Illustration by Alfie Joey of BBC Newcastle/The Mimic Men (@alfiejoey #AlfArt )
Every single year I try desperately to conjure up the epitome of Christmas. But it’s 2016. Santa doesn’t exist and the old fashioned paper chains and snow globes I keep stockpiling don’t actually have the power to transport me back to a Victorian knees-up with the Fezziwigs.
I have a yearning for the Christmas magic I felt when I was five years old. Which makes it kind of strange that I use my obsession with Victoriana Christmas decorations to re-discover it. That ‘magical time’ I keep thinking back to was actually in 1983. We had a silver artificial tree, spray on snow and a jungle of multi-coloured foil decorations hanging from the ceiling.
I’m not sure the Fezziwigs would approve. And I’m not sure why I associate these two drastically different eras at Christmas time.
A Christmas Carol and One of our Dinosaurs is Missing. Wassail and Babycham. Silent Night and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. The ‘cute dolly in the window’ and Hungry Hippos. None of these things should go together, yet they all feel perfectly collaborative to me. A festive mash up of magical harmony.
But I never really get there. Each year, I get so ridiculously excited for the perfect Christmas. But perfect doesn’t exist and I spend the entire time feeling worn out chasing it, and then crashing once the January misery sets in.
I never knew ‘perfectionism‘ played a part in anxiety until my stepson brought home a leaflet about it. And I never thought of my Christmas excitement as perfectionism. But it makes sense.
I chase the perfect Christmas. So much so that even on Christmas Eve, I start panicking about it being over and not having felt the ‘magic’. About not enjoying every single moment as I should have.
And when I think about it…the perfect cosy night in that I expect to have when I have the house to myself never actually materialises either. The intensely cosy, PJ-clad, sofa picnic with a duvet, pizza, glass of Prosecco, purring kitten and Love Actually on the telly never quite lives up to expectations.
I look forward to my tea, then get upset that I have eaten it too quickly and not savoured every mouthful. I buy a pair of Victorian style boots, but then get upset that they don’t match anything in my wardrobe. I get into bed to feel cosy and snug, but end up with infuriatingly restless legs. I’ve successfully lost 10lb at Slimming World – but it’s not my target and it’s a far cry from Elle ‘The Body’ McPherson.
The thing is, I always have a lovely Christmas. I wear a size 12. I love chilling on the sofa with my kitten. And I still enjoy watching Love Actually – even though I’ve played it almost bi-monthly for the last 12 years. Sad, I know.
So what is it that I am searching for? I’m not sure, but for some reason it kind of fits with that ‘homesick’ feeling I get that reminds me of a thirst for lemonade. I have no idea what that’s about but homesickness and thirst is the only way I can describe it. I am thirsty for the perfect Christmas.
So it’s time I made a Christmas resolution. It’s time I learned to appreciate the ‘now’. Just like with my general anxiety. I am not in danger right now, but I could be. I am not dead right now, but I could be. What a complete waste of time.
Right now, I am sitting on my sofa, in my PJs, writing this article with my feet on a pillow and a tiny tabby kitten sleeping soundly next to me. This is life. This is bloody good life actually.
Perfection, however, is a nasty little bitch and its time I sacked her off.
So this year, I intend to have a merry mindful Christmas (but there’s no harm in cracking open the advocaat and shaking a Victorian snow globe, right?)