Christmas might be your worst time of year, or your best. It might mean nothing to you except reruns of Love Actually. Either way, everything feels a bit hectic. It’s okay to feel the overwhelmitude.
It’s good to remember that Christmas carols have lovely bits in them sometimes, like the phrase “deep and crisp and even”, or that bit where kids all yell “Hey!” in ‘Jingle Bells’.
And to remember that art galleries are free and quiet.
And that any one of the people you’re rushing past could be your next new friend, talking and laughing in a place you haven’t been yet.
That there is nothing so pure as the attention focused on a busker by a child under the age of five.
That second-hand bookshops smell nice.
That ice is water you can tinkle in a way that makes you feel a bit posh.
That cheese exists.
That the word “lugubrious” is lovely. A slow, beautiful sound that takes its time to describe the way sorrow expresses itself through the human face. Perfect.
That two people can play chess without speaking the same language and still know intimately how each other’s mind works.
That sometimes clouds look like the sea.
That some people are truly awful but those people have to deal with being awful, and it’s probably easier to just know that sometimes you’re accidentally rude to your family on the phone; and one time you laughed at a kid who got dacked at music camp and you always wonder what happened to him.
That there is no sound quite so exciting as the squealing, splashing, whistle-blowing hubbub of the Australian public swimming pool over summer.
That there’s a couple, a young man and a young woman, who are probably not a couple at all but who work in a cinema near where I live – it’s dark in there, of course, and they wear black clothes and look completely exhausted. That they have a half-hour lunch together, slumped against a wall on the footpath in the sun and talk sideways at each other. They laugh lazily and chat and sometimes they sit in silence with their eyes closed. That the other day he was reading to her from a science-fiction book while she listened, drawing circles on the concrete with a twig. That they probably didn’t know each other six months ago.
That caterpillars turn into butterflies. FOR REAL! THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS!
That in nature, paths form. That’s amazing, when you think about it, because it means a bunch of people, or wallabies, or echidnas, or whatever, have to go the same way without talking about it beforehand. And aren’t paths lovely and welcoming and comforting? Do wallabies think that, too?
That most people are good at something. Lovely handwriting. Being nice to animals. Drying the dishes. Keeping secrets. Everyone’s better than you are at something and you’re better at something than they are. This is why society works and also why arguments start when more than one person is required to set up Ikea furniture.
That we all look up at the same moon each night.
That sometimes, and this can happen at any time, toast is the answer. That’s just a fact.
So be kind to yourself over the next little while. The metaphor of the new year will be along any minute to trick us into thinking we can turn over a new leaf and greet the future as people who won’t overschedule or run late or say the wrong thing or forget to put the bins out. Meanwhile, embrace the imperfect. Enjoy the quiet moments and revel in the fact that the tinsel will be replaced by hot cross buns in no time.
by Lorin Clarke
This article first appeared in Ed#526 of The Big Issue.