Here we are, November, 2020.
2020, a year where lives were turned upside-down. We were kept apart – but worked together – to try to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed a startling number of lives, both here and abroad.
People have been longing for normality, for contact with close family, for hope, and so much more. I have been longing for a break from uncertainty, a sense of purpose, and a clear way to help make things better.
It’s been strange for me, as someone quite used to spending time alone working from home, to watch people realise – with shock – that “working from home” doesn’t just mean sitting in your pyjamas watching Netflix and replying to the odd email to pretend you’re doing something. No, you have to work.
People are starting to note the importance of routine, of going for a walk, remembering to finish on time and take proper lunch breaks – yep – welcome to the party. Working from home isn’t all up-sides, and I regularly work longer than I mean to, just because there is no-one else here leaving the office, and signalling the end of the day.
Now Christmas is on the cards and people are worrying about it and getting upset about what they are going to do if we’re in lockdown over the festive period. Again I feel like I’m ahead of the game here.
I love Christmas and I hate Christmas – for exactly the same reasons. To me, Christmas is about spending time with family, about playing board games, eating special snacks and being cosy watching television together with the Christmas lights twinkling on the tree. It’s about warmth and safety and magic, and incredibly thoughtful gifts in your Christmas stocking.
Or at least, that’s what it should be, and I think perhaps maybe it was, before my parents split up when I was six. Since then I’ve always hoped to recreate the sort of magic that lives on from those memories, undoubtedly formed with rose-tinted glasses. As I got older, Christmas got more stressful, taking it in turns which parent I would spend it with, sensing the tension, not wanting to say the wrong thing or upset anyone.
My fondest memories were of my Christmas stockings from mum. Filled with small, but perfect, useful, fun, beautiful gifts and of course the traditional satsumas and handful of nuts. We’d enjoy Christmas morning together, just the two of us, before perhaps joining others for dinner.
But now it’s just me. When Christmas rolls round and people are making their plans to “go home”, I feel like an outsider. I live in the home I had always imaged I would go “back” to. Mum and Grampa died within weeks of each other, and Gran’s gone now too. The set of people I considered as my closest family have all left this mortal coil. The set of friends I consider my family all have families of their own to return to and I feel like I could easily slip through the gaps.
I’m lucky though, really, with different family units adopting me over the years, I’ve never actually been alone for Christmas. There is still just a sense that I don’t belong completely. I guess I’ve always felt that, that I’ve never been quite sure where I belong and what my purpose is. That latter feeling is strong at the moment, and as November inches along, bringing me closer to *that week* – where I celebrate mum’s entry into the world on her birthday, and mourn the anniversary of her departure, five days later.
I’ve not spoken to her since I was 24. I’ve not been able to tell her what I’ve achieved since then. I long to tell her about my adventures, the crazy things I’ve done and people I’ve met (she’d probably laugh and struggle to believe me). I long to ask her if she thinks I’m doing alright, how I can make her proud, what she thinks I should do next. I long to curl up on the sofa with her and our cat, Timmy – but of the three of us, I’m the only one left.
I understand that people are longing to see the friends and family that they’ve not seen in months due to COVID restrictions, and it is hard, but take heart, the majority of you will be able to see them again. In the meantime, don’t take for granted the ability to pick up the phone and have a chat.