Putting the Clock Back
We’re in that time of year when it’s ‘always winter and never Christmas’ as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has it. It’s dark when you get up and dark by the time you get home: there seems little else apart from the daily grind. Trees are becoming bare and outdoor spaces bleak. Even when it’s not too cold or wet we can expect the weather to get increasingly unpleasant as the days and weeks go by. No wonder people feel sad, even if not suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder as such.
But already the media are full of talk of the Christmas season – ideas for presents for your loved ones, ideas of what you might cook, images of the happiness and satisfaction which everyone hopes to bring others and find for themselves.
We know from experience that the holiday only lives up to the promise at rare moments. Tensions can be all too palpable at family gatherings, however much good will we seek for in ourselves, however much gratitude we try to show for a frankly inappropriate gift. And how much worse if you aren’t part of the family warmth – if your festive season is spent in lonely awareness that everyone around you is busy having a good time?
The excesses of the run-up to the winter break – the shopping, the parties, the frantic bonhomie, the nostalgia – are like a desperate attempt to recover the spirit of Christmas past: a magical time when life seemed altogether simpler, more generous, more gratifying, when we were the meek, mild infant adored in the Christian nativity story.
Perhaps the seasonal festivities we take part in remind us of the birthdays of our childhood, the special day when we could expect to be the centre of everybody’s attention. Many of us edit out the more difficult aspects of childhood and recall only an idyllic time. For all the sex, drugs and rock ’n roll, manic partying can be a sad and delusional attempt to recreate this lost paradise, to turn the clock back.
“Breaking up is hard to do” the song reminds us. So is growing up, and in much the same way. When a relationship breaks up, we have to give up the perhaps unrealistic hopes we invested in it: but also a certain image of ourselves that we saw reflected in a lover’s eyes. To grow up we have to give up being the apple of our parents’ eye, of fulfilling the dreams they had of us and which we try to live out for ourselves.
The miracle is that we may, against all expectation, find the connectedness that more grounded relationships can bring.