Banishing the Christmas Gremlin

christmas-goblin

I have a gremlin… And he is both constant and transient.  The constant is that I have named him Martrucio and transiently, he takes different forms at different times.  He can be just like a mangy dog, tagging at my heels and tripping me over.  Sometimes he is a dark cloud floating above my head, obfuscating my positive view of the world with his heavy rainy presence.  He manifests in many ways, not least inhabiting my head when I’m vulnerably tired or laid low by life in some way.

Regardless of his form, he is most definitely dogging me, this gremlin of mine. He is having so much evil fun, chipping and smashing and dashing my planned Christmas happiness into multifarious sharp shards of sadness.

What can I tell you – at this time I feel exhausted, and in this state he finds me a particularly easy target. He trips me up; makes me drop and break things; muzzles my memory and somehow, shortens my tolerance and temper.

He gets me this gremlin – he knows that I like to plan and organise and make my Christmas as easy and as stress free as possible. But he is always determined to find a chink in my organised armour and seek to turn it into a long, vicious crack

As usual I’ve planned my Christmas through from start to finish and I know that this includes working around my gremlin.  I know of old, that Gremlins love Christmas – they feed gluttonously off the combined combustible stress of the crescendo to Christmas Day.  Yes, they like nothing better than to shorten tempers and lengthen impatience – it makes them laugh loudly and dance with undisguised glee.

So working up to Christmas I am tired and feeling under the yuletide weather.  My body has had enough of the dark winter and intermittent wassailing.  It’s rebelling – it rejects and reacts to nearly every meal I eat.  I cut back and add in natural nutrients, fruit, vege and supplements, but still this moon maiden swells and doubles up in gastric discomfort.  It’s hardly fair, but such is (my) life and I just have to keep taking care of myself until it passes. I am sure that this too shall most definitely pass.

So I may be tired and even testy, but I’m aware of it and I work with it and make sure I rest and plan – so true to form I have a gorgeous text book time mapped out this coming Christmas tide. I have places to go and friends to hug. Even my tiredness can bear all this activity, if it’s about socialising and fun.

But gremlins don’t relish this and so they gang together to coerce and spoil our best laid plans…

I had it all worked out, months ago. I arranged to meet my two best friends on the Saturday before Christmas. A restaurant table was booked and also tickets bought to go carol singing at a local stately home. The perfect Hallmark girlie Christmas outing…

Well when the day finally dawned, the gremlins I have to say, had gone all out to put the kibosh on our precious night out. I awoke to find my phone riddled with messages: One friend’s mother had had a near fatal stroke and the other’s daughter was very sick and needed to go to hospital too.

“Well we won’t be carol singing tonight then…” I thought.  I know these two gorgeous girlfriends of mine from old and they would of course be worried and needing to take care of their kin.

So I got out of my tired bed and I checked in on each of them – there was nothing I could do to support them at that moment. But then I was left alone with my gremlin.  And in hindsight, I realise that I actually sought his company out.  And sure enough, he soon started to sing to me – not carols, but dirges of woe:

“So you’re alone at Christmas then. No support. No attention. No children. No one’s priority. Parents gone.  No one to care for and no one to care for you…”

I felt sad. My expectations for the perfect Hallmark Christmas experience had disintegrated into ashes, in a matter of mere minutes. Instead of sisterly sharing, I was now solo.

So I wallowed in the murky mud that Martrucio threw at me. It was sticky and dark mud – hard to see through and even harder to wash off.

Yet the Christmas spirit was still inside of me and I changed my gremlin-ated mind and determined to push him aside… My brain ticked over… I wondered if I could share my planned Hallmark experience with someone else.  Yet all of the ‘someone else’s’ in my life were busy on a Saturday so close to Christmas.  Well fair enough – I hadn’t really pinned my hopes on that option any way.

So – what next? “How can this situation be turned on its’ head?” I wondered.

