We’re deep into Advent now and I’m going to talk about the International Space Station – of course! Admittedly, the link between Christmas and the ISS it not instantly apparent. So bear with me while I open my mind’s wanderings to you and explain how the ISS has anything to do with a blog about living creatively without children.
Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, for many of us the festive season can bring very mixed feelings. Christmas is an amalgamation of many festivals associated with the giving of light, fire or gifts and it coincides with the Pagan festival of Yule, meant to mark our emergence from the dark into the light. For many of us, though, the focus given to light, love and family at this time of year can serve to emphasise the struggle to emerge from the darkness of loss or grief.
Over the years I have had my own personal battle with Christmas and everything associated with it. In those first years when I was learning what it meant not to have children, I tried many ‘coping’ strategies including running away to a Christmas-free country, hiding at home and refusing to play the festive game, enthusiastically (but probably not authentically) embracing all that is Christmassy, grinning and bearing it… and not grinning and bearing it! It took so much emotional energy to figure out just how to be at Christmas that it became a festive nightmare to be endured rather than enjoyed.
You hear it so often –Christmas is for children or It’s all about seeing their faces on Christmas morning. So it felt to me that parents were in that privileged position of being able to experience the magic of the festive season vicariously, through their children. And I felt that the joy of the festive season had been taken away from me.
Here’s the bit about the International Space Station…!
A few years ago, on Christmas Eve, I had something of an epiphany – thanks to the International Space Station. We’d invited family and friends for a Christmas Eve meal and as we sat in that heavy afterglow that only a festive meal can provide, I began to feel those old, unwanted feelings of hurt and jealousy. Someone at the table said that they remembered the International Space Station was passing over that afternoon and that children all over the country were being told it was Santa arriving into UK airspace. The time of the ISS’s passing over our roof was checked and at the allotted time we stepped out onto the garden terrace.
Absolutely on cue, the bright craft cruised across the perfectly black sky – a beautiful and steady man-made star. I looked at the upturned faces in our little terrestrial group and I was suddenly filled with a sense of immense wellbeing. There we were, all adults, waving at the ISS and giggling at our moment of child-like wonder. Instead of my well worn focus on what I don’t have, I thought – this is what I have – this family, these friends. I realised then, that all these previous Christmases, the joy hadn’t been taken away from me, I had been simply too afraid, too angry, too hurt to step into the joy.
So maybe the festive season isn’t just for the children; it is for the child in each of us. That child needs to be nourished and nurtured as does any other child. More than anything, that child deserves to be reconnected with its sense of wonder and its capacity for playfulness.
It may not be the right time for you to engage fully with the festivities, to be around others enjoying Christmas with their children and it is important for you to listen to your inner wisdom and only go as far as you can. If that means spending the festive season with a few people who you know understand you and your situation, or if it means stocking up on all the DVDs you’ve been meaning to watch all year, or if you fancy finding new places to explore while the roads and pavements are quiet…whatever, take this festive season to be the one when you nurture that child in you that’s just longing to play.
Here’s an idea to get you started discovering your inner festive child. Find a box that you like (I bought a decorated box from a large supermarket for £6) and turn it into an ‘advent box’. Each day over the festive break,, place an item that represents something playful or creative that you will promise yourself. You might place in the box a cutting for an exhibition you want to see, a ‘voucher’ on which you promise yourself you’ll watch the sunrise on a frosty morning, a sport or activity you’ve always fancied doing that you might take up in the new year. The possibilities are endless and your advent box will represent something of your own unique and creative self.
Wherever you choose to be, whatever you choose to do, I wish you and yours a peaceful and nurturing festive break and I hope 2017 will be a year in which you make many new and inspiring creative discoveries.