Oh, readers, I love Christmas! Yes, I know lots of other people love it, too, but this has ranked with my abiding obsessions for so long I can't look at it normally anymore. My worst part of the year is January, then after that I can begin the Big Countdown to next Christmas. I'm insufferable on the 25th June as then there are only six months to go!
I do wish it could be Christmas every day, and not for the usual reasons. Keep your presents, hold off with the visiting relatives; I don't even mind about the roast dinner or crackers. Let me keep up the decorations and the lights, let me wake up every day to the feel of tinsel wrapped round the bannister rails and baubles being tickled along the floor by Maisie's Pretty, our little cat.
Let there be songs and films about the feeling of Christmas, that feeling of goodness and happiness, of warmth and home. That's what I want every day of the year.
And what madness inspires this? Is it just another obsession? Is it my pet thing, the one idea that always knocks the others out of pole position, to re-settle itself at the front of the queue? Yes and no.
For reader, while others see Christmas, and other holidays, as a time of change and excitement, I see it as a time of coming home. It's my safe place, the time of year that validates everything I see as homeliness and comfort. It's the big blanket I hide under, made bigger and blanketier and decorated with glitter. It's security in giant, shiny letters, hung on the wall so I can't miss it.
It's a symbol, a way of bringing into the real world the feeling I could like to keep with me all year round.
When I watch A Christmas Carol, I identify with both parts of the story - Scrooge in his lonely life, kept separate from other people by his own, carefully-constructed barrier and then Scrooge as he becomes, warm and merry, with people to love, when he lets down the barriers and embraces life at last.
I've read Dickens' book, on which all the films, good, bad and horrible, are based. It's a much more sombre affair than most of the films. It emphasises the seriousness of Scrooge's separation, it leaves us in no doubt that he has been a bad person. He has destroyed lives and gone on regardless. He has been a terrible influence in the world and, if he carries on without change, will harm himself as much as others.
Does this sound at all familiar to other aspies? If you're honest, how many times have you thought about the harm you may have done by acting a certain way, avoiding responsibility or dismissing people's emotions as somehow not as real as your own? Or in just bustling on, afraid of finding out what you mean in the world, only content to be left alone.
In the Dickens version, Scrooge is brought to a true understanding of his place in the world and of the positive effect he can have on others. He doesn't get there alone: as well as the spirits who come to help him, he has the people in this world who have always been willing to reach out a hand to him, both his family and those who would be his friends.
By the end of the story, he learns to reach back and lives the remainder of his life in happiness and warmth.
To me, it's this glimpse of contentment at the end of the story which resonates with Christmas. I want that! How often do we, as aspies, feel truly content? How much more often do we have that nagging sensation of doing things the wrong way. Or worse, the sure knowledge that we've played a blinder, again, and left something in tatters.
What bliss to be able to reach out and grasp hold of that contentment, as if it's a physical thing you can hold in your hands, cradling it safely as you walk through life. A safe place, carried within, is worth more than anything, because then you can go anywhere, do anything, be anybody.
All too often, the contentment is fleeting, felt usually when alone and doing something routine and familiar. A different sort of contentment settles when we're engrossed in our latest obsession, or an old one that we love to re-visit. That isn't the same as there's always a buzz to go with it.
I guess that's part of why Christmas is so important to me, too, because it's also an obsession with a buzz. I like the thrill of it, the latent excitement visible every time the lights flicker or I smell the tree as I walk in the room.
I have a confession to make, too. The contentment I crave, the safe place, I want it always to have the buzz in it. I can't cope with pure safety, without any action whatsoever. I need that little tingle, the feeling that yes, I am safe, but soon I may go wolf-baiting.
Does it sound contradictory? It isn't, not really. I want to feel safe but I also want to be active in some way. I can't stand to be sedentary in my mind, so I need the promise of some movement or excitement, to keep me alive. The reason it isn't contradictory is, I want that excitement to be of my choosing, I want to be in control.
I'm talking about feeling safe and content with a life of your own making, one that doesn't have to be always sitting in front of the log fire, stroking the cat. Rather, a life where you can go out and sledge down the hill if you feel like it, or run against the wind on the edge of the lake.
I want to be able to choose the thrills and the excitements, like you can at Christmas, so you anticipate what will happen next, even if you can't always control it. So often in life, the 'thrills' are the wrong kind, which you don't see coming and bowl you over on their way past. That sort of excitement you can keep.
What I want is my hand on the reins. If we're going sleighing tonight, I'm in charge of the reindeer. I don't want to suddenly find they've turned into wild horses and we're careering towards the cliff. If there is a thud from the roof, it has to be the man in red and white, not part of a NASA satellite that chose my house as its way home.
If there's a knock at the door, I want it to be a best beloved, or at least someone with a big box of chocolates. I don't want any unwelcome visitors or awkward relatives breaching my safe zone, bringing rain and thunder.
I know when I think this that I'm not embracing how people see Christmas or even Scrooge's final lesson. No, I'm not ready to let in the whole world and treat every person as part of my fellowship. Was Scrooge really ready? Here is a quote from the end of the book:
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
Even Scrooge, portrayed as a chuckling old gent at the end of the films, is still a wily goose in the book. He knows not everyone will share his vision or agree with him, but he doesn't care. He does what he can and lets his own heart laugh and is content with that.
You see, like the Scrooge of the book and not the film, we are too imperfect and individual to suddenly become Disney bunnies and go skipping off through the forest. We can change, we always have that capacity, but we cannot become wholly different people - and nor would we want to be.
How boring would old Scrooge be if he only laughed all day, like a simpleton, and gave his money away? Far better to have the curmudgeon tamed within him, the wisdom coming through so that he can truly enjoy life because he recognises fully what he was before.
That's what we all must do, at Christmas or any other time of year. We must recognise our true nature so that we can make the changes we need to, without losing that special element which makes us aspies who can change whole worlds before we change ourselves.
Like Scrooge, we may need proper shocks to see things clearly, though I sincerely hope not to have ghostly visitations as part of this. We need to examine the past, the present and what will happen in our futures - not what we want to happen or hope will happen, but what will come to be if we don't change our present course.
Honesty leads us along terrifying paths sometimes, but always with a bright sky above. Take the chance of being able to hold contentment close to you every day of the year and see what you can change in your life, to become the greater person, the happier one who can open the door with a smile.
If all else fails, reader, a well-planned window display is enough to foil most visitors. Otherwise, do remember not to move or you'll make the tree shake and they'll know you're there.
Whatever you do, enjoy the tinsel and don't forget to always have chocolates on your tree.
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