December 30th, 2022
I am intrigued by two emails I received from friends just before Christmas, not because of the content of the emails or because of who sent them but because both of them ended with the message, ‘See you on the other side.’ The first time I read this message I was somewhat taken aback. Then, when it appeared again, written by someone else, it really made me stop and think. Were they merely referring to ‘after Christmas’ or were these words concealing a more meaningful message?
About a week before Christmas, I saw a women in the supermarket, whose trolley was piled so high it looked as if its contents were about to overflow. As I walked past, I overheard her explaining to some friends that she would be catering for ten people on Christmas Day.
This immediately triggered three very different emotional responses in me.
My initial reaction to this conversation was excitement at the thought of sharing Christmas day with a large family. I could imagine a long table covered in a brightly coloured table cloth decorated with flowers and candles, each place setting meticulously laid out with gold china, crystal glasses and crackers.
This emotional response was then replaced with a feeling of absolute terror and fear. How could I think about spending time with so many people? Who would I sit next to? What would I talk about? What would I say when it all got too much and I needed to run away? Where would I go to and would they understand? Would I ever be invited again?
Finally, there was the inevitable feeling of envy, envy of all those families for whom getting together to celebrate Christmas is completely normal. I think about families sitting round chatting and laughing and playing games and sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that my fear and anxiety denies me something which could be lots of fun.
Although Christmas always seems to unleash a mixed bag of emotions, there are, however, elements of it which I enjoy. For example, I get very excited when I come across something which I think will make the perfect gift for someone and I love cooking special food to share with family and friends.
All in all I think my relationship with Christmas will always swing between love and hate and for me ‘the other side’ is a place of calm and serenity, a place to focus on when the emotions triggered by Christmas become overwhelming.
Maybe I read too much into the message at the end of the emails or maybe ‘the other side’ is a refuge for others as well.
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