So this is Christmas, the time of year for festooning. Festooning things like mantelpieces and best friends and pets. Festooning with tinsel and fairy lights, cake crumbs and mulled wine stains.
Tis also the season for stress and forgetfulness. No matter how dutifully I write things in my calendar, by the first week of December I find myself getting messages from people saying things like ‘Ok I’m at the venue where are you?’ just as I tuck myself into bed with a hot water bottle.
I don’t even have kids! Or a career. Or any solid reason to get out of bed in the morning. It is a mystery to me that other people manage so many responsibilities and also wash themselves and brush their hair. How do they do it? Nobody knows. It’s a mystery.
No, please don’t explain. It’s just a mystery.
Being so easily overwhelmed is a problem. But the other side of this chocolate coin is that I am also very easily wowed. I love Christmas. The wow-factor is high at this time of year. I love festooning things. I love all of it.
I have, therefore, built up a veritable armoury of coping mechanisms for the busy, jarring, exciting turmoil of December. Even though it seems a whirlwind of forgetting things, breaking nails and battling off colds, I want to be here for it all. I want to show up with gifts and mistletoe. I want to festoon and bedeck and dance around the party wrapped in fairy lights, and sing all emotional and out of tune to Wham’s Last Christmas.
Here is my Christmas Survival Guide. It is for people who are busy and tired. The aim is to minimise the bedraggled feeling, the squashed dreams, the rubbish last-minute gifts, the runny noses – and maximise the sparkle.
- Stay healthy. I know, but it is possible, even when everything hurts. If your energy levels are a bit, eh, unpredictable (I hear you) then I recommend doing a lot of batch cooking when you are up, so that you may eat a lot of home-made chicken soup when you are down. Why not try being a sexy, mysterious vegan? Those guys seem to get a real kick out of their vegetable main courses. Slope around, with your glowing skin and nimble little hips, chewing broodingly on bitter, bitter kale. Or put on your bunny ears and some furry white pyjama bottoms and make this busy lady bowl which is excellently zesty, healthy, and quick. Also it can be enjoyed by anyone, not just ladies.
Christmas Idea: keep a LOT of potato waffles in your freezer for when all of the above seems laughably impossible.
- Go outside
If you live in Scotland, you can’t throw a haggis without hitting some picturesque loch nestled between heathery hills. There’s treasure out there beyond the towns and cities. Breath in, hike up into the clouds.
Christmas Idea: have a fun snowball fight when hiking with your family and watch helplessly as it escalates into the airing of some long-held grievances!
- Go easy on yourself.
After imploring you to go on cooking marathons and then hike up a Munro or two, I’d like to backtrack like a complete liar.
As per the previously mentioned unpredictable energy levels, at the end of November, I had an energy crash that went a little something like this:
Me: ‘Well, I think I’ve escaped the winter sads this year!’
My brain: ‘Uh huh? So… when was the last time you found anything interesting or exciting?
My brain: ‘Seen any news lately?’
My brain: ‘How come you can’t get by on less than 10 hours sleep a night? How come? Is it because you feel sad?’
Me: [defeated whisper] ‘fuck you’.
It was all I could do to move the duvet up around my face and welcome the impending apocalypse, which, given the general vibe of 2016, may be the departing blaze of glory we should expect.
This blog is not the kind of place where I’m going to urge you to take some rallying action to make the world a better place – it’s the kind of place where we can assume that’s already on your list. For now – for the next few weeks – go easy. It’s a rough time. Rest. Make sure you’re sleeping tons. Don’t iron anything, for gads sake! Why would you!
Set the bar low. I set the bar at ‘my clothes are clean today’ and, ‘I didn’t look at all the bad things on Twitter’, and then, like a very special snowflake, I give myself a gold star.
Christmas Idea: If anyone judges you or calls you lazy, simply shush them and close both of your hands around their face until they can’t see you, or speak to you, anymore.
- Build a Capsule Wardrobe
Not just for vloggers! (I do love a good vlog). It is a pain to put one together, because you have to face up to your past fashion outbursts, but once you’ve got a wardrobe streamlined (I’m at 30 items currently) and all matchy matchy, you are good to go, until at least springtime. This has made my whole life much better every single day, because I no longer do as much laundry, or faff so much with outfits. Instead I optimize my time by
For your capsule wardrobe, the key this season is TONS OF ANCIENT JUMPERS AND LEGGINGS, said no fashion magazine ever, but we know better than them, so jumpers and leggings it is.
- A ‘Tiny Emergency’ Life First Aid Kit
Be someone’s hero! In mine you can see the calibre of life I’m leading – it’s all about tissues and paracetamol and paperclips. Build a life first aid kit to suit your needs. Or build the life first aid kit for the life you want to lead:
Contents: whisky miniature, pen, knife, St John’s Wort.
Contents: Sunglasses, a gold tiara, eyebrow tweezers, a cigarette.
The Lesley Knope
Contents: a fresh plate of cinnamon waffles, everything you could possibly need in any emergency ever (in both regular and waterproof versions), plus the keys to the White House.
There are the various endeavours I have undertaken to get me through this strange, chaotic, merry, wonderful, wonderful time.
I may find life a bit overwhelming, almost all of the time, but I feel damn grateful for every last bit of it. Sure, it’s tiring and boring but also, sometimes – often – surprising, amazing, brilliant. Especially when there’s some mistletoe around.
And if that isn’t the most saccharine moment to end a Christmas post on, I don’t know what is. If you require an antidote to all this positivity, here is this excellent Christmas gift for all your loved ones – it’s a gold star sticker that says ‘I Don’t Even Think You Tried at All’.
Happy Glitter Time!