So then it came to me – I would pay my Christmas experience forward…

Quickly I went onto Facebook and with about 3 hours to go, made the following post:

“I have 3 tickets for carol singing at Warwick Castle to give away for the first taker. My free Christmas gift to whoever would enjoy them! Message me if you would like them and are able to collect…”

Very quickly there was a handful of people posting their interest. I just wanted the tickets to be on their way, so as far as I was concerned – fate and the principle of ‘first come, first served’ would decide who they went to.

A little while later there was a knock at my front door.  I grabbed the tickets and opened the door to a bright young woman with a radiant smile. “A very Happy Christmas to you” I said and handed the tickets over. “And to you too,” she said, handing me back a bottle of mulled wine in a festive Christmas bag, “and thank you so much!” As it turned out, she was newly married and she and her husband were now going to have a festive night out – it would be their first Christmas together.

When she left, I looked at her Facebook timeline, which was filled with wedding pictures of a young, smiling and radiant couple.

My sadness had suddenly been replaced by a smile.  I’d done it – I now felt that some good had come out of this strangest of doubly disastrous days.

Instead of warbling carols, my evening was then spent industriously getting the steal on my Christmas preparations, as I sat and wrapped a myriad of presents, accompanied by soppy Christmas films, blaring away in the background.

I checked on my friends again. All was as well as it could be for them. There I was in my own, but giving thanks for my health and happiness – all wrapped up in my wrapping and having a truly festive time.

And as for my gremlin – Martrucio… well – he was nowhere to be seen…

Merry Christmas to me then!

And, dear reader, may your gremlins be banished and your Christmas fill you with love, laughter and light this year…

With warmest wishes,
Sandie
Sandra Peachey: Blogger and Banisher of Gremlins

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here…

I’m also variously known as:
* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-FactorThe perfect Christmas gift – you can buy them both on Amazon (in paperback or Kindle) by clicking on the hyperlinks above or else on most bookseller websites around the globe. Your local bookshop may even sell them, or you can ask them nicely to order them in and stock them high;
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* As being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.

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The Price of Nice

nice 2

Dearest Characteristic

I am writing to you as an aspect of myself, you see I’ve been called ‘nice’ so many times… And it’s a short but complicated word, which for me has a range of connotations: it can of course be a positive trait, or it could just be on the tepid side of being good or kind. It can also be seen as a weakness – being a relentless, soft, mamby-pamby sort of quality to display to the world.

Nice in conversational terms is either a pleasant exchange or else a mannered form of connecting and conversing which is smiling and sickly.

It’s a mid-range sort of a word – denoting something which is neither powerfully wonderful nor scathingly evil.

Hear the words “How nice of you” and take them either as a quaint compliment or a biting indictment. Say the words “that’s nice” though, and the meaning is sardonically the opposite…

So from four short letters (of the alphabet) I have experienced a wide range of niceness and of course, what sticks in my psyche is when that innocuous little word is turned into a weapon.

The thing with being nice is, that it’s hard to be it on your own, so a little while ago I decided to expand the horizons of my world and started reaching out, in a new area of my life, to make some new friends and make a difference. So, as is the way of the world, many people ignored my advances, some reacted quickly then disappeared, and some readily responded.

One person in particular seemed to be at the heart of things and keen to help. I got a lot out of our exchanges and started to tentatively venture into their world. But then, when I offered some assistance, but did not deliver it at the speed required, I apologised and got short and nasty shrift. There then followed a diatribe about my ‘niceness’ and my wanting to be friendly, bundled as observational insults rather than conversational compliments.

So here is another aspect of nice – it is something I will use to glaze over my rampant sensitivity and my fear of attracting aggression and hostility; so when my ‘nice’ gambit fails, I am inevitably devastated.

