Oh, Ho, Ho, Ho! I feel a song coming on...
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos...”
Or how about,
“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the tree tops glisten,
And children listen,
To hear sleigh-bells in the snow.”
I can hear Nat and Bing singing in my head right now. Along with Mariah, Macy, Madonna, and Martin (that’s Dean Martin – I didn’t want to spoil the alliteration I’d unintentionally got going). Not to mention those perennial seventies English faves from Slade (oh, ha ha ha! Sleighed!!!), Wizzard, and Elton John. And not forgetting Shakin’ Stevens, with the exceptionally jolly “Merry Christmas, Everyone”.
Yes, it’s THAT time of year again. Oh joy! As if life wasn’t complicated enough for an autistic to get a grip of, they have to go and bung in a festive holiday to add to the dilemma. What is Christmas about, anyway? And how, in the name of Santa’s socks, do you celebrate it? I mean, for crying out loud, I already have enough problems trying to celebrate my own birthday, without the burden of being expected to know how to do it for someone else’s. And a someone else whom I don’t even know.
That’s like asking me to celebrate the birthday of the woman who works in the post office. I technically “know” her – which basically means that I exchange pleasantries with her whenever she serves me; I know she’s the post office woman; and I’d probably recognise her if I happened to see her outside of the office. But I don’t really “KNOW” her. I think she seems like a nice person – but then this is coming from a woman who has all the perception of a dead dog when it comes to making judgements about people.
Had I ever been around to meet Hitler, it’s highly likely I would have thought him a nice person too, if he’d smiled at me and chatted a bit. Especially if he’d been working in the post office. I have, in my time, tried to justify his actions as having to be the logical consequences of something or other. I hadn’t quite got to grips with the idea that a person’s innate personality has rather a major part to play in how they turn out. I was simply applying that good old autistic logic in order to make sense of what is, otherwise, senseless behaviour. I’m really very good at it – I get a lot of practice, trying to make sense of my own.
Anyway, the point is, Christmas confuses me. As do most things in life. And every year, without fail, I go through the same ritual of trying to make sense of it, trying to find the meaning to it, trying to find a way to celebrate it which doesn’t involve the things that I used to do to celebrate ie drink a lot, eat a lot, buy a lot, spend a lot of time with my family, and watch television a lot - all in the name of attempting to get into the Christmas spirit. And, surprisingly (at least to me), none of them ever worked.
Yep, the real problem is that I truly believe all that hype. Even worse than that, I want it to be true – which is probably why ninety percent of my psyche believes it. I want it to be a special time of the year, with all of that attendant clap-trap about people being full of the Christmas spirit (and I’m not talking about alcohol here). I even believe that having a white Christmas will make it more magical – as if Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye might suddenly appear to croon the world into a state of festive bliss.
I think that putting up a tree and decorations, having lots of family and friends for whom to buy pressies and cards, and to be able to spend the holidays with, will “help to make the season bright” (to pinch a quote from the lyrics of ‘The Christmas Song’). In fact, it’s bloody ridiculous what I think will make Christmas time special – like the magical thinking of a Santa-struck six year old.
And then there’s the whole issue of Jesus. Just who was he? And who decided we should celebrate his birthday? And why do we celebrate his birthday by giving presents and cards to each other? And getting drunk? And stuffing ourselves full of food (those poor bloody turkeys – whose idea was it that they’d get the special ‘privilege’ of being the main course?) And does ‘season’ (as in ‘the Holiday season’) mean it’s longer than one day (which, in my mind, it does – my Christmas holidays still coincide with the school hols, even though I haven’t been in education for over twenty-five years)?
And when did Santa and Jesus get combined? Should we call them Jesta? Was it a marketing ploy formulated by someone back in the deep dark past, who jumped on the idea of gift-giving (as depicted in the story of Jesus’ birth) as a great way to sell the whole idea of Christmas? Or perhaps it was designed for those people who don’t believe in Jesus, to give them a reason to celebrate? And if there was a Christ-child born now, would he be visited by three wise-guys and three car parking attendants? And for gifts, would he get an iPad, an iPhone, and a Kindle?
Okay, so enough of the really deep questions (I’m being ironic here). What I’d really like to know is why do I still feel as if I must find a way to celebrate Christmas, when I’ve gradually stopped doing most of that stuff I mentioned above over the last ten years or so? It’s like I’m stuck in a time-warp, where the only Christmases I remember are the ones that involved family, gifts, trees, and the like – yet I haven’t spent Christmas with my family since 2000. That’s TWELVE BLOODY YEARS AGO! And it never made a blind bit of difference to how I felt about the whole thing, anyway.
Yet bang on cue, every year, you can guarantee there’s a light-bulb goes on in my head (or a set of twinkling fairy lights), and I respond to all of the hype and start pining for that perfect Christmas – like one of Pavlov’s dogs. (And no, I don’t mean that Pavlov conditioned his dogs to pine for Christmas. That would be a stupid thing to do. Much like my pining for it is. Better to pine for something tangible, useful, and attainable – like sticking to my bloody plan!)
The thing is I have learnt, through the practise of the AA programme, that every day is special, to be celebrated if you choose, and a new beginning. Life is the ultimate gift. Unfortunately, trying to override my initial learning is a tad difficult, no matter that I haven’t celebrated Christmas for a few years now. My autistic brain doesn’t let go of old learning – it just has to be whacked into submission to a new way of thinking and doing, which gets laid over the top of the old.
My best friend tells me there is an improvement – I only started talking about Christmas around the end of November this year, where on previous occasions it was October, and oftentimes September. I’ll know I’m really improving when I don’t talk about it until it actually arrives, or not at all, and instead simply experience it as another day - another special day out of the three hundred and sixty-five that God gifts us every year.
So, hopefully, I will be spending my day following my plan. That would be a tremendous gift – and a bloody miracle. Perhaps Santa can oblige, since I’ve decided that God’s not doing such a great job of it!
Whatever you do, may you be at peace with yourself, and do what makes you happy. If you can figure out what makes you happy!