Hi gang. Hullo. I’m not sure if I’ve ever addressed my column directly to you before. I suppose it’s not the done thing if you can’t talk back. It’s not a chat at a bus stop, it’s a newspaper; I write, and a few days later some of you read it. There is a delay, a disconnect. But it always feels like I’m talking to you even if I don’t refer to you directly. So.
I just wanted to pull some of you aside for a little chat. Not those of you who are busy being jolly, you can crack on with your business (and while you’re at it do my wrapping), but those of you who are skulking round the edges, not feeling up to this Christmas thing at all. And those of you who might even be feeling a bit worse than that. Those of you who might not be terribly in the mood for this whole life lark in general. It happens. It’s natural and common and sad but temporary. But at Christmas it can be like carrying blades around in your pockets, trying to smile for the world while your fingers are secretly bleeding, can’t it.
This is our secret little column while everyone else is dashing about getting last minute presents, clicking the crap out of Amazon and mulling the bejesus out of anything vaguely liquidy. This is for us. This is our cosy little huddle in the rain, our big middle finger up at all the tinsel. Don’t worry, the others can’t hear us, they’ve got jingly bells in their ears. And handpainted silver pinecones up their bumholes too, probably.
So, gang. I’ve noticed lots of people are sad at the moment. Have you? Lots of my friends are out of work, have money problems, are feeling directionless, mojo-less, have broken up with someone, have sad hearts, are in ill health, have an uphill struggle with their own bodies and science and healthcare to face, or are being roughed up by hoodlums in their head. Dark things, dark times. So many people depressed it’s sometimes hard to believe that depression is not as ordinary as having a nose. (It sort of is for some people.) Lots of very real and sad and scary life glitches getting in the way of the obligatory happiness of Christmas. We put such overwhelming pressure on each other, on ourselves. Let all that fuck off for a minute. Let it all just fuck off in its kooky Christmas jumper. It’s just us. Under our big moody blanket, tutting and grunting and saying all the bad swears like anti-Buddhists chanting in existential unison. “Life. You. Prick.” Beautiful.
I think humans have an instinctive ability to flock their bad times together, a harrowed herd mentality, flocking like sheep, huddling in a field on a dark night. Perhaps our moods affect each other more than we yet scientifically understand. Perhaps there is such a thing as a cosmic energy, collectives of high and low mood that we plug into. Perhaps it’s the planets pinging us like pinballs, perhaps it’s gravitational forces, quantum doodah. Perhaps it’s something in the water, perhaps it’s war. Perhaps it’s election fall-out, a nation in decline. Maybe it’s just our turn, if there is any fairness apportioned to the way of things. A democratic sharing of all the shit. Maybe this particular shit will make us stronger, better, more human, giving, sharing. But for now it’s just…shit.
Perhaps I’m more attuned to it as a solid mass of shitty shitshit because of the way I’m feeling. Perhaps I’m tuning into the happy stuff less than I normally might. I feel sad and lost. And that’s usually ok when it wends and winds its way around me – not optimum but doable – but what’s really rankling is I feel like I’ve lost my sense of wonder. There, I’ve said it. Like my vision has been shot and all I can see is a cracked screen. I’ve been skirting around it for weeks, writing columns about other things, but there’s the truth. Some sad life stuff happened and now I’m trying to ‘get on with it’. But it’s not working. I feel all wound up; ground down. Broken. Perhaps I need to work harder at shaking myself off. But there are times when we just can’t. When we don’t want to. Even for Christmas. I think I can actually safely say that this is the first Christmas where I’ve felt like crawling under the covers and not emerging til someone in a position of authority (and right now that could be the night shift manager of the local offie) can categorically promise me, hand on heart, tits, balls, head, arse, whatever, that the world is brighter outside.
And because I’ve not talked much about it, everyone apart from about five people who know me better than perhaps I’d like, thinks I’m doing ok. That I’m busy cracking on. That I am working hard, going out, writing, working, laughing, writing, drinking, entering the Yuletide season with a warm glow remembering the year that’s just been. I am not. Guys, I have watched the whole of Breaking Bad in about two weeks. All of it. And now I’m onto Better Call Saul. And I watched the whole of Luther in between too, as a ‘cheery’ buffer. I went down a dark little hole to try not to think about real stuff. You know you’ve gone too far down the burrow of distraction when you wake up from a fevered sleep thinking “better get up and check on the meth lab.” You know you need to re emerge. You need to get real. At some point. (Like, after you’ve watched the whole of 24, Lost, Dexter, House, Homeland, and Peaky Blinders. Fuck knows what that’s about, but I will definitely know before 2016. I will have sucked Netflix dry as a turkey bone.)
So this is for the other sad folk of Christmas; a carol to the orphans of hope and the castaways of joy; the lost, the lonely, the people in the dark; even for the dicks who just like to Grinch it up to be different. To all those merely wishing next year will be…better. To any degree, just better. When all the glitz and buzz of Christmas seems like it’s for everyone else but you – this little column is for you. Don’t feel alone. Hullo. I’m here, waving at you now. And there are thousands of others too. (Wave, everyone.) And here’s a bit of loving bossiness while I’m bossing myself about too…
Do some little things. Start there. Wear something nice that feels good on your skin, that makes your eyes look nice. Eat something that makes you feel like a naughty child. Listen to music that makes your cells rise up not sink down. Handjive in the bathroom mirror. You will feel so ridiculous the corners of your mouth will not fail to twitch in remembrance of a smile. Buy yourself a present. Thank yourself, outloud. Believe in something fantastical, like the robins are talking to you. They are. If you want. Phone or write to someone you don’t talk to often enough. Talk. Listen. Be kind. Say nice things, they will make you smile too. Look up at the big deep sky and breathe and allow your problems to feel small for a moment. Banish them with all that magic you have in your amazing brain. You can. It hasn’t gone. You are still you, and what’s more you are a better you than you are giving yourself credit for.
Don’t just cry and hole up and tell everyone to fuck off for a bit. Don’t tell the sweet lord baby Jesus to go swivel on his birthday. Or regurgitate cheap chocolate on your mismatched stale pyjamas. Or swig port from the bottle and hiccup profanities to the Queen’s speech. Don’t spray mince pie crumbs at anyone who gets on your tits and blame it on the pastry being dry. Don’t watch a film that has some variant of Scrooge in it and then turn it off while Scrooge is still being a miserly old bastard. Don’t kill Tiny Tim. Don’t let George Bailey drown. Don’t let the burglars ram Kevin with a red hot poker; he’s only nine. It’s not right.
No. Do the better stuff.
It’ll be ok, you know. You’ll be ok. I’ll be ok. This will pass. We still have sparkly bits inside. They’ve not gone out, they’re just a bit folded up and squished at the moment, facing the wrong way, in a box, under the covers. Somewhere. There. In a forgotten drawer in the big old chest of being you.
I raise my glass to us, depressing dreary lovely raincloud nice sad hopeless pretty beige and teardrop blue old bastards this year. I will even wear a stupid paper hat at a jaunty angle, just for you.