I use positivity and friendliness to negotiate my way around, because it’s what I want in my world. This is what motivates and sparks me after a life time of being the opposite of nice. You see, strangely, for so much of my life – my deflecting / protecting tactic was to be sharp and snippy, wise cracking my way through life and presenting a hard shell to the world. That protective shell did not serve me well though, so I changed my ways and decided to be more vulnerable and honest and nicer.

And that niceness often gets reflected back to me, but sometimes of course as ignominy – as with my newly found sharp tongued fiend of a friend. But nice does not have to be a substitute for weak, so I responded to the barbs, defending my boundaries swiftly and assertively.

Of course what my nemesis would not know, is that in the past I had a mother who used to insult and stamp on me constantly and then apologise for being that way, but somehow it was always a non-apology because she had a good reason to be horrible ‘since A had happened and B had happened’, but at least then she would go back to loving me. That was her pattern.

There was nothing I could ever do to change that pattern, but an apology would at least mean a temporary truce and an attempt at healing a hurting. And whilst I could not change my mother, I did change myself and the way I responded to the world, seeking to master such destructive emotional patterns.

Back in the present though, my nemesis had their own agenda and not unlike my mother, their reasons for being insulting; those reasons apparently being nothing to do with me, just being lobbed at me. I have to say that it was a very long list of reasons, both psychological and physical, which I interpreted as labels used to justify, decry and hide away from many of life’s issues.

So no apology was forthcoming and the insults were not withdrawn, because that was, as this person explained, just the way they were. And because they were based on the negative observation of one of my traits, they particularly seemed to sting and stay with me.

It is easy to be stung and shamed if you allow yourself to be, but whilst those words wounded me, interestingly I can’t even remember the name of their perpetrator now. They stung because they came from a warped truth and shamed because this was a person who doesn’t do nice socially, but who certainly does do a lot of good for society.

And what is the point of nice if it is merely for show, goes nowhere and makes no difference beyond a superficial pleasantry?

Well I got over the barbs and I made my peace with my emotions. That’s when it helps that I am a Coach. And that is also one of the reasons that I’m a coach too, to mend my ways and to support others in mending and growing their ways too.

Moving on, this person and myself have not ultimately fallen out, we just don’t interact any more, because we have different notions of nice and we’ve established our boundaries.

And I find it hilarious to think that some people would characterise me as anything but nice – according to their knowing of me, in their version of observation… But hey – we can’t be loved by everyone, nor is it possible to be constantly, incessantly nice to everyone…

For a few years now, I have traversed the menopause and when those hateful hormones have me in their grip, being nice is most definitely a vice. Far from it, for being a sensitive soul and subject to heated mood swings is a rancid combination – I rant and pout and rout and cry. At those times I ain’t naturally nice. Quite frankly I’m foul and I’ve even lost friends because I’ve been the HBFH aka the hormonal bitch from hell. But I grew battle scarred and it was time to change my tactics. So now, after a few battles with the hormones I have changed my game so that I find my way around them, and instead of fighting with them, have decided to dance with them instead.

The dance is a choreography of choice, whereby if someone or something somehow rattles my emotional cage in any way, rather than rant, I pause, then I choose. And I choose nice, even though so often I feel nasty.

So I’m not just about the nice. I continue to have my nasty moments too, believe you me… But when I choose nice, it feels nice. When I decide to be positive and pleasant, I naturally attract back more of the same to myself – which makes sweet sense. Dancing rather than shooting bullets gives me the gorgeous calmness and clarity of choice. It is a very simple case of putting in what you want to get out of life.

I choose to be nice in my dealings with the world, where ever possible. I choose to take the positive route, no matter that I feel that sometimes it just lays me open to misunderstanding, ridicule and a perception that somehow I am weak.

Yet to me niceness is a strength; it is a virtue in a world of vice, and when I exercise niceness to myself – that is the strongest position of all. Yes, for all the arrows and slings that those around us can fling, none wound so much as our own weapons of self destruction, our own nasty and negative self speak.

