Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Before, during and after

Before Christmas I became quite obsessed and compulsive about creating and making the perfect handmade Christmas, even though it was quite plain that we were in fact trying to finish building our new home which we are due to move into in three weeks.
When I was at home I locked myself into cutting delicate paper mobiles, crafting applique cushions, rustling up sugar free mincemeat and Christmas puds, and while I really really tried to enjoy the moment I was in, the loving creation..the reality was quite frenzied. Spirit of Christmas? Hmm. But I couldn't, (or wouldn't let myself) stop. Night after night I stayed up just a bit past when I should to just knit, sew, cut one more line, really wishing I didn't feel the need to keep making, but making myself all the same.

When I was at the land with Hugh hauling an enormous window frame into place, slipping down the muddy precipice with yet another piece of 2x4 balanced on my shoulder, or sitting round our little camping fire feeding Hugh's brother pheasant stew when he came to help, well, that felt satisfying and necessary. We are roughly on track with the build and have had some loving support and help from many generous friends and family, but there's still so much to do. And Hugh did struggle with my seeming inability prioritize a bit of breather membrane on the roof over say, a paper dove.

But I still wanted Christmas to live up to my expectations. And that's what it's all about, expectations. I always make cards and presents, and do genuinely enjoy creating gifts for loved ones, but I now expect myself to live up to and possibly exceed last years efforts. What am I trying to prove? Is that what Christmas is about? Hmm.

Of course, I really like my children to participate in and witness lovely calm homespun activities around Christmas, and to experience  togetherness, creativity and laughter over and above mass material consumption. BUT, when mum is so exhausted from being up all night sewing and then attending to bad dreams that emerge from light sockets (not mine I hasten to add) that she cannot organise a baking session without taking several time outs to just breathe...well it's time to simplify.
And simpify I'm afraid I did not. I was still sewing a last angel on the dual carriage way on the way to my Mum's on Christmas day.

What did my kids need? A calm, happy, loving mum.
What did Hugh need? A frequent calm holder and operator of tape measures, drills, angle grinders, ladders and breather membrane. Oh and all the home stuff obviously!
What did I need? A massage, peace, love and laughter with my family. And sleep.
You see none of those involves making salt dough hearts.

This year would have been a good year to say NO to presents ouside the immediate family, and very simple and tiny within. We do keep it minimal within, but oh it's so complicated further afield. There is so much emotion and guilt and expectation around gift giving.

So, Christmas day itself, was about rushing,  to finish opening our presents so we could hurtle up to North Devon and open more. We sang carols in the car and that felt pretty festive, we saw a tiny Christmas lamb which made me cry, we ate a lovely turkey, thanks mum, we walked around the village where my paents lived and came back and ate ham sandwiches. We watched, actually this is lovely..(for our strictly no tv family) a little animation The Small Miracle which we watch every year. Magical.

And during our lovely Boxing day walk to the beach with friends, and an impromptu dance last night, and a wonderful yoga class next door tonight... I re-evaluated.
The baseline is: if it can't be done in truth love and serenity don't do it. Especially making paper doves. How can you make a stressed dove? Next Christmas, we should be a little more settled, but I will be focussing less on compulsion and more on being. It may involve baking a few gingerbread men, it may invove knitting a small item. But if I can't do it calmly and with love, I'll play a board game or snuggle up on the sofa instead. Or maybe go for a swim.

Or I could just go build a house....

Did your Christmas live up to your expectations? Did you have any?


  1. I was a bit locked into the 'making' too, but a calm fell over me at the last minute and it all turned out well. I think I need to look at my time distribution next year. Lessons learned are worth the effort.

  2. Even though I cut back on the crafting, everything seemed terribly rushed at the end and my little one was three two days before the big event!! We still have presents left in the loft room waiting to be opened... I think it all became a bit too much for everyone. I'm already thinking of ways to simplify further re next year!!

    I think you did an amazing job, crafting, cooking and creating a home from scratch! Hope the rest of your build runs smoothly, looking forward to seeing the end result.

    With Best Wishes for The New Year

    San x


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