Following on from my last post, I've been thinking more about what I do, and what Mat and I do, to make Christmas special for us. With six sleeps to go until Christmas I have finally got around to getting organised. Ish. Organisation is difficult for people who have bouts of depression because doing anything at all is an effort, as I've said before. This is one of the most irritating contradictions, because doing things that you enjoy (or would usually enjoy if you weren't under the duvet feeling nothingness or just plain sad) actually helps us sufferers feel better. But once I get going, I can remember what feels good, and talk about them here.
So here are some things I've been thinking about this week, about Christmas. It gets to me in the end, you see. There are going to be more things to think about and write about: the wonderful books we can read this season and the films, promised in the last blog post. They'll come. But for now, here are three simple things to enjoy in the season, sad or ecstatic, alone or lonely or in a room of the happiest people alive. Bless us all.
Enjoy good food, and share it. I love to cook and use cooking creatively to capture my imagination and my taste buds. Christmas food has so many origins and varieties. Favourites are delectable smoked salmon mini quiches with capers - a magical mouthful of creamy filling, smoky fish and the sharp bite of the caper. (Get the recipe and play around with it with Delia for inspiration.) Mince pies are a naughty treat with their buttery, just-crisp-enough pastry (I recommend Marco Pierre White's Lemon Tart pastry for these; the egg in the pastry makes for an additional richness in the pastry, and the lemon zest complements the mince meat with a zing. If you are at all interested in practising mindfulness, may I recommend it this holiday season.
Remember the ones you love. I am always surprised and delighted by every Christmas card that I receive. At my most ill they always make me cry because right there when I'm in the middle of berating myself for being ill and useless, someone reminds me that they are thinking of me and Mat, and I am overjoyed by this. And crying because it's overwhelming to feel when you felt nothingness before.
Writing every card this year has been a treasure for me, despite my faulty elbow (still not fixed, now awaiting a screw to replace the looped wires) and wonky back. I read through the cards I have kept from last year; there are some lovely messages and brilliant designs in that. I also keep cards from friends and family no longer with me - and I remember them with love and sadness, that bittersweet combination.I'll tell you about them sometime.
Decorate a beautiful home. I heard from a few people recently who are having a hard time at home because of our continuing financial problems as a world, and because of losses and hardships. At times like these it doesn't always feel great to be at home; it can feel more like a prison cell if you're trapped with the ghosts who have replaced the people who used to be there, or the things that were their's. And there are all the other times we don't feel ourselves, or feel ill that home - which should be a haven - feels cold and unfriendly. I felt a bit lost at home the other day. Usually I would have started decorating for Christmas much earlier. We had bought a tree a week ago, but it stood unadorned in the living room because I had not found the energy to decorate it. Yet.
We used to have very little cash to spare, and I was teaching high school children 11-16 who probably had more tinsel and tiaras than I could ever imagine; but I picked some simple white card, some glue and some white and silver glitter, and I made what for me were the most beautiful decorations, decorated just with white lights which blur in the night light.
Now we have a menagerie of small stuffed animals to keep us company; we have Christmas music - him - Wizard and Slade (played only once), me Mariah Carey (well, someone else can sing it!) and Chris de Burgh's A Spaceman Came Travelling.
The star on the top of the Christmas tree is that Mat and I were married near to Christmas. Our wedding anniversary was yesterday. Four years married and nine years together and my best friend and beloved husband and I still feel like celebrating our togetherness. Honestly. He is the best gift of all.
So that's me in the last few sleeps till Christmas. Tomorrow is our big family reunion, when we'll get together and exchange news and a few gifts. I'm looking forward to seeing the children rushing around the room. Well, I say that. I'm looking forward to it for about five minutes. And then I might have a bit of a headache and Mat will certainly need a lie down. But that's tomorrow, and maybe you'll hear about that next week.