‘Nice’ then, is a four letter word that I will continue to choose and so it is that I will end my letter to it – with another gorgeous, wondrous four lettered word: love – lots of it.

How nice is that???

Yours, for ever.

Sandra xx

PS: How would you like to read more of these Love Letters to Life ‘off blog’?  I’ve created my first Christmas written work… It’s a FREE capsule book – AKA a gem of an EBook, gathering together my nostalgia and coach-ly reflections on a Christmas theme. It’s designed to be evocative, entertaining and to make you think about this time of year – so you can embrace and enjoy your Christmas. To get your copy of a Peachey Christmas, just click the link here…

 

Letter to Christmas Food

My Mince PiesMy own imperfectly delicious mince pies…

Dearest One

It is time now to explore and exonerate you, to devour and venerate you, to eat you up, digest you down, and inwardly ingest and digress on all that you are to me…

Christmas food is feast and I can feast upon these words too, calorie free, yet still savoured deliciously and selfishly, gobbled up again and again, and all this with no widening girth, no indigestion or regret, a word diet eaten and repeated in the best possible way…

Food, when you listen to it, tells stories… and Christmas food harks us back to history, hyperlinked to a past, long ago forgotten, although eaten and excreted by our own ancestors.

Pick over archaeological sites and find remnants of millennia old meals of bones and seeds and cooking pots. And now pick up your fork and eat a Christmas meal today to ingest a more recent history, albeit more quietly and neatly.

In my Westernised world at this time of year I am warmed through by winter spices in pies, puddings and mulled wine. They are the devices that have travelled down time and along trade routes, carried on beasts of burden through deserts and sent in ships across seas to enliven the dull winter diet of my pale historical counterparts here on this island land.

Each pie, each pudding, and each component on my Christmas plate has a history, a fascinating story of currency and enrichment underlying the aroma and flavour which has been tasted by so many, through so much darkened winter time.

Then we marry this history with our own recent traditions, of coming together to celebrate Christ’s birth and the ensuing mercantile madness of gifting and wrapping and eating to excess, so that we fall in to a snoring afternoon sleep after lunch on the 25th of December, full as we are, of thousands of Christmas calories.

And we have our social and cultural traditions and create our own intimate ones too… I make mince pies and snowballs to prepare for the big day, and then eat ham (cooked in cider on Christmas eve) along with my turkey on my Christmas plate. There is then a long pause of several hours before Christmas pudding is eaten. Then what little room is left in my stomach later that same night, is filled with tinned salmon and cheese. It is the comforting ritual of my Groundhog Christmas, to be repeated without erring or swaying from the pre-destined foodie plot of many previous eating years.

Before we get to feasting, we must literally prepare and over many years I have learned to do this slowly, languorously and easily, completing each component in turn, relishing the gorging gratification to come, by setting out my laden larder in advance. Mince pies are made then, stuffing done now, things bought in readiness and stored in order, all components waiting for the blazing heat of an oven for their moment of gourmet glory when they are all bought together to celebrate and complete the ritual on the plate.

So Christmas food to me is a blandishment as well as nourishment; it is a sign of love, and lore, it is history and culture. It is a wanted necessity, as well as a glorious luxury. So there it is, as always with me, that strange dichotomy of love and difficulty. Because my friend, you know that I have a complicated relationship with you, as I do with just about everything in my life.

And there I was a few nights ago, quietly cursing you… You see I was up to my elbows in a foodie fuddle, flinging flour around the kitchen in the name of creating the most perfect mince pies. Blithely tying on my apron and feigning Domestic Goddessery in my Christmas kitchen, it was instead, all mess and stickiness…

But I persevered: I experimented, added, stirred, chopped and kneaded. I rolled, cut, then filled, and finally there was the tenderly triumphal moment of committing my precious labours to the waiting oven.

