Looking at the ‘Season of Goodwill’ through eyes with a year to live.
I love this time of year. The places where I walk are so quiet.
Daylight hours are short, as short as they’re going to get. Here in Northern Europe it’s dark most of the time. So I set off walking in the light today, knowing that by the time I return the sun will be well set.
Since I started looking at life as if I had a year to live a few weeks back much has changed. Our house has cleared, my work has simplified and I have been more at peace. So I’m well ready for the quietening down that always happens for us when most other people are having their Christmas.
Because we don’t have Christmas, me and Sarah, and we never really have. During our first couple of years together we’d make a bit of an effort, each thinking the other probably expected it. But it was a relief for each of us to find that the other was happy to let all that go.
It’s not that we don’t have candles and sparkly lights. We do. Because these are the darkling days and the long nights need spark and warming. And next Saturday we’ll be glad when it’s Solstice. Not in a pagan way, particularly, but because that’s when the world turns and the days begin to get brighter. So we’ll go to Sarah’s allotment and we’ll celebrate that with a bonfire.
But that’s how it always is. So what difference does having a year to live make to this? Why have I included this walk in my ‘Year to live’ series of posts? Because I’m curious myself to see if it makes any difference to how I view this Christmas.
Like, when I first sat contemplating my year to live I’d thought I would want to ‘settle my accounts.’ I thought this because many people do choose to do this and I’d read about it a couple of years back in an ‘End of life’ book, after we’d met the book’s authors.
But today as I contemplate ‘settling’ unresolved things I find that I certainly wouldn’t want to do so at Christmas and possibly won’t want to do so at all.
Christmas always seemed a fraught time anyway for any families I’ve ever been in or near. So I wouldn’t want to make it even worse by going around ‘resolving’ things. And as I say, I’m increasingly feeling a desire to just let all of that stuff go anyway. The days are too few and too precious, with paths to be walked, books to be read, music to be listened to and the friends of now to be cherished.
OK, so would I just like to go round and see people I don’t normally go and see at Christmas, given it’s the last one? Well no. I long ago left that life and people would most likely be bewildered if I were to suddenly turn up in it again. And besides, I don’t feel like it. And more than ever that now means I won’t do it.
Earlier in the walk I’d heard the usual songs coming out of the restaurants and bars on Allerton Road. Every year the same ones. Wizzard, Slade, Elton John Nat King Cole and that ridiculous one about the First World War – ‘Old Mr Churchill comes over here…’ – very seasonal. And at least they didn’t make me angry like they used to do. It’s the last time I’ll hear them after all.
Because it’s always been the repetitive nature of Christmas that’s most irritated me. Sometimes I’ve thought it might not be so bad if it were more like the Olympics or the World Cup and only came around every four years.But this year I’m not particularly irritated. It still bewilders me that people will put themselves through this every year. I still feel sad that people with little or no money still feel the pressure to go along with it somehow and will still be paying for this Christmas by next Christmas. And of course I recognise the economic con of the continuously rising prices of ‘main’ presents like iPads and phones. The price of love, indeed.
But me not liking it, me living or dying isn’t going to make any difference to a society and an economy that have become so dependent on this Christmas thing. So why should I care? I let it all go.
Recognising that what’s important to me, precious to me, is this consciousness of now. This turning of the year. Recognising what is actually happening, treasuring the days, noticing them in detail. Like taking this photograph at 3:03pm, 50 minutes before the sun will set today. This coming week the days will get two minutes shorter than this one. Until we reach the shortest day next Saturday, just 7 hours and 20 minutes. Then they will start to get longer and lighter. This circle of life is what matters.
And springtime will come.
Looking at life as a year to live then, returns me to what matters. And, to an extent, to my own insignificance. I don’t say I won’t spend any of this year ranting about things I think are wrong. Ranting is too much in my nature for me to stop. But like the ‘quietening down of the rage to succeed’ that I’ve spoken about, I think there’s also a quietening down of the feeling that I should be trying so hard to change the things I don’t like. Most people manifestly do like Christmas, and so I’ll be wasting no more of my finite energy trying to change that clear though ridiculous fact.
And as I get close to home a mighty light, brighter than all others in the night sky, appears in the west.
Find the rest of these posts by searching on ‘A year to live’ in the Search box above right.
And today’s walk, for walk fans, was more or less the ‘Lost Liverpool’ walk last done in August with historian friend Stephen Roberts.