning whether we bought the right present for so and so, or we are sadly thinking of Christmas past and wishing that a certain person was here.
OR – we are living in the future, second guessing what arguments are going to ensue, worried that Mum won’t like the present we bought, or overwhelmed by all that we still have to do.
But if we can just stop and be present, be in the moment right now, and do the thing we are doing right now, and enjoy doing it, then we may be able to stop the stress and stop the Christmas dread happening and decide that it is OK for Christmas not to be perfect – because in reality it rarely is. When we look back at Christmas past, it is often with a convenient memory. That baby’s first Christmas is so lovely to look back on, but you forget how shattered you were because of lack of sleep.
The thing is the past is gone – you don’t live there anymore and the future – well it is rarely as bad as you think it is going to be. As a friend of mine always says – what are you worrying for? What purpose does it serve? Either you can do something about a situation or you can’t. If you can – go do it. If you can’t – SUMO. Shut Up and Move On, because 9 times out of 10 the terrible things you worry about don’t happen, and even if they do – worrying is NOT going to stop that.
And we really hope you are going to be present with us next Weds and Thursday at the BAFTA’s. If you don’t know what this is about – where have you been?? Have a look here. Marion and I have been nominated for author awards, and if you want to come along and celebrate with us, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally – being present means remembering to Live, Love and Laugh everyday and continue to be you in your own unique way.