Just under a fortnight until Christmas, and the current state of play in the Kirby household is: presents purchased - 100% (marvellous!); presents wrapped - 0% (drat!). My wrapping skills are very similar to those I have for DIY; limited to the point of being non-existent. Obviously I still have a go… you can’t fuse an entire house with wrapping paper, scissors and sellotape (and trust me, I’ve tried), but I’ve cleverly made sure that everything I’ve bought is either square or rectangular to make the job just that little less painful.
I must admit I’m not great at getting into the Christmas spirit. I’m not the archetypal “Bah! Humbug!”, although I will concede my outlook is often more humbuggy than festive.
Christmas does offer an all-too-rare opportunity to meet up with my children, which is always lovely; and I’m very lucky that my parents are just fifty miles down the road. This year though, the traditional Boxing Day trip is being brought forward twenty-four hours because of Elaine’s work commitments. I can’t remember when I last spent Christmas Day in York, but it must be at least thirty years.
Must remember to remind Mum about bread sauce….
Whatever Christmas meant all those years ago, it has become a period for reflection and some amount of introspection. I do look back on the past; the things I’ve done right and the mistakes I’ve made (sadly there are more of the latter). I try not to dwell too much on things I cannot change, because everything that’s happened has ultimately led me to where I am; but sadly if there’s a chance of giving myself a metaphorical mental beating, it’s an opportunity I rarely decline. Being able to spend time alone with Elaine is something I cherish though (even more than my annual bottle of Sancerre), and the conversation will often turn to loved ones who we miss every day—but Christmas just seems to heighten feelings of sadness.
We will raise a glass to Elaine’s wonderful parents Terry and Alma, and to all our grandparents. Random thoughts and memories of my Nannie and Grandad (Mary and Les) and Gran and Grandad (Gertie and Eric) regularly pop into my head; sometimes that is comforting, but right now I just wish I could spend one more day with them…..
But however far my thoughts drift, I am well aware that it is so much harder for Elaine. This isn’t the time or the place to dwell on circumstance; suffice to say I am constantly amazed and moved by Elaine’s courage and dignity. I’m not in a position to give her what I’m sure she would want for herself this Christmas, but she will always have my respect, my friendship, and above all, my love.
I think about the present… another year successfully (after a fashion) negotiated; and I also look to the future and wonder what it might hold. Health and happiness might be the biggest clichés going, but they’d be top of my list for those closest to me. Away from my family, I will be continuing to do whatever I can to raise mental health awareness. My own condition is stable–and I’d be more than happy if it stayed that way—but the need to share experiences and take on challenges remains incredibly strong. The messages…? Well, they’re still the same: it’s fine to talk about mental health, and it’s also fine to ask for help if you are struggling.
If you feel that it’s about time I changed the record, I will understand. Everyone has causes that (for whatever reason) mean a lot to them… this just happens to be one of mine. If my blogs, challenges, radio interviews, podcasts (did one last Monday!) make a difference to even one person and that person somehow finds the strength to talk, then that vindicates everything I’ve said and done over the past three years.
There is (and remains) no expectation that you will read some/any/all of my blogs, but for those of you who have ever taken the time to read and maybe even comment; you have my sincere thanks x
Right… time to start wrapping.
Richard... Jack of some trades... you can guess the rest