It has been a tad difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I have spent the evening either crying or laughing, not sure which emotion to settle on. The picture of my niece and nephew in their Christmas pyjamas, knowing that I cannot see them this Christmas, brought both joy and heartache. I haven’t seen one of my sisters for months, and the ache of her absence is like the longing for the summer sun in the midst of the bleakest midwinter. I know that the summer sun will shine again. I just cannot see it through the grey clouds, the mist, and the cold of a winter that holds us in its cold embrace as though it never wants to let us go.
I spent the evening with my teen boys imploring them to go to bed so Father Christmas (aka Mum) could weave his magic. They both gave me the biggest hug. They know I am struggling and I am blessed to have these wonderful boys in my life. They also know that it is possible for me to miss their Dad while at the same time be wholeheartedly glad that I am no longer with him. Such is this strange year.
And still… I described last Christmas as being joyless. And it would be easy, in the face of a global pandemic, to treat this Christmas as being no better. And yet… and yet…
I have already been given many gifts this year. There is much I have to be grateful for. It almost goes without saying that I will always be grateful for my wonderful sons. I am in awe of how they have coped with so much change, and faced this uncertain world with a degree of humour and compassion that makes me so proud to call myself their mother.
But as I face this Christmas from the relative privilege of tier 3, the other gifts I take from this year:
- My new home. I have already blogged about this. Coming home to the North has been healing and brought me a contentment and peace that has been lacking for far too long. It has completed me. I know that this soil I walk on knows me, and knows that I belong here. It is in my blood. I am from the North, and the North claims me. It is my family. It is my heart. It is where I belong.
- Embracing change, and embracing new opportunities. This year saw me commence my first term as a PhD researcher at Durham University. My grandfather worked down in the pits. It filled his lungs with dust, and robbed him, a gifted musician, of his hearing. I feel him walk beside me as I embark on this new journey. I think he would be filled with pride to know that one day, as long as I put in the work, I will graduate from Durham University with a doctoral degree. Who knew a coalminer’s grand daughter could come so far?
- Learning how to love again. For this I can only thank my dog. I am not really a dog person, but she loves me without question, without condition, and she shows me, every day, what it is to be loyal and faithful. I am blessed to have her in my life.
This is not the Christmas I might have hoped for. But it is part of my journey that is taking me where I need to be.
There are many others who have brought joy to my life this year. There are those who have helped me find strength, and those who have helped me find comfort. There is my family. There are my friends. And as I get ready to bid you all good night on this strange Christmas Eve, for those who have given me support, love, encouragement and hope, I thank you.
And I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.