They weren’t perfect those particular pies, but oh my goodness, they were delicious. Friends had pie-gasms whilst consuming them and went silent for seconds of ingestment and wonder; whilst I on the other hand, experienced the smuggery of creation, of earth mother provisioning and the satisfaction of an empty plate, with a just few forlorn crumbs left as the legacy of pies past.

I love Christmas cooking and have my big day down to a tee, tying together all my provisions and preparations onto one plate of perfection, served with relish and a flourish and on the same old Christmas crockery that we air for one day every single year.

And then I pay the price with indigestion and tightened clothes and extra winter fatted weight. It’s not just about the Big Day, but the Christmas build up, with chocolates never more than 2 feet away from reach and Christmas dinners, lunches and buffets to be feasted on and quietly, farted out…

You would think that after all my time on this planet, with all those Christmases under my gut bending belt, that I would remember; yes, you would think that my stomach would remind my brain that such fullness is disastrous, yet in my stomach also lies my heart, so the stomach says nothing; it just senses survival and suggests I keep eating and savouring and so simply stores all the nourishment as fat for a long winter famine that will probably never arrive.

So as my gastronomic voyage through Christmas Food comes slowly to an end, and as I boast of plenty and excess, I now want to give thanks for all that I have, which is in every way so much, when I appreciate that there are many who have so little. So I give some food away too, so that other humans and animals may also have a feasting festive Christmas, in what ever place they may be in head, land or heart.

For food, be it Christmas or of any other sort, is love to me and love is always meant to be shared.

With love and burps…

Sandra xXx

PS: As a Christmas Gift, I’m sharing the gifts of my writing and learning to entertain you, make you think and to deepen the Christmas experience in my capsule ebook. A Peachey Christmas is a collection of (previously published) blogs along with new material, gathered into one, gorgeous Christmas capsule…  All you need to do to claim your free electronic copy is to fill out a few details here and then it will wing its’ way back to you.

Letter to Christmas Commercialism

Xmas moneyDear CC

It all starts in September, when friends start saying that they have done all their Christmas shopping already…

And then I start spotting mince pies on supermarket shelves…

Next come the TV adverts… between every programme I am haplessly watching – surely and suddenly I am bombarded with images of happy families sitting at tables heaped with festive fare. There are always crowds of them, but even so, how could they possibly eat their way through all that food?

Also in TV land there are the glamorous women sparkly clad in gorgeous gowns and the handsome men in dinner jackets, unwrapping perfect presents or clinking champagne filled glasses in castles, or suburban semis – with snow on the lawn and privet hedges…

In between the adverts it feels like there is an endless Christmas cavalcade of American made for TV Festive movies, with added smoltz and a cachè of mistletoe kisses; all back lit by snow, instead of sunsets, for the happy protagonists to walk off into…

In the outside world, the shops are playing Christmas hits as I wander around the aisles, skirting round the huge Christmas Tree by the door and trying to ignore the vast tins full of biscuits and chocolates calling to me softly from the shelves. Then there are all the gift sets – turning ordinary every day items into the boxed and cellophaned extraordinary…

It isn’t even December yet and still celebrities start flicking on switches that illuminate town centres with wattage and bright bulbs, flashing loud lights at me to heighten my Christmas consciousness.

I visit my favourite restaurants and suddenly turkey is on the menu and the prices have doubled. I try buy to a drink at the bar and Christmas people heave and jostle in order to fill themselves with Christmas spirit/s and get in my way.

It’s CHRISTMAS!!! Except that it isn’t… Not yet any way… Around about early November I always have a comic concern that my Christmas spirit will be worn out by mid December. This means that in my house, the tree will not go up and decorations cannot be hung until the week before the 25th, and then must be religiously un-decked on Twelfth Night.

And as much as I love shopping, love presents (giving and receiving), love parties and feasting and all that a merry mercantile Christmas entails, I’m still not sure how I feel about the constant and cunning commercialisation of it all…

For Christmas is actually a religious declaration that for Christians, our saviour – God’s own son, was born of man, in a stable. A stable with a bright star above, illuminating the camel tracks of the wise men, travelling towards Bethlehem, there to venerate the Messiah.

