A cup of tea… the panacea for most things in life. 62 billion cups of it are drunk by us Brits each year, so it must help. When we don’t quite know what to say, or when we’re trying to avoid loved ones spoiling for a fight, we go and put the kettle on.
Perhaps you usually get your hot drinks from a local artisan coffee shop, with a Barista who’s part coffee alchemist, part therapist. But for the next 48 hours, it’s family, friends or yourself doling out your caffeine fix.
Over your lifetime you’ll probably have many different types of Christmas. Some surrounded by people, and some alone. Some with family, some with friends. Some at work, some needing care from those who are at work. Some happy, some sad.
You get the picture… and actually most will be a mixture of all of the above.
Throw in a global pandemic, where travel plans are thwarted by lines on a testing stick or government regulations, not forgetting the services cancelled by staff having to isolate etc.
This festive season is still uncertain for many of us, perhaps with loved ones in hospital or undergoing chemo & suffering the side effects at home, or with family preferring not to meet up indoors.
Or maybe this year your partner has the children and the house echoes with emptiness, and even the cat is sulking.
However your festive plans have changed, whether you’re downsizing your Christmas day to a microwaved curry for one, working double shifts to cover for poorly colleagues, or have invited the neighbour you don’t really get along with, but don’t want to see them alone this Christmas day… putting the kettle on might be a useful refuge.
Making yourself a cup of tea, or offering one to others gives you a simple task to do and a few minutes to yourself in the kitchen. Both are useful.
You might find yourself silently swearing with the stress… in which case try going through the alphabet for new words! Or if you’ve got a bird feeder outside the window, gazing at a thuggish robin chasing away a peckish blue tit might give a moment of escape.
You can be lonely in a crowd, and perfectly happy and content in your own company. But if you’re dreading the loneliness of a solo day, then having a rough plan is a good start. Knowing when you’ll wake, shower, put the radio on, eat, go for a walk, and perhaps phone a friend, what to watch on TV etc, can help.
Break the 24 hrs into manageable chunks, and remind yourself that this too will pass.
Some days are like this, and some Christmas days are just like this. Know that you’re not the only one. Behind many other front doors in the street where you live, this will be echoed. Perhaps next year, well in advance of 25th December you’ll have a different plan in place and invite someone else to join you for some part of the day.
Or you may be someone who is perfectly happy all year round, but dreads the forced party time with certain family members or friends who bring out the worst in you. In which case, a few things to remember that can help:
Offering cups of tea, or assorted snacks can help, if there are moments of awkward silence, or when it seems someone is about to burst into tears or start an argument with the same relative that they usually disagree with. It’s like distracting a toddler in a supermarket on the verge of a tantrum…
Like Noddy Holder in that Slade song, you can always shout, “It’s Christmas’ as another way of nudging the family away from cross words or soap opera style fights!
Or try playing ‘Tennis Questions‘. When someone asks you the question you find unbearable… perhaps the same person and question that sets you off every single year.
It might be about when you’re going to start a family, when you’re already on the edge of tears due to failed IVF, or ‘What’s wrong with you, why aren’t you in a relationship?’ when you’re the only single one in a family where everyone else is married before they reach 20.
For any of the above, you can play ‘Tennis Questions‘, where you bounce it right back to the person doing the asking. In the simplest form, this means saying, ‘That’s interesting. Why do you ask that?’
Or if you want another type of tennis move, if it’s a question about why you’re not having children, you can ask that person why they had children. Or when they’re making you squirm asking why you’re still single, ask why they got married.
Or if it’s something you’re fed up of facing every year, and have had enough of, you can try saying something like, ‘I know you love me, and wouldn’t want to upset me… but I find this too upsetting to talk about, so I don’t want to answer that and can we change the subject. Would you like a cup of tea?‘ And we’re back to our saviour, the kettle!
Also, worth searching online for the writer Martha Beck, and her ‘Dysfunctional Family Bingo’ for an idea… but let’s call it Creative family Bingo. Where you guess in advance the particular things that might annoy you about your own family gathering, and put them on a bingo card.
Ticking them off then gives your brain a mini dopamine hit of success, & a giggle, without it making you quite so angry.
For many years, I worked on Christmas day hosting live radio programmes. Often in phone-ins, we’d hear from those with non-traditional festive plans. Some might be feeling sad or lonely, especially if it was a first Christmas since the loss of a loved one. The comfort of a fellow human being live on the radio to talk to, or listen to can never be underestimated.
But we’d also hear from those quite content to be alone, and who would tell us with relish their plans for the perfect day. I’ll never forget one caller.
A lady who’d been widowed that year, so knew about sadness and loss. She said that several family & friends had invited her to join big family gatherings, that she was grateful for their kindness, but wanted to be alone that day.
She needed time and space to herself, and held cherished memories of the love of her husband on a long walk on the Yorkshire Moors with her dogs. Following this with a microwave curry, glass of a single malt & a box set of 24 was her perfect solo Christmas.
She sounded truly happy and content with the day, and phoned us to say how the radio had been on in the kitchen to keep that background noise as well, and thanked us for our company.
As we thanked her for listening and phoning in, and her wisdom. Finding something to be thankful for is a really useful skill at festive celebrations and all year round.
Let gratitude be one of your Superpowers. For waking up today with a roof overhead. For the ability to see the sky, even if we can’t see the sun today. For the love of family & friends, even the slightly grumpy ones that might be irritable today.
Gratitude for those no longer with us. Amidst the sadness at their loss, nurturing a sense of appreciation that they lived and we were lucky enough to love them. Gratitude for a box of tissues when we need to have a Christmas cry. Or for this year’s Covid symptoms.
Thanks for the cards, texts, emails, whattsaps, Skypes & any other ways that we communicate with each other to send our love.
For the tin of chocolates to dip into by the kettle. For Christmas TV shows. For the happy times we can remember, and the fact that we still have more ahead, even if we can’t see it yet.
For everyone helping in a busy kitchen to prepare a meal for a table squashed full of all the generations of your clan. Just taking a split second to notice and appreciate it all, with love.
Or for a Christmas cosy in pyjamas, eating pizza & chips…
However you plan to spend your Christmas this year, I wish you the best for it. Punctuated by several cups of tea, with the kettle as your saviour. Not to mention the mince pies & chocolates.
We cracked open a box of After Eights yesterday lunchtime, confessing this blatant breaking of the rules of the universe (as it was before 8pm) in jest to our pub quiz Whattsapp group.
Pub Quiz Andy replied that we’d been spotted by the Mint Spies!
Take that as your early Christmas cracker joke…
See, it’s nearly 26th December already & time for that first cup of morning tea.