The Messiah, then a baby, who became the man who preached and created miracles and is known to us through the New Testament and contemporary historical accounts. Jesus who was born a Jew and so from Judaism a separatist group created Christianity, an entity which changed and ended the lives of millions upon millions of people.

Christmas was and is the celebration of Christ’s Mass, replacing a previously pagan rite of passage – a celebration to mark the end of the cold dark nights of winter, and the slow, Spring lengthening of day light hours, with its’ re-awakening of nature’s bounty.  This ritual, during those ancient druid times, was a feast to forget the frozen famine.

The Christmas we westerners experience now, in our corners of the round globe, with its’ trees, presents and mulled wine ambience, started forming its self in relatively recent history – being just a few hundred years old. From Christ Mass it morphed in to ‘Merry Christmas’ after two millennia of worship and reverence. In fact, for so many, Easter was and is, a more important celebration – the resurrection of Christ, rather than his birth.

So now I am experiencing a Commercial Christmas – an experience which I simultaneously relish and reject. And when I think of candle lit Christmases, with a chorus of carolling, accompanied by candy and cake, somehow cold, hard cash seems at odds with the sentiment of peace, love and good will to all men (women and children).

At the root of it all is a deep down, inherent discomfort of buying and so it follows, with selling. As a business woman I choose to sell to live and I have had to learn that selling services is a good thing. I couldn’t pay the bills with my coaching and professional support if I gave it away for free. And because I am a creature of constant contradiction, at times I find this joyful and times I find it difficult.

So it feels like Christmas has the same inherent contradiction – Christian versus commercial… So I admit that to myself and by doing so turn it in to a simple fact, and a choice, rather than a concern.

And you know this is the world that I both live in and have had a hand in creating… For years I have shopped and wrapped and watched and feasted and carolled. And still now I do all these things… to a degree; yet recently I find that I have scaled down and pared back… I don’t put pressure on myself to conform. Rather I confirm and affirm what Christmas is to me and for me.

It is a time to connect – I love how Christmas brings families together from streets or continents apart and means that I catch up with friends near and far, by touch or by Christmas card.

I like feasting and socialising and believe in marking time and occasion, so Christmas is a perfect concentration of love, laughter and celebration for me.

I have had a life time of being a Material Girl, who has loved her stuff and populated her life with things. I love giving and receiving too and find – slowly and naturally, that I am now more about giving my time and energy, rather than a thing – beautifully wrapped and soon forgotten about…

And after all the Merry Christmas madness, for me – it is time to slow down, to rest and relax for a while. Time to contemplate a year in my life and all it has bought me and what I have learnt from it. And then it will be time to welcome in a New Year – to contemplate, to plan, to prioritise and then dream through the pregnant possibilities of the months to come.

So, after all the shopping and socialising, it will be time to be slow, to both step into and sleep through my Christmas; this being partly Christian, partly commercial and all me.

And so, Commercial Christmas, farewell…

Yours (maybe)

       Sandra

PS: This year, as a Christmas Gift, I’m sharing the gifts of my writing and learning to entertain you, make you think and to deepen the Christmas experience in my capsule ebook. A Peachey Christmas is a collection of (previously published) blogs along with new material, gathered into one, gorgeous Christmas capsule…  All you need to do to claim your free electronic copy is to fill out a few details here and then it will wing its’ way back to you.

PPS: And here is the perfect Christmas irony – I am now being unashamedly Commercial – as Christmas comes round and you are thinking of a gorgeous gift, a collection of the ‘Peachey Letters’ from this blog have been gathered together, along with new material, in book form.  It makes the perfect present, for you, family and friends… You can buy Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on my website here or from Amazon (in Paperback and Kindle), and from all good book websites around the world…